Photographs by Shannon Brinkman
Interviews by Eve Abrams
"New Orleans jazz needs Preservation Hall… that’s the fountainhead. That’s the mountaintop. Preservation Hall is — to New Orleans __ what Carnegie Hall is to New York. (Walter Payton)
Shannon Brinkman’s new book, “Preservation Hall”, should instantly find a home on the shelves of Jazz lovers the world over, but its appeal reaches well beyond that, to those who appreciate history, culture, fine art and certainly all things New Orleans. The book is filled to overflowing with images from her 8 year project, during which time she has compiled an incredibly deep and intimate portrait of this temple of jazz, its players, its physical presence and its mystique. The images offer a glimpse into this world, from its crowded performances to its quiet off hours, that few are privileged to see.
"It’s like going to a beautiful place in sound." (Ralph Johnson)
A fine accompaniment to her work is the words of the players themselves, compiled by Eve Abrams. These rare insights into the dynamic nature of Jazz, players personal histories and influences, and the history of the hallowed hall are priceless additions to this project.
Brinkman’s photographic style seems to reflect her subject. Frequent are her improvisations with light and motion, and her irreverent diagonal framing is rewardingly fresh. The design of the book compliments this same vision and flows along in a rhythm with the narrative like a good tune. It builds up our own anticipation of entering the hall, can be dense with the energy of a live show, and then slow us down for the quiet notes, the solos, and give us a moment to reflect and absorb. From start to finish we are treated to vibrant live shots and interaction with the audience, intimate portraits of the players,and the gritty texture of the hall itself. Scattered throughout are truly transcendent images, ones with perfect pitch, that make you feel privileged to be a witness to something rare and special.
"For me, what the Hall represents is the creative community of New Orleans. It represents the food of New Orleans, it represents the art of New Orleans, it represents the lifestyle of New Orleans. You know, it’s much more than just music. This is what’s really hard to explain to people," (Ben Jaffe)
Inasmuch as it is possible, this book gives us as complete a picture of today’s Preservation Hall as can be made with photographs. Clearly a labor of love, it is easy to get a sense of the joy that surrounds this building and permeates all who seek it out. An exhibition of Brinkman’s photographs will soon be on display at the Louisiana State Museum.