The Digital Journalist

Snooky Prior
"State of the Blues"


In nearly each case, these artists were mentally in a state of going on before between 600 and 1500 people. This is interesting to note because this is the common element in these images. There was never more than five or six minutes for any of these sitters, and in some cases, I had only two or three frames to make the image. In the case of James Brown, he literally gave me two frames. I had to get my portrait in an average of three to four minutes.

Many of these artists were accustomed to being photographed with their instruments. I decided that I wouldn't make on-stage or performance portraits nor would I show them with their instruments. I wanted to see the people with all the detail I could capture in the most direct way possible. This relieved them of their cliche' poses and fall-back picture modes and let me get in and get something that they were not normally used to giving. The faces of these Blues Legends reveal so much more about them than the classic promotional picture of them with their guitars or harmonicas that this series becomes a unique and durable statement. This is my purpose.

My feeling is that the BLUES began and matured in this century and will disappear in the way that we know it as we cross the threshold into the next millennium. There are several factors in this sentiment. First and foremost, the first generation of Bluesmen and Blueswomen have all "passed." W.C. Handy, Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Eddie "Son" House, Blind Boy Fuller (Fulton Allen), "Blind" Lemon Jefferson, Big Bill Broonzy, and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson I all died long ago. Mance Lipscomb, Roy "Professor Longhair" Byrd, Arthur "Big Boy Crudup and others such as Aaron "T. Bone" Walker, Peter "Memphis Slim" Chatman, Albert King, Lonnie Johnson , Theodore "Hound Dog" Taylor, Elmore James, Aleck Rice "Sonny-Boy Williamson II" Miller, McKinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield, Marion "Little Walter" Jacobs, Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett, Willy Dixon, Sam "Lightning" Hopkins and Jimmy Reed are gone too. Had I only began this project in 1968 instead of 1988! (continued)

State of the Blues: The Living Legacy of the Delta
is available at

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