Peter Figen Artist’s Statement
In the late 1970’s I went to a Hot Rize concert in Santa Cruz, Ca. Even then I had a camera with me. Sitting behind me I met Lachlan Throndson, the art director for FRETS, and acoustic music magazine. Lachlan asked if I could send her some photos from the show. I did and she printed one of them in the magazine. That was my first commercial sale.
I moved to Pasadena in 1982 to go to Art Center College of Design. As I went through school I never lost my interest in music and photographing music and musicians. In my last class at Art Center I came up with a project photographing musicians. Most were local and not very well known but I was looking for more. Toward the end of the semester I contacted Folklore Productions in Santa Monica and made arrangements to photograph the blind guitarist from North Carolina, Doc Watson, who they represented. I couldn’t actually photograph Doc until the day after I graduated, but that didn’t matter as I saw that class as the beginning of something bigger, plus, it was the Doc Watson – a virtuoso on the acoustic guitar and old time banjo. Well, that image of Doc went on to become one of the most well known images of him ever and was his official publicity photo for twenty-six years. That image is in this show and it’s as powerful today as I did when I made it backstage at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in May of 1986.That’s what really set me off on this long journey of photographing musicians, many who I already loved and more that I’ve come to know. I did many assignments for FRETS and its sister magazines over the years including the two images of Willie Dixon I made for them while still a student in 1986.
I’ve been extraordinarily lucky over the years to have the privilege of photographing many of musical heroes across multiple genres from rock and roll to country to folk and blues. Many of the images in this exhibit have become images that defined who that artist was. Images of Doc Watson, Willie Dixon, Townes Van Zandt and Sam Hinton among others. You may not know all the names but hopefully you will come to know them a bit better through these images.
Los Angeles, Ca.
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