Part of the beauty of music is its ability capture a moment in time, an emotion or even paint a picture. Ironically, it can often be difficult to find the right words to explain its impact. And though a picture is worth a thousand words, I can only imagine how difficult it might be to capture an artist's essence in a single image.
There are a few photographers in Tulsa, however, who have a gift for doing just that. One of those artists behind the lens is a local rising star in his own right, Jeremy Charles. If you've been a frequent reader of Urban Tulsa Weekly, or even many of our regional publications, you're probably already familiar with his work, perhaps without realizing it.
While Charles does portraiture and photojournalism, he has really found his niche in the music realm as his photographic career has taken off during the past couple of years. More specifically, Charles has become one of the premier photographers within Tulsa's local music scene. While he has displayed his work online for awhile, his first public showing opens this month at Shades of Brown Coffeehouse, 3302 S. Peoria Ave.
Drawn from more than 50 photo shoots from the past two years, "Rock City: Portraits of Tulsa Musicians" focuses on Charles' work with the artists who define our local music scene--from up and comers like Congratulations! and Cecada to local buzz bands Callupsie, Congress of a Crow, Crooked X and even David Cook and Hanson.
When asked about his first gallery showing and what inspired him to focus on the local scene, Charles explained that it was mostly just "the culmination of the last couple years' worth of work."
"I'm totally self taught...I'm a music nut," Charles told me, explaining his innate affinity for music photography. "I think my first band shoot was an assignment for Urban Tulsa, but I really enjoyed it. As far as portraiture and stylization go, I started to pursue that on my own and with other assignments that I got from Urban Tulsa and other publications."
Looking back, Charles continued, "I'm not sure, but I've got probably 75 galleries of portraits and live shows now, so I've become kind of prolific."
Eyes and Ears
If you're at all familiar with Charles' work, you know that he's got a distinct style and eye for nuance and lighting, somehow finding a way to capture each artist's personality. Part of this comes from the fact that Charles started out working with many artists who were already friends, such as Malan Darras or Ghosts. In turn, he has developed other friendships as a result of working together. It has been quite the learning experience, though. "I always make a mistake, whether it's a major or a minor one," he admitted, "but I learn from it."
As part of his creative development, Charles pays homage to fellow local photographer Jason Sales. "I really didn't know anything about lighting. He didn't teach me, but he was going out of town (as he often does) and let me borrow his lighting equipment.
I was like a kid in a candy store and it really helped push me into a different realm."
Reflecting on the past couple of years, Charles specifically thinks of a handful of bands such as Congress of a Crow and Callupsie, that he said, "have been there for me to cut my teeth on. I've learned and grown with them and been with them for the long haul."
One shoot that particularly stood out was taken with Goth-inspired band The Secret Post. "That's the first shoot where I felt like I was creating a concept," Charles said. "I approached it like a director would, taking the emotions of the music and put him in that."
"That's when the light came on, where I learned to try and put enough context in to support the sound of the music and the personality of the artist," he said.
Charles was on his way to portray artists in a manner that "you don't have to know their music or go to their live show to understand what they are about."
According to Charles, that's easier to accomplish for darker bands,"probably because there's so much urban decay to draw from in our environment. It's harder to portray something more whimsical or light hearted, because there's less to work with environmentally."
Nevertheless, Charles has also tapped that vein quite well from shoots with artists like Annie Ellicott, Ghosts and Guardant.
While part of his success relies upon scouting for locations in his free time, creating concepts and planning things out, he also admitted that once he gets started, "I let it go wherever it goes and let serendipity take care of it. Sometimes I don't even know what I'm doing when I walk out the door, but sometimes those turn out to be the best shoots."
Whether pre-planned or caught up in the moment, Charles' work has become key link in Tulsa's music scene, whether found in the local papers or on the Web sites and myspace pages of the bands with whom he's worked.
Throughout December, Jeremy's work is displayed in Shades of Brown Coffeehouse on Peoria. Charles is especially excited about the show because "a lot of these pictures have never been printed before and have not been seen, except for on the computer screen with shitty, myspace compression."
Not only will you be able to admire images of your favorite local artists, his work is also for sale. Forms will also be available all month to purchase limited, made-to-order prints which Charles will collect regularly and fulfill as quickly as possible.
The opening reception takes place December 5 from 6-7:30pm. This will be a great time to check out Charles' work, meet him in person, and possibly meet a few of the artists featured in the exhibit. And considering the number of local acts that Charles has captured, you shouldn't have to look too far to find one that's featured in his portfolio. Check out Jeremy's stuff and get inspired to plug into Tulsa's music scene.
After a crazy month of November, including a busy Thanksgiving weekend packed with CD releases and homecoming gigs, this weekend might feel downright sleepy, but there's still plenty going on around town.
If you're looking for a big name or to get your retro fix, Duran Duran will be at the Brady Theater on Thursday evening, December 4. The band may have a new album, Red Carpet Massacre, with the bulk of its original lineup, but this is still primarily a baby-boomer show as tickets start at $56 and climb to $87.75 a pop after service fees. Still, if you need your fix of "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "The Reflex", word is they still put on a good show.
Of course, you can always lay low and stop in at Arnie's for a few pints of Irish cheer with Cairde na Gael.
If you're ready to check out one of Charles' more intriguing subjects, you've got a couple of opportunities to see the songstress that Charles said has an undeniable presence and just doesn't take bad pictures. Fiawna Forte has a couple of gigs lined up, starting with an acoustic set at Ida Red as part of the "musician sessions" on Thursday evening.
The following night, December 5, Forte and her band play The Collective with Wighead (another Charles' subject) and Crocodile. Meanwhile, on Main Street, Cody Clinton and the Bishops headline a show at The Marquee with Benjamin Del Shreve and Vandevander and DFest veterans Gentleman Auction House play a free show at Soundpony.
If you're looking for a grittier set, however, you can't go wrong with Mike McClure Band at Mercury Lounge. Even during and after a battle with the bottle, McClure has continually been one of the best songwriters of the Red Dirt movement.
December 6, Mercury keeps the Red Dirt/Texas music vibe going with Jason Eady. Perhaps the most intriguing show of the week, however, is a visit by former Plimsouls leader Peter Case at All Souls Coffeehouse. The show features an opening set by Rocking Acoustic Circus, the young bluegrass band that's grabbed attention both locally and regionally the past 12 months.
Hardcore supporters of the local music scene will want to help The Monolith celebrate its first birthday this weekend. And by hardcore, I don't mean hardcore music. The Monolith has continually supported all types of music with all ages shows, featuring a number of startup indie, hardcore and screamo bands. After briefly shutting its doors, the club recently got a second lease on life, so there's no better time to show your support. Saturday's lineup caters more to the hardcore and extreme rock crowd with Operator Dead, Bring Down the Hammer, Barf Makeout and John Moreland and the Black Gold Band. The second night focuses on underground indie bands with Wighead, Guardant, La Panther Happens, Mason Remel and Here Is There Sunday, December 7.
The rest of the week is rather quiet, with the exception of a few big shows. Tuesday night, December 9, My Solstice lands an opening spot at Cain's Ballroom for Taking Back Sunday and Envy on the Coast ($26.50 advance, $29 at the door). The Ballroom is busy again Wednesday the 10 with blues legend Buddy Guy for $31.
And just in case you haven't gotten your metal fix recently, The Marquee hosts a brutal show on December 10 with Job For Cowboy, All Shall Perish, Hate Eternal, Animosity and Annotations of an Autopsy.
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