An Interview with blues/jazz photographer Dragan Tasic: Express my feelings and myself as a person.

"...create a photo with the “soul”- the image from which you can hear the music"

Dragan Tasic: Looking for the feeling

Dragan was born in 1962. After graduating a Musical College early 80s, he started his career as a professional Blues and Jazz musician for the next 10 years. At the end of 80s he became more interested in photography. In the middle of 90s, after graduating College for Photography and Motion Picture (Film) in Zürich/Switzerland, photography developed into his professional vocation. Currently he lives and works in Switzerland as a concert photographer and independent artist.

Dragan introduced his work as "since the beginning of the 1990s I've involved myself more intensly with concert photography. As a former professional Blues und Jazz musician, this time, I've transferred my passion for music into photography. "Looking for the feeling" is the core idea of my concert photography. The photos do not only represent the musicians themselves, but their music as much as their personal feelings.

"Blue Cry" is a retrospective of concert photography, I've created during the last 20 years. The name itself, "Blue Cry", is inherent to expressions of the faces and body movements of the musicians, representing their enjoyment and sadness, strength and weakness, love and anger - scream of life, that has become the crucial insight of my photos, meanwhile."


Interview by Michael Limnios


Dragan, when was your first desire to become involved in the photography? What does “photo” offered you?
My desire for photography emerged in the late 80s. Photography for me is just another possibility to be creative, allowing me to express my feelings and express myself as a person.


What do you learn about yourself from the photography and music?
Any sincere involvement with art is in the first place a way to find out more about oneself i.e., a kind of internal soul-searching.
The impulse that drives a person to express his creativity also requires his deeper insight into his own personality.


What characterize your work & progress, how do you describe your philosophy about the IMAGE?
In the first place it is my great love for music and then hard work, perseverance, discipline, meticulousness, professionalism ...
The talent and the possibility to perceive subtle feelings  are also essential because without her particular smell a flower would be just beautiful.


What are some of the most memorable shoots you've had?
I have noticed that the inspiration with which I photograph certain concerts depends greatly on the inspiration with which the musicians play their tune.
The bigger the challenge, the greater my desire to make a really good shot.


From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the image?
Photographers who have inspired me are for example: Sebastião Salgado, Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe ... However I have developed my own style of concert photography following my own “inner voice”.


How does the music come out of your lens?
What is important is that music should be allowed to freely enter and pass through my camera lens. This means that the presence of a photographer should be kept to a minimum - his creative potential should be at work.


Who from THE MUSICIANS you have shoot, had the most passion for the image & camera lens?
Mostly these have been black musicians with their characteristic facial expressions that combined with decent lighting are even more impressive. It is necessary to catch the flickering of and the reflection in their eyes which gives life to the photographs.


Which is your favorite photo? In which photo can someone see the best of your work?
There are a few photos that are really dear to me. They are the ones from which you can almost hear the music coming out, while the musician himself is in the background and almost not important at all.


Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from your shootings in gigs and festivals?
Hmmm ... for example, at one concert of James Cotton, while I was standing in front of the stage with my camera, taking photos and enjoying his harmonica playing, we made an intense eye contact.  At one point he offered me his harmonica and microphone which I accepted. I started playing and he liked it.  He gave me his hand to come up on stage and accompanied by his band I played the song to the end. (James Cotton was actually one of my idols from whose records I had learned to play harmonica)


How would you describe your contact to people, when you are “on the project”?
In my opinion a photographer should - for several reasons - try to reduce his presence to a minimum. In certain situations I would prefer to be invisible.


Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
In my opinion if you live your life intensively and authentically, then somehow all periods become interesting and important because you are truly present in them. It is very important, even with greater sacrifices, that one is able to afford this pleasure to choose the work that one likes.


What advice would you give to aspiring photographers thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
As a young man whenever I fell in love, I wanted to win the particular woman by all possible means. My feelings were so strong that I was able to burn in this desire.
I am the same way today when I encounter the real challenge.


What do you feel is the key to your success as a photographer?
At the end of the day what counts is whether I have a "good" or a "bad" photograph, which primarily has to meet my own criteria. This means that even after 20 years in this business I must prove the quality of my work over and over again.


Who is a quick review of your work "Blue Cry" & how do you want to be remembered?
Perhaps the simplest is to say that the “Blue Cry” is an attempt to transfer the essential creative expression of a musician - his music -  to the medium of photography.
What matters to me is that an observer stops by any of my photos because the photo moved him somehow.  Those few moments are evidence that this photo has a future.


BW or Colors, Digital or Film and why?
In my career I have used both analogue and digital photography equally, and the issue of quality, especially today, is in my opinion irrelevant.  Commercially the trend is a color photograph. When I make my photos in larger formats for exibitions, then they are almost always black and white because the abstractness of a black and white photo accentuates the expressions of the musician portrayed more intensely and concentratively.


Which of the musicians were the most difficult and which was the most gifted on pickup lens?
You have to respect many times very strange, not to say almost perverse demands or artist’s managers, especially when it comes to big stars, such as Stevie Wonder. There we were allowed to shoot the first 20 seconds after his entering the stage and 30 seconds after the beginning of the concert, while it took us almost 24 hours in preparation and travelling time.
The most rewarding and simple are Blues musicians and in my opinion they are very authentic.


How important is image to artists? To which person do you want to send one from your photos?
Artists, especially well known commercial artists, are usually very vain when it comes to their appearance, which is quite understandable. I always have this in mind when photographing and especially in the selection of photos I am submitting to them via my web-gallery.


"A picture is worth a thousand words" it is certain…can music has image and the image to have notes?
I think that the biggest challenge of the concert photography is to create a photo with the “soul” - the image from which you can hear the music.


What is the strangest desire that someone have request in the shooting?
Strangest wishes come mainly from the managers of "great" musicians. For example, the unconditional surrender of all shoots from the photo session, including copyrights.  Or as the only photographer you get the right to photograph a certain concert and then obligation to give free of charge all your photos to other photographers that are accredited for the same concert, and so on ... As a rule I refuse such contracts.


What is your “secret” PHOTO DREAM?
I prefer to live…


Of the entire musician you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?
Of the Blues musicians I would like to mention Bettye LaVette, Diunna Greenleaf, Otis Rush, Luther Allison ...


Difficult question but, which artists have you worked with & which do you consider the best friend?
I am a little introvert. A friendship is not only a pleasure but also an obligation that very often takes away your time, energy and attention. But the friendships that I have made mostly last a very long.


Who are your favorite blues jazz artists, both old and new, would you like to meet and shoots?
I wish I could have photographed Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Boy Williamson, Mudy Wathers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, or at least once more the great Etha James ...


Is there any shooting made by mistake, but know you’re proud of?
Certainly there is. Creating is a process through which an artist goes in life changing and developing himself. Along with this it also changes the artist’s life perspective and his understanding of life. For example the first real technique of photograph making originated from an experimental error.


Which memory during of your shooting makes you smile?
First of all, a very good photo I make. Furthermore  a super solo improvisation from a musician on the stage. And of course a smile of beautiful young women.


Some music styles can be fads but the blues Jazz is always with us.  Why do think that is?
It is because the roots of blues and jazz music lie in African music that is incredibly vibrant and full of energy.  And this music is ready to be changed, transformed and developed further. In this music one can feel a desire for survival.


What does "Looking for the feeling" mean?
It means that photos do not only represent the musicians, but also their music as much as their personal feelings.


Dragan Tasic - Blues and Jazz Photography

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