Q&A with Melbourne-based Pierre Baroni - primarily as a radio announcer and DJ but also as a photographer.

"Obviously black music in the 60s was a soundtrack to much of the segregation and some of its dismantling, but black people today don’t care about the blues... That’s ‘old people’s music’ to them. You very rarely see any black people at the rhythm and blues music festivals in the States."

Pierre Baroni: The Soulgroove of Image

Australian Pierre Baroni lives and works in Melbourne primarily as a radio announcer and DJ but also as a photographer. He started out designing record covers in 1990 and progressed to photography shortly after, taking shots of the people he was designing record covers for. He has a very unique style to say the least.

The tones highlight his subject and show cases them. The Adelaide Cabaret Festival shots adopt a kind of old world carnival theme with singers, escape artists, illusionists and painters.

Interview by Michael Limnios                Photos © by Pierre Baroni

How has the Blues and Jazz music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I’ve always loved 60s music and bought 45s since I was a kid, but as I’ve grown older my taste has grown ‘blacker’.

I still love the ‘White’ 60s… British, Australian, American and French, but the last 20 years has seen me collect many more rhythm and blues 45s. This has led me to travel extensively throughout the southern United States, going to festivals, museums and searching out the Mississippi ‘Blues Markers’. These markers are placed in towns that are the birthplaces of famed blues legends. My favorite places in the United States are New Orleans, Memphis and New York.

What were the reasons that you started the photo art researches? What touched (emotionally) you from the B/W?

In the 1990s I got a job working in the art department of Mushroom Records, here in Melbourne. After 3 months I became Art Director and eventually I took up photography to complete my record cover designs. This also led me to directing music videos, though I don’t do that anymore, I’d rather leave it to the young directors coming through. I’ve always seen photos in black and white in my mind… probably from watching black and white TV as a child. Also, my favorite films are all in black and white. My favorite director is Fellini and my favorite film of all time is '8 And A Half' (Otto E Mezzo).

"I don’t miss it; I listen to it every day. I have over 10,000 45s (7” singles) and many LPs too. I only hope to stay healthy, keep my mind and hopefully we can stop trashing this planet. Music will take care of itself." (Billy Boy Arnold & Bobby "Blue" Bland / Photo by Pierre Baroni)

How do you describe the philosophy of your pics and images? Where does your creative drive come from?

I really only have one focus when I’m shooting a portrait… The eyes have it and the rest takes care of itself. I shoot with the lens ‘wide open’ so my depth-of-field is very shallow. I don’t know if I’m very driven, I’ve always described myself as ‘reluctant’, and very, very rarely chase work. It seems to find me and always has. I’m the worst self-promoter I know.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

A lot of the people I’ve shot have becomes friends. The Australian rock singer Jimmy Barnes and his family have become especially close. I’ve been working with him since 1990 and continue to this day. Many of the soul stars I’ve met have been through my DJ-ing and my radio show: Soulgroove’66.

I can’t really think of any advice that I’ve really followed. I’ve never studied or had a lesson in how to do anything I do. I’ve just always worked it out for myself.

Are there any memories from gigs, lives, festivals and studio photo shooting which you’d like to share with us?

Oh god… I could be here for days! Most memorable gigs that instantly come to mind are Mavis Staples (many times), James Brown, Ray Charles, Bobby ‘Blue' Bland, Solomon Burke and Irma Thomas. My favorite festivals are the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans and New Orleans Jazz Festival. I used to love the Beale Street Blues Festival in Memphis, but the blues is almost completely gone from that now. I have shot Jimmy Barnes in Memphis, Nashville and Muscle Shoals. I have directed music videos in New York, Los Angeles, Rome, Cairo and Luxor in Egypt as well as at home here in Melbourne and Sydney. This is a VERY brief answer.

"I really only have one focus when I’m shooting a portrait… The eyes have it and the rest takes care of itself. I shoot with the lens ‘wide open’ so my depth-of-field is very shallow. I don’t know if I’m very driven, I’ve always described myself as ‘reluctant’, and very, very rarely chase work. It seems to find me and always has. I’m the worst self-promoter I know." (James Brown & Ray Charles / Photo by Pierre Baroni)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I don’t miss it; I listen to it every day. I have over 10,000 45s (7” singles) and many LPs too. I only hope to stay healthy, keep my mind and hopefully we can stop trashing this planet. Music will take care of itself.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I don’t really want to change anything. “To Each, Their Own” is what I always say.

What is the impact of Soul, Blues & Jazz music to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications? 

I don’t know, I’m not a very political person. Obviously black music in the 60s was a soundtrack to much of the segregation and some of its dismantling, but black people today don’t care about the blues... That’s ‘old people’s music’ to them. You very rarely see any black people at the rhythm and blues music festivals in the States.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Only one-time machine? That’s not fair.  I need three. 1) To be in the Cinecitta film studio in Rome in 1962 while Federico Fellini is directing Marcello Mastroianni in '8 And A Half'. 2) To be in the Abbey Road Studio in London with John Lennon, while he is putting down the vocal to ‘Strawberry Fields' in December of 1966. 3) To be in the studio when Otis Redding is recording his last session at Stax in Memphis before his death in 1967.

Jimmy Little & Lattimore Brown / Photo by Pierre Baroni

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