Southern photographer Jan King talks about Willie King, Eddie Kirkland, Blues, and the power of image

"Blues is so real and it does not depend on being commercial."

Jan King: The reality of music image

Jan Yates King is a partner at Two Sisters Photography and specializes in music photography & Videography. Jan has been snapping musical images for many years. She started out as a singer/songwriter, and then moved into radio. Eventually picking up the camera full time and doing some freelance writing along the way.

She is a fan of music first and loves to capture live concert action or help an artist with their perfect and unique promo images. She is also now able to help artists with their music videos. For Jan King and Shelia Yates (Two Sisters Photography) that voice is found in the artistic expression of photography. When Jan and Shelia brought their unique talents together to form Two Sisters Photography they brought over 10 years photography experience together. As sisters they work well together, each having an artistic strength that compliments the other. With diverse backgrounds in radio, music, art and business management they combine talents to share an extraordinary vision for what photography can be.

They believe photography stops time and brings the world to a stand still for in the click of the shutter, never to be lost. They want to help you find those special moments and record them with each resulting image representing an artistic moment in time. Musical artists, bands, model portfolios, portraits and weddings are just paints for the canvas waiting to be created. Music, band, and entertainment photography are specialties of the sisters and they come to this arena with fresh perspective and a background in the industry that helps them capture your images in a way that help you represent your style and make a statement. 


Interview by Michael Limnios


Jan, when was your first desire to become involved in the photography?

From as early as I can remember I have had a desire to document things and save a memory for the future. I was probably in my teens before I owned my first camera and was able to take images that I set up myself. I usually did this as little promo shoots that revolved around whatever music I was involved in at that time.


               Mike Farris & His Band, Photo by Jan King Music Photography

What does “photography” offered you? What do you learn about yourself from the photography and music?

Photography has been a very strong form of self expression and documentation for me. It is a creative process that allows me to take an image in my head and put all the elements together to create it and save it on film, paper or digital image. Music photography offers a unique blend of allowing me to pull out my creative process by interpreting music through the images I create.


What characterize your work & progress, how do you describe your philosophy about the IMAGE?

To me the image should make you feel an emotion when you see it, it should draw you in and make you ask questions especially in music photography because you are in a unique place to try and capture the emotion of the music and the musical artist with your camera. So the light, the motion and the expressions are all very important part of the final artistic creation through the image.


Who are your favorite musicians, would you like to meet and shoots?

I have met most of my favorite musicians. I really enjoyed meeting, hearing and working with Todd Simpson, Willie King, Eddie Kirkland, Betty Fikes, 2 Blu and the Lucky Stiffs, Bart Walker, Mike Farris and The Alabama Blues Project Advanced Band. I just finished a promo project with a new Nashville based blues band called Cumberland Blue that was fun. They are young and have lots of talent, energy and creative spark, but there are so many more I could mention. She is not blues, but I would love to photograph Loretta Lynn again and Etta Britt


Are there any memories from the blues musicians you have meet which you’d like to share with us?

I really cherish the meetings with Eddie Kirkland and Willie King. I met both of them through The Alabama Blues Project when they came in the work with the kids. They were great human beings in addition to being great blues men. They really took the time to work with the kids and to jam and perform with them. I was able to grab some quick shots of them during those times. Those images are especially important to me now that both of those great musicians have passed away.       (Eddie Kirkland, Photo by Jan King Music Photography)


Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us why do you think that is?

Blues is so real and it does not depend on being commercial. Even though it is blues, you usually feel really good when watching a live blues performance, the crowd is usually there because they really love the music and they love to hang out with each other.


BW or Colors, Digital or Film and why?

I shoot mainly digital now because it gives you so much control in the camera and in editing and it is faster to get to the finished product. I usually choose color or black and white based on the lighting and the mood I want the image to convey. But sometimes you can only get the look you want with film so I still use it on occasion.


Do you remember any funny or interesting moment from Willie King’s shootings?

To me Willie King was one of the best examples of a working bluesman that I have seen. He was great with working with younger musicians, he was a great musician and songwriter himself and he was a giving human being. All that came across to me when I saw him play and photographed him.

(Willie King, Photo by Jan King Music Photography)


Make an account for the current realities for the blues in South, where you live?

It seems that blues is still being played everywhere, but is not as commercially successful as some other forms of music, so that leads to lots of struggling musicians. Blues is probably more appreciated in Europe than in the south, but you will always find lots of blues lovers in the south who go out to see their favorites regularly. There are also lots of blues jams where young musicians can play with the more seasoned veterans.


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

I don’t think there have been best and worst. It is always fun and rewarding to be able to have your images published, to be asked to work with artists you admire or to be able to run with your creative process with someone who trusts your ideas.


What are some of the most memorable shoots you've had? In which photo can someone see the best of your work?

It would depend on which style of my work you wanted to see, but I have a photo that I took of a bride in her dress in an old abandoned equipment yard and she is reclining against the equipment. The scene is dark and somewhat blue. It makes you ask all kinds of questions and conveys a feeling. There are not many answers in that image. I also have an image of Todd Simpson, a great blues/rock guitarist and singer that I really like where he is standing on a street in driving rain with his guitar and I think it conveys the power he brings to the stage.

(Todd Simpson, Photo by Jan King Music Photography)



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