From late 1989 until early 1995, now that I consider things—I photographed in bars at least 1001 nights. Some time ago, I figured out that between 1992 to 1994 I photographed around 1,000 bands. Of course, on many nights I raced around town seeing at least three or four per night, so the band count doesn’t match-up with nights out. There are a lot of tales, but memory is a funny thing.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sifting through the mess of prints I hauled here from California. Most of them were low quality— just leftovers. I gave most of the good ones away. I had a weird sort of gift-culture thing going; I gave plenty to the bar owners who never charged me a cover and almost never charged me for drinks. I gave the rest to the people who were my “subjects”— but I never thought of them that way. Some became friends; most didn’t. They were just people I had fun drinking with. The bands for me were primarily an excuse to photograph. When the music is playing, people don’t think too much about why you have a camera. I never photographed at bars without live music—partly because I find bars without live bands to be depressing and partly because I felt like making photographs revolved around some sort of shared experience. I couldn’t just “cold-call” people and ask to take their photograph. You get to know the “regulars” and people get comfortable fairly quickly when you give them things.
Most of these prints are now ruined. Repeated floods in my previous apartment have reduced the pile, which started out as a stack of 8x10s around three feet square and three feet tall, to five hanging file crates of rescued (though sometimes glued together) junk prints. I’ve been peeling and scanning and tossing. Each time I think about putting together some online galleries of the ones I’ve been trying to rescue, I discover another heap of the same subject. I don’t have many more days to work on this before I have to move, but I just don’t want to drag what’s left along with me.
It bothers me that I can’t remember the names the people I spent so much time with. Memory is a funny thing, and often when I look at the same face a few days later names roll off my tongue as if it were yesterday. With the names, the stories return. Perhaps someday there will be time to write them. That is probably wishful thinking. There are so many other things I need to do. Besides, it’s not good to live in the past. But sometimes it is fun to remember. For every great story, there are darker ones that probably shouldn’t be told, though.