Featured Photographer: Mark J. Smith
This week, I’m featuring one photgrapher, Mark J Smith. He also provided the descriptions you’ll read below.
Mark started in photography in 1970, when he worked with a college-oriented newspaper in Philadelphia. The paper — mostly focused on the local music scene — was called The Drummer, and its photographer inspired him. After his time there, Mark transfered his talents to television in New York, where he produced award-winning CGI openings for all the major networks. His favorite was the NBA pre-game show, NBA Showtime. He was also a producer for the Children’s Television Workshop show Ghost Writer.
He returned to concert photography in 2004 and began regularly shooting music festivals around Philadelphia. He has a soft spot in his heart for the Philly Fest as it never ceases to thrill — plus, it was his first. Besides ND, Mark’s photographs can be found at www.photosmithdigital.com.
Here are the photos you’ll find in the slideshow below, in Mark’s words:
Arlo brought his Alice’s Restaurant Tour to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the song. I have shot Arlo a few times before and he is always interesting to shoot. He’s challenging because he sits on that stool and stays close to the mic. But he’s also absolutely fun, because he is very animated especially when telling a story — which is often — or singing a song. It’s always fun to shoot Arlo, and always great to hear him do Alice’s Restaurant, every 10 years. And I always enjoy shooting at the Keswick.
Sarah Lee Guthrie
It was brilliant to have Sarah Lee Guthrie open the show at the Keswick Theatre for Arlo Guthrie. Without a doubt, she is her father’s daughter. She can tell a story, spin a yarn, or whatever you want to call it as good as her dad. Oh yeah, she can play and sing great, too. This was the second time I caught the Alice’s 50th Tour and Sarah Lee had been added to the bill. She was a great addition. By the way, folks, the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania, is really a great venue to catch a show: Great lighting, greatly appreciated by a photographer, great sound, and really nice people.
Shooting Graham Nash at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia was a first for me. For some unknown reason, I hadn’t shot there before. That’s my mistake, because I love shooting there: Great lights, sound, and really friendly people. They have a wonderful mezzanine to get wide shots of the band and a different perspective. Shooting Graham Nash was a treat. He was touring to promote his new album This Path Tonight, with guitarist Shane Fontayne, who co-wrote the songs and produced the album.
Shooting Dom Flemons was a thrill for me. I’d shot him with the Carolina Chocolate Drops a couple of times, so this was an opportunity to shoot him solo … or actually with his new band. When the show started I thought, Oh noooo. His cap was pulled down and there was absolutely no light on his face. Thankfully, a little into the first song, he pushed it back and all was good with the world again. Sellersville — another old movie theater turned music venue — is a great place to shoot.
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule
Shooting Gov’t Mule was one of the first times I actually got to shoot a band that had real, honest-to-goodness rock and roll stage lighting. Wow! Gov’t Mule was fun to shoot — a Southern rock jam band spin-off of the Allman Brothers. Not only did they rock the house but their stage presence was incredible. Shooting at the Tower Theater was also a treat. It’s yet another old movie theater turned into a music venue. The Tower has hosted many big names over the years but in my mind it was all about when Bowie played Philadelphia. He loved the Tower.
Matt Abts of Gov’t Mule
I thought I might add a picture of a drummer. They always sit in the back behind their drum kit, often out of any usable light, always moving, etc. So okay, yes, it is hard to get a good shot of a drummer. At least for me it is. So here is one of my favorites.
I had been trying unsuccessfully to see Jon Cleary at the Maple Leaf Bar for years on my trips to New Orleans, so I was thrilled to see he was coming to Philadelphia. I was thrilled to get back to shoot at the World Cafe Live, too. Cleary is a British guy that totally got into — and captures the soul of — New Orleans funk. This was another great night shooting a wonderful musician and hearing great music.
I have shot Tempest a number of times since 2005, when they played the Philadelphia Folk Festival. If you enjoy Celtic rock, this is the band for you. Lief Sorbye founded the group and it has gone through a few versions over the years. Currently with original drummer Adolofo Lazo, Kathy Buys on violin, Ab Menon on guitar, and Josh Fossgreen on guitar, they continually knock my socks off.
Philadelphia Folk Festival Program Cover
I was surprised and thrilled when I entered the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 2006 and was handed a program, and suddenly realized one of my photographs was used to create the cover. I have been trying to live up to that photo ever since. I am still trying to continually learn and hope to be getting better all the time. I think there’s a Beatles song in there someplace.