The Photographs of C. Elliott and Her Story
This week, I’m featuring the photos of C. Elliott from Tucson, Arizona. While she and I have chatted about photography for quite some time, I was unaware till recently that we lived in Cincinnati during the same time, she in high school and I in college. We also saw some of the same shows: The Dead, Derek and the Dominoes, and most notably Carole King and James Taylor just before Tapestry was released. That performance made a big impression on us both, and is notable for me as it was the last review I did for my college paper.
Elliott is the house photographer for several venues including the Rialto Theatre, Fox Tucson Theatre, 191 Toole, and the Rhythm and Roots Concert Series. In addition to being a contributor to No Depression‘s photo column since 2011, she was this site’s Photo Section Editor for a time.
Elliott’s association with ND began via her friend Linda Ray, who is a long-time ND contributor. But before that, following the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabriel Giffords and her assistant Ron Barber, Barber founded and produced the Concert for Civility, Respect, and Understanding. Ray was writing an article about the concert for ND and asked Elliott to provide the photos.
Elliott also is a stringer photographer for the Tucson Weekly, KXCI Community Radio, and various radio stations and promoters. Additionally, she works freelance for venues and artists in and around the Southwest, Northwest, Midwest and shoots stills for local and national musicians. Her photos have appeared in the Spring and Fall 2016 issues of the No Depression journal. Elliott has also worked for the Artist’s Den and with artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Howe Gelb, Calexico, Chica Dust, and Alice Cooper.
I will let her invigorating, deeply saturated photos speak for themselves, as the artists are a vital who’s-who in Americana and roots music. I am also devoting a longer than usual bio for Elliott as her history is an intriguing one, and her commitment to the music is inspiring. Here, then, in her own words, is C. Elliott:
I’ve always enjoyed live music and started photographing concerts back in the early 1970s, with a small Kodak Instamatic film camera — yes, the one with the “cube flash” on top. My first show was Laura Nyro in Cincinnati and a few months later I saw Carole King and James Taylor, then the Grateful Dead. I continued to see and shoot concerts all through my years of college at the University of Arizona. Unfortunately, all of the photos from my early concerts have been long lost.
After I graduated from the University of Arizona, I got my first “pro” camera as a graduation gift and I went on to study photography under Luis Carlos Bernal for a year and a half at Pima College in Tucson.
From 1978 to 1989, I worked at a music festival in Michigan and by then I had realized that my love of music was merging with my love of shooting live music. I continued to shoot shows through the 1990s but working other jobs on nights and weekends — as a paralegal and then in tattoo shops — limited my time. I wanted to get back into shooting concerts. However, by 2004 the option of bringing cameras into venues had changed. Still, I brought my camera to the shows that I could.
When digital photography and the internet became available, I shared my photos with promoters and the artists that I shot.
In 2009, I became the house photographer for the Rialto Theatre and the Fox Tucson Theatre, two historic music venues in downtown Tucson.
I only shoot live music performances and concerts. I love the excitement of entering a venue, knowing that I’ll be photographing a concert and enjoying the energy of the fellow attendees. There’s nothing like being in a venue and looking at the expressions on the faces of people who are all transfixed by the talent onstage. I shoot about 250 shows each year, averaging 2-3 bands per show, as well as several all-day and weekend festivals in and around Tucson and Phoenix. From large venues to very small ones, bright lights or barely lit stages, I hope that my photos capture the enjoyment that the artists have in doing what they love to do.
I work exclusively with the stage lighting of the event, preferring to use the available light to capture the look and feel of the concert as closely as possible. Fast lenses, proper technique, and good timing go a long way toward producing crisp shots, even in low light.
I use Canon cameras and lenses and I always carry my 24mm–70mm and 70mm–20mm 2.8 lenses, and a 50mm 1.4 lens. In addition, I carry a point-and-shoot camera for some wide angle shots. Some bands allow you to use a point-and-shoot after you have to put your pro gear away.
Now, flip though Elliott’s photos of Brandi Carlile with Old Crow Medicine Show, Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Alabama Shakes, Dave Rawlings Machine, Keb’ Mo’, Calexico with Mariachi Luz de Luna, Arlo Guthrie, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Phil and Dave Alvin, Darlingside, David Crosby, Shovels and Rope, The Mavericks, Howie Gelb, Rising Appalachia, The Lone Below, Ronstadt Generations, and Neko Case.