Last week I started a new series called "PhotoStory," in which I feature an iconic jazz photo and invite the photographer to relate what happened the moment the shutter came down on the image. The shaky photo of Miles Davis you see above was taken by Sal Criscillo, a photographer from New Zealand whose color work is smart and stunning. Sal snapped this photo of Miles in May 1988, from the photographers' section up front during an Auckland concert stop. Here's Sal Criscillo on Miles' "death ray" glare:
"That night, I dressed in black to remain invisible, and during the concert I crawled around the feet of the front row audience patrons to get in position. Then I waited for one of those 'coming together' moments.
"Once I spotted that moment, I rose to shoot. But just as I stood up—Bang! Pop! Someone among the photographers had triggered his ‘point and shoot' immediately behind me, releasing an enormous flash. Now I was exposed a few feet away from my jazz hero, isolated in no man's land and captured in the footlights before several hundred seated fans. Naturally I froze.
"Miles, disturbed by the flash in mid-solo, lowered his sparkling blue horn from his lips and fixed me with a piercing stare. I was completely transfixed and immobile for what seemed like days. The rhythm section pounded on. It was easy to read the maestro's disdainful, dismissing glare. That's when I nervously snapped the picture you see above, yet it must have been by reflex only.
"After what seemed an eternity, Miles lifted his horn and resumed playing. That wordless exchange is still seared in my brain. Some years later I read about an identical incident that happened to another photographer at a Miles Davis concert and relived it yet again."