PhotoStory16: Buddy Rich - JazzWax

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March 05, 2010


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Steven Marks, MFA

I love Jazz Wax but as a former university photography instructor, I have to say your interpretation of Paul Slaughter's photograph of Buddy RIch is simply off the mark. You are reading your perception of the drummer's well-documented truculence into the picture. The photograph, like any documentary image, simply describes the way the world looked at that brief instant when the shutter imposed a pictorial order on reality. As Slaughter himself said, "Buddy wasn't angry, nor did he take a swing at me, as the photo might suggest." Yet the photographer isn't quite right either, for photographs don't suggest anything; they simply display. In those cases in which famous people appear, we interpret at our peril. The picture is striking, to be sure, and the story behind it of interest. Let's just not try to make too much of what it "means."

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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