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Bill Lacey concert music performing arts street performance USA

ALL THAT JAZZ

BILL LACEY

// Bill Lacey is a New York based street photographer and also a musician and a composer of film music. He documents life on the city streets, focusing on its people and the iconic architecture. Bill shared a set of black and white photographs of musicians performing in the big apple.

Bill has a realistic outlook on his photography. He finds that perseverance and determination are as important as talent and gear, and he tries not to be disappointed as an artist when he has “bad” photography days. As an artist he is also working professionally in the music, film and television industries, so the creation of art, whether sounds or images, is a regular feature in his life. Bill emphasizes the linkages between music and photography, particularly street photography. “To me street photography and jazz are connected stylistically and philosophically.”


“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”

Miles Davis


What draws you to the arts?

“For me, it hasn’t been a choice. It’s something in my DNA that draws me to be creative in one way, shape or form. Wether with sound, music or photography. I simply can’t help myself.

What impresses you most about the street performers you photographed?

“Their perserverence! It’s not easy to perform in the street, or in a subway, in all kinds of inhospitable conditions, for little or no money. It can be soul destroying for a musician to be ignored. I think all artists need affirmation and recognition to one degree or another. When people flip a coin into a cup it’s not just helping an artist buy a sandwich or pay for lodgings that night. It’s a tacit approval of their method of communication and their talent. Admittedly, there are some street musicians that could do with a little more practice, but I think on the whole most people don’t understand how much time and effort in terms of years it takes for a musician to master an instrument. I’ve heard some really incredibly talented musicians on the street. When photographing them, I try to portray them as respectfully as possible and put them on a pedestal. As a musician myself I feel a bond that I don’t feel to other subjects of my street photography. I hope that I capture the sound they are making by the way I photograph them.“

In New York’s streets and underground you can enjoy a range of performances, from classical piano music, to jazz, blues and rock – anything your heart may desire. You can find street musicians pretty much everywhere in New York City, in its squares, parks, and of course in its subway stations.

What´s more, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has designated a few subway stops as official stages for selected performers. Chosen individuals and ensembles can participate in the Music Under New York (MTA MUSIC) programme. To participate, musicians have to enter a competition, the MUNY competition, where they have to go through an audition process, after which the best are selected to perform in designated stations, such as Times Square and Grand Central and several others. But of course, anyone can perform beyond the designated MTA spots, and Bill´s photographs show the great variety and vibrance of these street performers.

As Bill says, it is not an easy life, and a bit of appreciation goes a long way. Keep those coins handy!


Click on the photos to see the full image.

ALL PHOTOS © BILL LACEY

To see more of his photography visit Bill´s Instagram page.

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