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I have been saving this image as the finale to the Virginia series but since I have stalled and faltered of late, I thought it best if I moved him up.
This is Rooster Ruley. Legend amongst legends in the hills of West Central Virginia. A world class Bluegrass Banjo player, Rooster is the genuine article.
Rooster's image is how I pictured all of my subjects to be on that trip but I guess I let my imagination run a little too wild.
When you look at this face, I'm bettin' you're forming an opinion as to what Rooster is really like. Well, you're right. If I've done my job here, you're probably thinking, undisciplined, loose living, carefree and living life to it's fullest, I'd say you're right on the money.
The night I met Rooster was the big music fest on top of the mountain. There were murmurs within the crowd that Rooster might show up. He did and as you might expect, he's the kind of guy that doesn't really take a liking to pushy, crowed places. I'd say he's standoffish and easily spooked. My challenge was to not scare him away before I could get him to commit to a sitting. I'm not sure what came over me but when we were introduced, I did my my best, sincere, look 'em right in the eye posture and said, Rooster it's nice to finally meet you and I drove 900 miles to take your picture. I'm pretty sure it caught him off guard. I had him somewhere between flattered and terrified. Surprisingly enough he agreed, only asking, are you a professional photographer? I looked him even straighter in the eye and said, Why yes I am. He quickly shared his brand new phone number with me (which I proceeded to lose that night) and told me to give him a call.
Two days later, after searching everywhere for his number and calling anyone who might know him, I got him on the phone and reprised my, I drove 900 miles to take your picture, line. Being a little more sober this time, he said, if you really drove that far to take my picture, you're a damn fool. I couldn't help but smile and hope the hook was set. We agreed on a time and I crossed my fingers, hoping he'd stick to his word. He did.
I wouldn't say ole Rooster was thrilled about the session. He was obviously on guard and tentative. He came with a young woman who had some questions about what we were up to and where this pictures might show up. Rooster told me later that she was his wife and she too was a photographer. Had I known, I would have invited her to stay. I did try to reach her to see if she was still in the area but she didn't answer or return my call.
We no sooner got into a rhythm shooting and Rooster decided he'd about had enough. He didn't like that I would try to pose him in ways that weren't natural to him. I tried to explain that I understood but since I shoot for impact, I wanted to get his banjo closer to his face and that it was important to the composition of the shot and it would look very natural in the finished product. He wasn't buying it.
If you remember from the earlier post, it was hot and humid that week and he was pretty much done. I'd like to have had a little more time before we wrapped but then Karsh only got one shot at Churchill. (OMG, did I just draw a comparison with Karsh, who am I kidding?).
There are several more keeper images that I have yet to develop, digitally speaking. Maybe later in the year, I'll post those too.