THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER
When photographer Scott Toepfer took a call from Chuck Ragan, formerly of Hot Water Music, inviting him aboard the bus for the California leg of this year’s Revival Tour, an alternative to accepting didn’t cross Scott’s mind. He was already on the plane. Literally. Nor did he think that one of the bands on tour, The Anderson Family, would make such an impression on him. Scott latched on to the family of musicians and returned with rolls of photographic gold and a new-found respect for the mandolin.
Who are The Anderson Family, to you and to the world?
The Anderson Family is a family bluegrass band from Northern California, Grass Valley I believe. They are exceptional people, and damn fine musicians. I met them in San Jose, CA on the first night I jumped on the Revival Tour, and immediately I heard talk from the other musicians that this band was going to blow everybody away. They had played the night before, and I think that everyone was still reeling from that experience. Each member of the family plays an instrument, and is a master in his or her own right. The girls will develop harmonies on the spot when needed and the boys will riff up a solo on the banjo or mandolin whenever they please. I should mention that the family consists of the mother and father, Christy and Mark (upright bass and banjo), fifteen-year-old Paige on vocals and guitar, thirteen-year-old Aimee on fiddle, ten-year-old Ethan on mandolin, and eight-year-old Daisy on the dobro. I really can’t describe the feeling of watching this family hold a stage together and just amaze the crowd before them.
You strayed from the generic tour shoot with this year’s Anderson Family tour photos; if you go again next year, will you experiment further?
I have been photographing bands for the over six years now, and about half way through that time I realized that it wasn’t going to help me get any better. Musicians on tour are not easy to work with—this tour being the exception—because they are being pulled in a hundred different directions every night. Live pictures are worthless, because anybody with a Digital Rebel, cell phone or whatever can take them and give them away or post them on the internet for free. I told Chuck and company that I wasn’t going to focus on their performances, but rather their experiences on tour. There are hours of time spent on tour that have nothing to do with music, and those are where my photos were made.
I took a whole slew of peel apart polaroids on the trip, and gave each of the Anderson players a portrait to take home. I told them that they are playing music from a period of time in which they will not always live in, and that they should have some pictures that reflect that. As for experimenting, I would like to think that I am always expanding my ideas of what is relevant or important to myself and my clients, and I hope that it continues as such.
—Chris Noble, 07 December 2009
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