Previous news story    Next news story

In Photos: Portraits of the living legends of blues

By dpreview staff on Nov 16, 2013 at 09:00 GMT
Portraits of the living legends of blues
1 2 3 4 5 10

Portraits of the living legends of blues

Since 2008, photographer Lou Bopp has made regular trips down Mississippi's Route 61 — known as 'The Blues Highway' — to document the lives of unknown musicians who have made important contributions to the classic American musical genre. In this work, he recorded the juke joints, roadhouses, and the culture that has supported Mississippi Delta style blues.  

In a recent interview with Slate, Bopp said: 

'A lot of these guys are old, and I tried to shoot as many as I could before we lose them all. A lot of these guys I shot are as good as B.B. King — they just don't have the same notoriety. I think they're just as important to the genre.'

In our gallery check out some of his documentary portraits of these living legends. His work is on display at Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Above: Bluesman Robert Bilbo Walker in Clarksdale, Miss. in 2009 at the old Miss Sarah's Kitchen.

Comments

Total comments: 35
denniscar
By denniscar (4 months ago)

Thank You for posting the living memories,so beautifully captured, of our heart and soul.
The Blues, my lord you have barely touched the legacy, but where do you think Clapton learned his riffs and made his millions? From those who toil in obscurity.
God Bless.

0 upvotes
pbailey4
By pbailey4 (5 months ago)

interesting people to photograph and for the best reasons but the images are very ordinary and show zero originality 5/10

0 upvotes
rialcnis
By rialcnis (5 months ago)

I don't know if you can be a living blues legend anymore until you're dead.
So don take me no pictures till i'm in the graveyard cuz then I cant see a thing...

0 upvotes
Pacific462
By Pacific462 (5 months ago)

Wonderful, poignant photographs. As a big fan of The Blues, as well as photography, these satisfy at every level.

0 upvotes
gs85739az
By gs85739az (5 months ago)

After you get hooked on the blues, most other music is zippideedoodah-elevator music!

0 upvotes
HawaiiVolcanoes
By HawaiiVolcanoes (5 months ago)

Why are all Black People who sing the blues "Living Legends"...geeez..enough already

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (5 months ago)

These are just outstanding.

0 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (5 months ago)

I find many of these images compelling. They speak to the diversity of figures who shaped the genre, many not widely recognized. personally, I tend to be drawn to those images that show the musicians, older now, in common domestic environments. Those visual textures found in unpreened spaces suggest a conceptual relationship to the genuine basis and often improvisational dynamics of the music itself.

0 upvotes
Clyde Thomas
By Clyde Thomas (5 months ago)

I was at the opening at the Sheldon. Work is incredible. Lou had some enormous enlargements that made you feel like you were there.

Congrats Lou!

0 upvotes
Robert Markus
By Robert Markus (5 months ago)

Outstanding! Congratulations :) Thank you for showing us

0 upvotes
M Lammerse
By M Lammerse (5 months ago)

Again a wonderful series!
Thanks for sharing.

2 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (5 months ago)

My favorite blues song is "I got them down low DPR crappy bokeh blues" by Mississippi Ned (from Louisiana) available on the Pine Cone label.

2 upvotes
Interestingness
By Interestingness (5 months ago)

Blues isn't my type of music so I wouldn't know a living legend from anything else but I can say these are fantastic portraits! Bopp definitely has talent and a good eye. Really, really, nice work.

0 upvotes
donjon
By donjon (5 months ago)

I spent my first 18 years in Clarksdale. It was certainly 'juke joint' area. I was surprised at the tourism caused by the 4 or 5 yearly festivals. It's been 40 years since I sat in one of the clubs there. I did get to see Howling Wolf one weekend in a club less than a mile from my home. As far as the portraits: they look good, I'm not familiar with any and as one said, legends is debatable. Maybe they are in the local sense.

2 upvotes
Ferling
By Ferling (5 months ago)

What's more popular, the photograph or the man? When it's the man, then you've succeeded as a photographer.

1 upvote
mcshan
By mcshan (5 months ago)

Or you have taken one God awful photo.

3 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (5 months ago)

This sounds like a repackaged proverb of "proper" portraiture, assumptive and overly simplifying; it provides a very narrow potential of what qualifies as value in the photograph or the success of the photographer.

1 upvote
Neal Hood
By Neal Hood (5 months ago)

Great pictures capturing some of the forefathers of the blues venue.

0 upvotes
JEROME NOLAS
By JEROME NOLAS (5 months ago)

Great photos!

0 upvotes
Rick Knepper
By Rick Knepper (5 months ago)

Portraits of the living legends of blues

Since 2008, photographer Lou Bopp has made regular trips down Mississippi's Route 61 — known as 'The Blues Highway' — to document the lives of unknown musicians who have made important contributions to the classic American musical genre.

These fellows are either living legends or unknown musicians. I don't think you can have it both ways. Since I own CDs of most of the Legends of Blues, living or otherwise, I was surprised to see these names mentioned under a title containing the term "Living Legends". DPR, you need to work a little harder on your editorial skills.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
8 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (5 months ago)

+1. In talking about "living legends" of blues, names like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Mayall and James Cotton come to mind. The musicians in the portraits are most certainly living. Whether they are "blues legends" in the conventional sense is debatable.

2 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (5 months ago)

There certainly are a lot of "legends" these days.

4 upvotes
hereandnowness
By hereandnowness (5 months ago)

So to be a legend YOU must have heard of them? I don't think that's how fame works.

3 upvotes
klimbkat
By klimbkat (5 months ago)

Geez - just because YOU have not heard of these guys (they don't havebig label press kits and mass-marketed cds) does not mean that they are not both the real deal and genuine "legends." Many of the big names in blues are there only through a lucky break or two, and if you ask those folks, they give it up for the many others of similar talent that never made it out of the regional scenes. This area, in particular, has been characterized as a particularly vibrant traditional blues scene from which some of the bigger names emerged. DPR is right on the money to call these photos of legends, and good work too - some very evocative images. There's a ton of legendary blues out there few folks have heard of - great that some of this history is captured before it is gone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Blues_record_labels

6 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (5 months ago)

> So to be a legend YOU must have heard of them? I don't think that's how fame works.

If few people or nobody has heard of them they aren't famous.

Famous (adjective) - known or recognized by very many people : having fame

Legend (noun) - a famous or important person who is known for doing something extremely well

I'm a jazz and blues musician and majored in music in college and admit that I haven't heard of most of the blues musicians in the photos. Perhaps hard core blues fans do know them. Have you or the majority of people on the board heard of them? Can you name any songs they are famous for?

If you need to have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of regional blues to be familiar with these guys, can they still be called "living legends"?

3 upvotes
klimbkat
By klimbkat (5 months ago)

> Legend (noun) - a famous or IMPORTANT person who is known for doing something extremely well

These guys were/are important in their contributions to a unique American genre. That they did not make the 'big time" is of no moment, because they built the foundation on which the modern blues players stand. These old guys are the real deal and, again, their photos speak louder than any of us on 11 (and I've played, blues etc., pro for 40 years incl. w/ Albert Collins in mid 70s).

2 upvotes
Dave Oddie
By Dave Oddie (5 months ago)

"hese guys were/are important in their contributions to a unique American genre."

Why? What did these particular guys contribute to the genre to make them specifically such important contributors to it?

0 upvotes
klimbkat
By klimbkat (5 months ago)

)What did these particular guys contribute to the genre to make them specifically such important contributors to it?

The roots of the genre, which is much more than just its recordings - its the setting and characters. Perhaps these 60-70-80 year old bluesmen are not "Legends" with a capital "L", but their place and their voice is legendary. Plus, they make great photo subjects . . .

1 upvote
b craw
By b craw (5 months ago)

Rick and company, you might want to consider the historical context of blues; many of the most important figures in terms of early development, and some very prolific (materials produced) later figures, tended to receive marginal recognition from more mainstream audiences, then and now. Often blues developed very much off the radar and lots of influences on players who went on to become more popular were unknown or barely acknowledged.

0 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (5 months ago)

I think it is fair to question the veracity of terms in an article title, but it does seem a bit like quibbling. Better time would be spent in commentary related to the ideas or mechanics of the photos.

0 upvotes
ABM Barry
By ABM Barry (5 months ago)

These are so good, ... you feel as if you know Artists personally.

The true essence of photography.

Thank you for sharing.

Barry M Australia

2 upvotes
Felts
By Felts (5 months ago)

Beautiful portraits, each and every one of them...

1 upvote
twadger
By twadger (5 months ago)

Great images.

1 upvote
raymondg
By raymondg (5 months ago)

Brilliant work and a great service to the Blues.

2 upvotes
montoniphotography
By montoniphotography (5 months ago)

nothing like Claxton, nothing.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 35