Ship In The Sand

music, fandom and photography

Richard Buckner


image © 2012 Aline Giordano

text © 2013 Aline Giordano

I had just found a safe place to drop my camera bag by the front of the stage when someone with a professional camera accosted me and told me not to take photographs of Richard Buckner. I could not tell from him whether this was an official request or whether he had ‘heard’ that Buckner did not want photographs taken of him onstage. Was it because Buckner didn’t like being photographed or because he didn’t want his music to be interrupted by the incessant noise of the camera shutter? Given the electro-acoustic nature of the concert and the intimacy of the gathering, I understood why such a decision could have been taken. Yet, the messenger did not convince me. He acted as if some authority had been invested in him, with rather too much zeal. I did not want to go home without a photograph either. By the time I had figured out what to do Buckner was already busy setting up. So I took a few discreet photographs. By discreet, I mean that I had my camera resting in my lap and aimed the best I could toward the centre of the stage. I took a few shots of the stage and the equipment while he was getting ready: I caught a blurred glimpse of his arm and guitar. There was one particular photograph, I liked. So I thought I would ask for Richard Buckner’s authorisation to publish it after the set. This was a good plan, which sat well with my principles as a considerate photographer. When Buckner opened with the song ‘Traitor’ I knew it was time to put my camera back in its bag.

I enjoyed the show very much. Buckner was playing about five metres away from me. I was captivated by his gentle vocals and his guitar playing. He layered the loops with such ease! It was over far too soon.

After the customary and well deserved, ‘that was a great set, thank you!’, I showed Buckner the photograph I had taken while he was setting up and asked if I could publish it on my online fanzine. I received a rather throw away answer ‘yeah, I don’t care’. I was taken aback by his indifference, not because I had expected Buckner to be enthusiastic about my photograph, rather, I could not reconcile the kindness and genuine smiles of the man onstage with the cold response he gave me next to the merchandise table. In truth, my photograph looked particularly purposeless on the small screen on the back of my camera.

The main set was superbly executed by Richmond Fontaine with Willy Vlautin on acoustic guitar and Dan Eccles on steel pedal, electric guitar and harmonica. Toward the end of the show the duo invited Buckner to play with them. With the ‘yeah, I don’t care’ still fresh in my mind, I decided to take a few shots in haste to ensure that I would not upset Mr Buckner. There is one shot which, to me, captures Buckner: enigmatic, reserved, melancholic, affecting and majestic. I very much like this photo. Looking at it now, I wonder whether I misinterpreted shyness for indifference.

Questions flood my mind. They distract, confuse and tire me. As I’m wrestling with my conscience, I realise that I have been listening to the song ‘Traitor’ from Buckner’s album ‘Our Blood’ in a loop since I started writing this piece. Yet, my mind is getting more and more numb as I try and make sense of the feeling of betrayal that is invading me right now. I can’t shake it off.

I have not published any of my photos of Richard Buckner taken that night. The photograph above was taken at the 2012 End of The Road festival.

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