Ship In The Sand

music, fandom and photography

Vic Chesnutt


image © 2005 Aline Giordano

text © 2011 Aline Giordano

What is so special about a bloke in a wheelchair whose face is not even in focus? The photograph brings to mind Roland Barthes’ Winter Garden photograph of his mother (1980:73): ‘It only exists for me. For [most of you], it would be nothing but an indifferent picture, one of a thousand manifestations of the ordinary’. We must have been forty people in the concert hall by the time Vic Chesnutt got onstage. Most of the small crowd chose to stay at the back against the wall, so it was difficult for me to come close to the stage and photograph Vic discreetly. I was the only person standing in front of him. I felt very much aware of the sound of my camera’s shutter and the fact I was, in a way, recording for posterity that this show had not sold many tickets at all, though I now realise that this was nonsense. Anyway, I took four photographs and joined the rest of the crowd at the back. I remember the 30 minutes or so I spent with Vic, his wife Tina and niece Liz Durrett sitting around the table backstage before the concert. I wrote it then in Uzinemusic: ‘We all listened, charmed by Vic’s humour, sincerity, sharpness and attitude’. I knew this was a special moment. I knew I was interviewing an artist whose music had moved me many times over, for many years. Vic was great. He came up with a few cracking lines like “grannies don’t listen to Fugazi”. Despite the good humour we covered a lot of serious topics in 30 minutes. Vic Chesnutt killed himself on 25 December 2009. Any of the four photographs, as badly shot as they are, holds a special space in my memory as a fan of his music. To me the blurriness presents ‘an image that hides as much as it reveals’ (Sturken 1997:27).


Barthes, R., 1980. Camera Lucida. Translated by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1981. London: Vintage, 2000.

Sturken, M., 1997. Tangled memories. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

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