Mojolation CD Cover Photo Shoot
I've told this story many times. Bill Blue had been working on his first new CD release in over 20 years. The music was coming together and now he wanted to get the CD cover photography planned and organized. He approached me almost a year before we finally started shooting and we discussed in detail the theme of the album and how to capture the best photo for the album cover.
Bill suggested we shoot in the graveyard for his Blues CD on a gray overcast day if possible and asked me to locate all the statuary of angels in the Key West Graveyard. I located as many as possible. We planned the shoot for months. I wanted to get the best cover photo for my friend and I surveyed the entire graveyard over several weeks locating all the angels.
One weekend in August of 2013 it was time to shoot. I picked Bill up at Garrison Bight in a slight rain. We held off and went and had breakfast at Harpoon Harry's waiting for the weather to cooperate. We joked about the wisdom of two older people like ourselves spending too much time in the Key West Graveyard.
Bill is not superstitious but he did not want to desecrate any tombs in the graveyard. We had very little contact with anything and were very careful where we walked and set things like my equipment and his guitars. One of the nicer angel statues had some old faded plastic flowers tucked in one arm. Bill would not let me remove them and they pretty much ruined the shots. As I organized the different poses Bill was careful not to touch or lean on the graves. It was one of the more prickly photo shoots ever. I shot over 150 photos of Bill standing next to an angel, sitting near an angel, playing a guitar in front of an angel, wearing a hat and mirror finish sunglasses, holding two different guitars every way imaginable. At the end of this not one of the photos was usable.
We went to the East Martello Towers the ancient Fort that was used to guard Key West. We photographed another dozen different poses from about 50 angles. The old Fort was pretty cool but nothing seemed to stand out and Bill said "I'm getting tired of looking at pictures of me."
We were both getting a little frustrated and took a few moments to talk while driving through town. Bill started telling me the story about a house he lived in on Whitehead Street and how much he loved that place. Bill suggested while we're close to take a look at it. It's a really nice smaller house on the south end of Whitehead Street. It was about 10 Am and we hadn't got anything that we both were happy with yet. For some reason, I have no explanation we continued down Whitehead. As we passed the Green Parrot the side doors were open showing Steve Wegman's caricature painting of the legendary Delta Blues singer Robert Johnson. It hits us both at the same time - perfect.
We called Managing Partner, John Vagnoni for permission and found a parking spot on Southard Street almost in front of the Parrot. As we unloaded equipment and walked through the famous venue that Bill had played so many times in his career we both felt that this was going to work. This was home. This was holy ground where Bill Blue and the Nervous Guys have performed for three decades to thousands of fans. We both felt a great vibe as we walked through the emptyness.
The light was getting better on that side of the building. We took our time setting up with all the confidence in the world. It was like we both knew what the CD photos would look like before they were even photographed. The back bar has a set of double doors that were painted by a local artist David Wegman. One door is painted with caricature of a sorrowful Robert Johnson the legendary Mississippi Delta Blues singer with the tears of the Blues dropping from his guitar. Bill has always been a Robert Johnson fan. The Green Parrot hosts an annual tribute to Robert Johnson on his birthday May 8th.
Bill and I were ready to go and even more eager to try a few different things at this location. Bill needed a photo with a darker space to place the many credits for the production of "Mojolation". The space between the two doors was perfect. I setup and shot the door underexposing the interior of the back bar in between and we had our dark space.
We tried shots with Bill leaning casually on the door frame it seemed a little pedestrian. I tried a pose with Bill sitting with and without guitar nice but not quite what Bill had in mind. After about a dozen poses from a dozen angles Bill was getting physically tired. He sat down near the door and said - how's this look? Almost instantly we had what we both thought was the winner. I quickly shot about a dozen frames with guitar, with and without hat, this was working. The only problem we had now was choosing which one would be best for the cover. Just to make sure we weren't off base we came back in a few days later and tried the same photography with different wardrobe and light. We selected a shot from the first session for the final version of the Mojolation CD cover. Many thanks to Dave Wegman for being so creative, John Vagnoni for letting us use the Green Parrot, and for the great Robert Johnson for his musical inspirations.
© Ralph De Palma Photographer