Timothy Duffy Artist Statement
Many of the musicians I photograph are not famous. In fact, most of them were not easy to find. Primarily, they are senior African American roots musicians born of the South. Their ancestors were among the earliest to arrive to our country and many claim a fair portion of native blood. They have some of the deepest roots in this country, but their America was certainly not the land of the free. Plenty of bravery was required of them, and despite their ancestral culture being oppressed and forbidden for centuries, the succeeding generations rose up singing.
As individuals and artists, their experiences are wide-ranging and varied. The broad diversity of their musical styles and content reflect this variety of experience. As performers, they use all of the tools at their disposal: instruments, vocals, words, rhythms, body movements, clothes and hair styles to communicate their uniqueness. They want you to know they are sophisticated and unpretentious, worldly and rural, down to earth and soaring with the stars. Mostly, they are keenly aware of the treasure of music they inherited from the elders who taught them and feel duty-bound to pass it on to the next generation. Knowing the camera lens is a conduit to the audience of posterity, they continue to open their homes to me and come to my studio, submitting to long photographic sessions in order to deliver the goods.
The cultural goods they carry straddle three centuries of American life: the agrarian world of the nineteenth century, industrialization of the twentieth, and technology of this new digital millennium. As do the photographic processes I use to present them here. The past is complicated for Americans but the struggle cannot be eradicated by averting our eyes from it. That we are suspended in time when viewing these portraits dares us to reckon with our past and present in terms of racial equity and societal progress. I intend that this work honor the significant contributions these creative, resourceful and hard-working people have made throughout these three centuries and continue to make today.