About the Artist
Andrew Brinkhorst is a photographer who has lived Lexington, Kentucky, for the last eighteen years. Strongly influenced by the classic documentary styles of photographers such as Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Bill Allard, Martine Franck, Danny Lyon, and Stanley Greene, his primary interest is in street and documentary photography. He has studied with renowned Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey, and his work has been published in local and regional newspapers and magazines, and exhibited in festivals and public events. His current project explores and documents the seeming renaissance occurring in the live music, art, and small business environments in Lexington.
"That feeling of a great show, a song that works, a recording that captures exactly what you’re after. Pursuing your art. All of those things are the thing. This Is The Thing."
Lexington Art League (LAL): Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?
Andrew Brinkhorst: I grew up in a small town in West Virginia, Vienna, which is near Parkersburg. About an hour north of Charleston. After college (in Cincinnati and Huntington), I lived in Huntington, WV. I got married and Mallory and I moved to Lexington in the early 90s, and then moved away for a while. We moved back in 1998 when our son Alex was born, and have been here ever since.
LAL: How did you begin your work as a photographer? Is there any particular reason or person of inspiration that led you to pursue photography?
AB: I was into photography as a hobby when I was in junior high and high school, and some in college as well. But then I quit pretty much altogether until Alex was born, and I decided I better get a camera, and figure out the digital side of things. So I got back into it, and ended up meeting – online, and then in person – a lot of photo journalists. I’ve always liked the work in the documentary genre, like that by Robert Frank, Cartier-Bresson, Capa, Bruce Davidson, Bill Allard, Martine Franck, David Alan Harvey, Bill Allard, work like that. Pretty much most of the Magnum Photographers, actually. In 2009, at the recommendation of a photographer friend, I attended a photography festival. Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to work, learn from, and interact with some truly amazing photographers, and I met several younger photographers at the start who are now producing work from all over the world. It’s pretty cool.
LAL: Are you a Lexington native and do you have a specific connection to the music scene in the city?
AB: I had no connection to the music scene here, other than the one I discovered when I started working on this project. The group of musicians that ended up happened organically, just based on who I first met and who they knew. And I was lucky to meet a few folks who know a lot of the musicians in town, and who were gracious enough to let me tag along with them.
In fact, though, the music is only part of the overall project. But it had to come first, and while I was working it took on a life of its own, and had a story it had to tell independently. That story is the one of how hard it is to be a working musician in this town. And, almost paradoxically, how many truly amazing musicians we have who live right here. But unless you have a day job or play in multiple bands – or both – it’s hard to survive. It can be done, and is being done, by people who are driven to play music, to perform for others, to sooth their own soul by making music – making art – and who would do it no matter what. For them, this is the thing.
To be fair, music does have a strong pull for me. It’s always been in my life. I performed some up through high school. I’m a really bad drummer. I have a good ear though, and did work sound for bands for a while during the college days. But I’ve discovered photography gives me the same outlet for the creative urge, the creative side that also includes the technical kind of details. That appeals to me.
LAL: On your website, in your “Music and Nightlife” collection, I noticed a lot of live music and music in motion. What is it about these moments that you find so appealing?
AB: Music can be hard to shoot. If all you are shooting is performance stuff, it’s easy to get caught up in the groove of the moment and the emotion you feel isn’t in the photograph. But it can also be incredibly amazing, there are so many little things going on, so many bits of emotion to be captured.
Outside of performance images, it’s not all energy. There is a lot of down time, a lot of just getting things done, too. Sometimes it’s lonely, sometimes it’s quiet, sometimes it’s tired. But then sometimes it’s a group party, where everyone is one big collective effervescence. And then it’s noisy and energetic.
LAL: Do you have a favorite event that you have photographed so far? Why does this event stand out to you the most? Did this event lead you to focus on photographing music?
AB: They’re all different, and I have favorites from an experience perspective and favorites from a productivity standpoint. Sometimes too, shows in local venues get similar, since what I can do is so confined and dictated by the stage and the room layout. But even then, the crowds are different, the feel is different.
Some of the most productive from the perspective of “keeper” images have been the musically-curated afterpartys that are part of The Harry Dean Stanton Fest. I was photographed it 2 years ago, when the theme was “Escape From New York”, and the music was all New York club feel, CBGB era. Last year, it was the Twin Peaks Homecoming Dance. They’re great, the energy is high, it’s a mix of different musicians and bands, and Scott does a great job curating the songs. The energy is high, and the photographs are there to be made.
Ones that are usually successful from both perspectives for ne have been the “Come as You Aren’t” tribute kind of things. Most recently, The Cheap Trick / Velvet Underground show at Cosmic. It was amazing.
LAL: How do you think the title of the show “This is the Thing” connects to the theme of local music and highlighting musicians?
AB: The title is actually part of the chorus to a song by a local musician (Coralee, of Coralee and the Townies). That song became one of my favorites the first time I heard it, and when Corey explained the story behind it to me, it was even more powerful since it was really closely related to how I had interpreted it. To me, the song is about exactly what I was so struck by when I was working on this, when I was seeing how performing and making music is what matters to these musicians, and the challenges when that becomes the driver. That feeling of a great show, a song that works, a recording that captures exactly what you’re after. Pursuing your art. All of those things are the thing. This is the Thing.
LAL: Is there one piece in the show that stands out to you the most and captures the overall theme? Why do you believe this piece, in particular, is so special?
AB: There is one black and white photo in the exhibit that to me contains the story, almost in its entirety. It’s one of those photographs that happens when you’re in the right place at the right time. And I wasn’t technically ready, I didn’t even have a camera with me. I took it with my phone. It’s also a special photograph to me personally as well, because of when it was taken and who was with me, and where I was in the process at that point.
LAL: What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?
AB: The message is simple, really. That there is a world of talented musicians, and talented artists in general, right here in our town. Go out and support them, go to live shows, buy a t-shirt or a CD or something. Participate in the local scene.
This Is The Thing
A collection of images centered on a part of the local music scene in Lexington.
The artist states “It started on September 27, 2013. Home alone for the evening, I wandered out to explore this thing I’d heard of, called the NoLi CDC Night Market. I wasn’t even sure where it was. What I experienced on that little cut-through stretch of Bryan Avenue between Limestone and Loudon Avenues was good live music, food, beverages, artists, and interesting and friendly people enjoying a wonderful evening in a unique environment. All working to improve their part of town. That evening I knew I had to document the phenomenon I had experienced, this collective effervescence of live music, and art, and small business.
“Of those three things, live music was the clear choice of where to begin.”
This Is The Thing is the subset of that long term project, a look at a slice of the local music scene in Lexington, Kentucky. Made over the last 2 and a half years, the photographs show the exuberance of performance as well as the quiet times, the down times, the waiting and working. The work isn’t meant to be a comprehensive view of the various music genres and activities within Lexington, but to show the interactions and interconnectivity of some of the talented musicians who call Lexington home and who work to make a living pursuing their passion and art. For these musicians, the performance, the catharsis of music composed, arranged, performed, and appreciated is the reason, and the goal. That feeling of a great show, a song that works, a recording that captures exactly what you’re after. Pursuing your art. All of those things are the thing. This Is The Thing.
https://vimeo.com/143025975 Here is a link to the artist's slideshow of work.
Written by Blair Johnson, LAL Intern, University of Kentucky Journalism student