The Bagpipe Player—2007

The Story Behind the Photograph...

I spent two days in Edinburgh several years ago. The first day was perhaps typical UK weather, overcast, cold and raining. Undeterred, I spent that day taking pictures all over the city. This particular bagpipe player was as determined as I was to go about his day working, weather be damned.

It was drizzling again when I happend upon this busker. He was smart and standing underneath a tree along a fairly busy tourist thoroughfare. Of course I wanted to take a picture, but the challenge was where to find a compelling image.

In a situation like this, I gravitate toward getting tight on the hands and part of the instrument… I’m not always interested in someone’s face. So I took a few frames up close but then felt I was still missing what I wanted.

A brief interjection about taking pictures of people. I shot this with 35-70 lens and stood perhaps 3-5 feet away from the bagpipe player. My point being, I shy away from photographing people with a telephoto lens. I prefer instead to be right in front of my subjects. I think that’s more honest. And, truth be told, if I’m concerned that someone would be upset to know that I was taking his or her picture, then I have no business taking their picture in the first place.

As I was was looking for a frame that would interest me, I remembered that bagpipes, like the trumpet or trombone, involve a lot of action with the cheeks. Think of the classic image of Louie Armstrong with his cheeks puffed out, trumpet to his lips.

I brought the camera up higher and pulled back on the zoom ring to see what the scene might deliver. That’s when I captured this image. I love everything about this image, down to the fact that both the subject and photographer were making the most of a chilly, overcast, drizzly day.


Museum of Fine Arts, Houston—Permanent collection


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