I hear the base-line of the sousaphone in my entire body, the unabashed energy of the trumpet and trombone slide, the beat of the snare drum as the beat of my own heart-- without it, we are nothing but a flat-line. The unique tradition of Brass Band music is the heart and soul of New Orleans’ musical culture and history—it is the musical genre that has powered every kind of musical expression from hip-hop and rap to rock and roll. Yet the life affirming beat and pure joy of Brass Band music evolved directly from military funeral processions, reminding us to choose joy even in pain and sorrow.
Brass on Tin tells the story of the New Orleans’ Brass Band tradition through intimate portraits of thirty musicians. From such emerging sartists as Young Pinstripe, 21st Century Brass Band, and Baby Boys to industry legends like the Stooges, Dirty Dozen, Soul Rebels, Treme Brass Band, and Preservation Hall, a personal portrait of each musician emerges as a journey of individual and artistic expression. Using the historic process of the tintype (a photographic positive on a lacquered metal plate, invented during the 1850s), each portrait is a one-of-a-kind image created using a large format camera with an antique lens and hand-made film emulsions and chemistry. Tintyping is an unforgiving medium that requires technical and aesthetic artistry, dedication, precision, and knowledge of its historical and chemical background.
Parallel to the American musical tradition of Brass Bands, the tintype was an American invention that opened up the possibility of portraiture and self-expression to its citizens--rich or poor, male or female, black or white. The unique portraits of Brass on Tin are treasures, talismans of loved ones—bearing witness to the lives we live, our flawed characters, and fears and aspirations, all revealed in a ten second exposure before the camera--that moment of pause and stillness when the music stops and the elusive image lingers before vanishing just outside our grasp.