One of my very favorite photos of anyone ever is on the cover of 1989's In Step, the last studio album recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Photographer Alan Messer talks about that spine-tingling session here (a huge THANK YOU to Obscura for that great find!), including the moment both he and Vaughan knew they had their cover.
What I love about this photo is everything. I love that you can tell who it is just from the hat, I love that the only part of him you can really see clearly is his hands, I love that he's doing something instead of looking at the camera and always suspected he was really playing instead of just posing (go read the link, you will not be disappointed). A lot of what resonates for me in this image, though, comes from knowing his story: In Step was his first album after rehab. He exorcized his demons and came through on the other side with a more powerful flow. This isn't an addict on his knees here; this is the greatest guitar player on the planet at that moment crouched down lovingly playing his instrument because he just can't resist the spirit when it moves him.
While none of the individual shots of Armitage has quite that effect on me, the collection as a whole does. He looks like he's gained something -- confidence, maybe, as a friend suggested this morning -- or learned something about himself. I'm not suggesting that he's gone to rehab but there's something about him that's more sure and more powerful. He looks more at home in his own skin than I've ever seen him, even in the more undignified poses. This one (I know I'm breaking up the flow here but go on and click it) is my favorite. He's not looking at the camera but he's not hiding his face and like there would be any mistaking that profile, right? Don't you wonder what he's thinking about? He still looks like a force to be reckoned with slumped over in a tiny chair, like a Marine in uniform at his little sister's tea party. Whatever he's been doing that brought this change about? He needs to keep doing it.
So, what do you think of the new pictures? What's your favorite? Comments are open. Stevie Ray Vaughan is going to take us out, just because.