Local musicians are both the subjects and “stream of consciousness” curators in photographer Jason Thrasher’s exhibition Athens Potluck, on display at the Georgia Theatre. Thrasher, who has been capturing moments in the city’s globally recognized music scene for years, recently spoke with Georgia Music about the exhibit, which will be on display through 2016.
GMM: You refer to this exhibition as “stream of consciousness.” You selected Laura Carter as the first musician to photograph, then she chose Will Hart for you to shoot next, then he chose Julian Koster and the project unfolded from there with the artists deciding whom you would shoot next. How did this concept originate and how many musicians have participated so far?
JT: I was trying to figure out how to best make a book on the Athens music scene. I knew that I didn’t want to just make a bunch of band photos and retell the same story that everyone already knows. I was actually in the middle of a photo shoot with the band Elf Power and the idea hit me to focus on individual artists. So right there on the spot, I asked Laura Carter if I could come out to Orange Twin [the 155- acre “eco-village” founded by Carter and friends] and take photos of her at her home. I also realized that if the first musician chose the next one, it would take the pressure off of me having to make the difficult choices of who best represents the Athens music scene—who am I to make those decisions?! —and also free up the story so it would flow more organically. If R.E.M. or the B-52’s were not chosen, then it would be a new story. Turns out Michael Stipe was eventually picked, and there are B-52s references in some of the photos. At this point I’ve shot 27 musicians, and the project is still on-going. I have no idea who will be next!
The majority of this exhibit was on display at Hartfield-Jackson International Airport’s main Atrium Gallery last fall. What was your perception of showing in this environment and what kind of feedback did you get?
The exhibition at Hartsfield Jackson was a great experience. For one, it pushed me to go ahead and show these images. I’ve been sitting on some of these photos for several years. I know that a lot of people saw the work at the airport, and I’ve received a lot selfies—people posing in front of their favorite images as they traveled to and from Atlanta over the holidays.
As a photographer, you’ve been intimately involved in Athens music for a long time. What do you think is it about this music community that is so special, keeping it glued together and creative?
Athens truly is an amazing place. It’s such a supportive and nurturing community. This music show that we’re putting together for the opening is a great example the collaborative environment and wide range of music that has birthed all these great Athens bands. So far two new bands have formed just for this show and the musicians performing in the “song swap” portion of the show know each other so well that many of them with be backing each other up. It’ll be truly collaborative. Plus there are old school rockers, bluegrass musicians, some heavy metal and punk rock, pop, singer-songwriter stuff—the range is immense.
If you were to share one thing about Athens music and/or musicians that most folks don’t know, what would that be?
That’s a tough question, but I’d have to say that for every single person I’ve photographed for this project, art and music come first in their lives. There are many levels of “success” present here, and I do believe that each of these artists would do what they do no matter what level of monetary or nationally visible “success” they had achieved.
Speaking of “potluck,” Georgia Tourism is focusing on food & culinary this year. What are some of your favorite restaurants and dishes in Athens?
The Grit is my favorite restaurant. Hands down. I love that place. It was the first place that I visited in Athens, and it was my first great job in Athens. I took my wife there on our first date and we had dinner there each of the nights right before our two daughters were born. My favorite dish is the Grit Staple with Black Bean, Veggies, Tofu and No Cheese. I call it the Golden Staple.