Doug Mackenzie : MAGIC MOMENTS
Bruce Emond, The Jakarta Post - WEEKENDER | Tue, 03/24/2009 4:09 PM |
Doug Mackenzie knows he is lucky to have the best of both worlds: He travels around the world indulging in his passion for photography, and gets paid for it. The principal photographer for the Java Jazz Festival for the past three years says it takes patience and intuition to get the right shot.
Doug Mackenzie has been up until the early hours of the morning at work. An impromptu jam session, bringing together artists performing at the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival earlier this month, began in a Sultan Hotel bar, and Mackenzie was on hand to document the happenings.
The session finally wound down at 5:30 a.m. A few hours later, the American is up and about, showing no signs of fatigue. He is enthusiastic and friendly, happy to talk about his love of photography and where it has taken him in life.
“It was magical,” the Kansas-based Mackenzie says of the jam session. “Jazz music is really free flow. It has to come from the heart and the gut.”
The owner of Mackenie Images crisscrosses the globe for his work, shooting curvaceous models for Playboy in the Caribbean, a fiercer sort of wildlife in Africa and, in the week following March’s Java Jazz, hill tribes in Thailand (the only assignments he does not take anymore are weddings because, he says, the expectations from all involved are too high and someone is bound to be disappointed by the end results). The walls of his home, covered with framed photographs, are designated according to themes: there is a nature wall, a travel wall and, taking pride of place, his music hall of fame.
Java Jazz, which he has photographed for the past three years, is particularly special for this declared music lover. He is a fan of many of the artists he gets to photograph on stage and behind the scenes. So the jam session was work in one sense and, in another, a very exclusive privilege that comes with being part of the community.
He recounts photographing the late crooner Isaac Hayes, and asking him if he could call him by his first name.
“I told him that his music was the reason I got lucky in love in the ‘70s,” Mackenzie says with a laugh. “It’s having the opportunity to interface with some of the biggest stars, away from their stage persona, and getting to know them and their families. You get to know them and all their little idiosyncracies. I’ve truly been blessed.”
Raised outside St. Louis as the oldest of five sons, he describes himself as the “rebel” among his siblings. He left the comfort zone of his Midwestern roots, first to serve in the US Navy in Vietnam and later studying engineering at university. He went into sales and marketing in telecommunications, he adds, when he realized that was where money was to be made.
He inherited his artistic leanings from his grandparents, finding his own artistic expression in photography as a child. He got a Nikon while on R+R in Japan during his stint in Vietnam, and was hooked.
“I knew that this was something I felt very comfortable with, and that I had been given an eye to know when to take the shot. It’s all about intuition.”
It became a second profession about 15 years ago when his then girlfriend asked for some of his photographs. A few weeks later, she returned with a thick envelope of cash and told him she had sold the photos through a friend’s gallery.
As he tells it, Nancy the onetime girlfriend is long gone, but his photography business has gone from strength to strength. “It convinced me that I had a product that people would enjoy seeing,” he says.
Capturing the “wow” moments on film are not simply random pieces of luck. Anticipation is part of it, as well as patience (especially when it comes to photographing animals in the wild) and having the “X factor” of intuitively knowing when everything will come together when a performer is on stage
“You have to anticipate and know when they’re going to hit it, when they’re going to jump or turn, when they’re going to reach their pinnacle,” he says. “It’s like dancing: I can teach you the steps but I can’t teach you rhythm.”
He does have a favorite image from the many thousands that he has taken over the years, and it is from his music portfolio, showing saxophonist Michael Paulo’s instrument bathed in light.
“It’s an image where the sunlight captures not only the sax, but the gold inlay inside of it,” he says. “It’s my most favorite image that represents music that comes out of an instrument. An instrument alone is just a piece of wood or a piece of metal, but here the music exudes out of it.”
Mackenzie, who had a special exhibition of some of his works during Java Jazz, is glad that his images from Jakarta show another side of Indonesia to his compatriots ignorant about the country. The festival, he adds, is a magnificent example of how Indonesia and Asia have arrived, and how they can put on a top-notch music show.
He says he would be here for the festival even if it was not part of his job, simply for the love of music.
“Let me put it to you this way: Even if I didn’t have the cameras, I would be here just as a fan, having the opportunity to listen to the music and appreciate something created by humans.”
+ Bruce Emond
Photos taken from www.mackenzie-images.com