Since the release of his 2002 debut Oh Me Oh My ..., musician Devendra Banhart has gone from a relatively obscure artist to gracing the cover of Rolling Stone magazine (well, in Japan anyway) and performing concerts and festivals all over the world. During that time, photographer Lauren Dukoff has been there to document his ascent, along with the growth of what has come to be known as the "freak folk" movement. Her shots of Banhart have graced the pages of glossy music magazines all around the world, but it is her behind-the-scenes photographs that will be the subject of her upcoming show Family.
Opening February 20 as part of this year's Noise Pop festival art show series, Family includes candid photos of Dukoff's longtime friend Banhart and his cohorts, including members of Bat for Lashes and Feathers, and artists Bert Jansch and Vashti Bunyan. The show will also include some of Banhart's artwork, as well as that of musicians Matteah Baim, Jon Beasley, and Adam Tullie. "I decided to have artwork from some of the musicians displayed along with my photos because I realized that they're not only musicians but many of them are also fine artists," Dukoff said.
This is particularly fitting as Noise Pop's art show series, which includes two other shows, is intended to explore the relationship between music and visual art. "We have this mission to explore the convergence of music and art," Noise Pop events director Stacy Horne said. "We felt that because Lauren's photographs are mostly of artists who have played Noise Pop in the past, there was a common thread to the culture we are representing."
Dukoff has known Banhart since she was thirteen years old and has continued to document his career throughout that time, becoming a part of his inner circle of artist and musician friends hailing from across the globe. "We have a brother-sister relationship," Dukoff said. "I took some of my very first photographs of him." With his increasing fame, however, Dukoff's photographs began to be in higher demand among music magazines, helping her launch her career in photography.
"That we get to work together is a blessing," Dukoff said. "In the beginning he was the only recognizable person I had taken pictures of, and the first time I got published in Rolling Stone was a picture of him I took during the Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon sessions."
Since then Dukoff has had a wide range of photographs published in a variety of magazines, including foreign editions of Rolling Stone as well as Spin and Elle magazines here in the US. But she says that she has always enjoyed photographing her friends the most.
The collection of photographs — including many candid shots of Banhart and friends lounging backstage, taking sound checks, or just hanging out in decadent costume — is a testament to friendship. Truly these people are family, and Dukoff is one of them. Her photographs show no sense of embarrassment or ill at ease. They simply portray a bunch of good friends relaxing and enjoying each other's company. Dukoff is not so much a fly on the wall as a participant in the action, although she doesn't appear in any of the shots in the show. The subjects are aware that she is there whether they are purposefully posing for a portrait or just allowing Dukoff to do her thing while they do theirs.
"I'm just looking for an honest moment," Dukoff said. And in Family, she has captured that moment time and again.
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