Words can't make a mediocre image good, but they can elevate a good photo to great and a great photo to even better. So said my favorite instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute, Jack Fulton. I believe it is absolutely true. With that in mind, I am including John Derby's full story with his wonderful iPhone image: The Most Complimentary Cigar. Enjoy.
A word about "greats"... Jazz greats or any other. I halve been fortunate (and lucky) enough to have performed with them and/or studied with them. I've worked with other greats, too... Bob Hope, Peggy Lee, Damita Jo, Alan Thicke, Brooke Shields, Ed McMahon, to name just a few. And I was pleasantly surprised to find this out....
Listen: The greater the greats are, the more willing they are to teach you what they've learned while rising to greatness.
As past Director of Operations for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra I learned that it is the relatively unknown operatic sopranos, the head costumers for the Metropolitan Opera, the conductors of minor symphony orchestras... It's the people who haven't (and probably will never) make it to the top of their professions you have to worry about. They're hungry, thirsty and clawing their way to the ocean surface. It is they who will maximize their chances of surviving in the arts by being overly proprietary with what they know: they don't want your competition.
One of the most wonderful, beautiful things about iPhoneography is that it is so new a photographic art form that nobody has made it to the top yet! And, as much as I wish to see iPhoneography go mainstream, I have to hold out hope that the photographic world continues view us iPhoneographers as distant, and slightly laughable, cousins to "real" photography.
I know... You're thinking all this is fine but what in the heck does all this have to do with the price of Mahi-Mahi in Hawaii? What does it have to do with this photo, "The Most Complimentary Cigar"?
One week, Joe Pass was in town at the King of France Tavern at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis, Maryland. Sadly, it is now a Starbucks. But in the 1980s it was a jazz club whose owner continued to lose money while he continued to hire the greats of jazz. On Herb Ellis' recommendation I asked Joe Pass for a lesson. At the time I was a career Navy Musician stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy Band in that quaint harbor town. Joe floored me when he asked why I wanted a lesson from him! I was flummoxed. I was speechless! He had been at the top of the readers and professional polls more times than I had fingers and toes. All I could think to say was, "Because you're Joe Pass!!"
We agreed on a time. I was early! He said up front that the price of a lesson with him was a box of cigars, but not just any old cigars... Really good ones! Back then the box cost me around $50, but that was 25 years ago. If anyone is interested, they were Cifuentes Y Cia Partagas and today the same box would cost at least $150.
But here is where the complimentary cigar comes in: after the lesson we went to the local tobacconist where I gladly paid for the cigars. I gave him the the box and thanked him.... But then.... He gave me one of the cigars and thanked ME for a good lesson. Then he gave me the greatest compliment I've ever received: "You don't need to take lessons from me... You're good! Next time I come to town let's just jam".
I still have that cigar and it is in my photograph. This is only my second attempt at a still life, but what it lacks in technique, it makes up for in other ways. Truly, my photo earns its title as The Most Complimentary Cigar.
Equipment: iPhone 4s, iPad 2
Apps Used: Snapseed, Pixlromatic, Camera +, 645Pro, Photoforge2