Thunder's Mouth, CD by Scott Ainslie

Max Poppers / Silver Spirits Photography

Max lives in the arts rich town of Asheville, NC and has heard my work at Bele Chere, the downtown music festival, and at the Swannanoa Gathering at nearby Warren Wilson College.

Max began shooting photos at the tender age of eight when his dad gave him a Kodak Brownie Box Camera. The magic of catching people with pictures by using this bulky black box bewitched him. He began concentrating on photographing people at UC-Berkeley in the 1960s. He’s parlayed a passion into a life.

His instinct for the drama of black and white, and his willingness to wait for the shot both turn up in the performance portrait he shot of me at Swannanoa, which wound up on the CD itself and on the CD-insert cover for Thunder’s Mouth. It was a gift to me in exchange for the music I’ve been making, which has endeared Max to me well beyond our free-form bartering.

More of his work is on view at his Silver Spirit Photography website.

John Rosenthal / Writer and Photographer

As I was putting the graphics together for Thunder’s Mouth, I received an announcement for John’s show of photos of post-Katrina New Orleans. I immediately went to see some of the work online.

I remembered John vividly not only from his photographic work, but also from his radio essays that on WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill, NC, which often centered on the issue of using a camera not to separate one’s self from the scene, but to enter into it more fully. The vagaries of using a camera have always been front and center in John’s work and I knew his photos of New Orleans two years after Katrina would be powerful. John received a North Carolina Visual Arts Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council for 2008.

On his site, John writes about his 9th Ward photos:

“To many the Ninth Ward is sacred ground. One should not photograph it lightly, as if it were just another exotic locale. After viewing these photographs, I hope you will click on the link “Photographing The Ninth Ward” and read a short essay in which I describe my photographic intentions. On sacred ground, one ought not to take anything for granted.”

His essay, which I recommend to you, is below. Used by permission.

Photographing the Ninth Ward (©2007, John Rosenthal)

I drove into the Ninth Ward a year and a half after Katrina left it in ruins. Friends of mine who had already been there told me the devastation was "unbelievable." I wondered what that meant -- unbelievable.

My friends were wrong.

The Ninth Ward, in its ruin, was believable, but only in the way certain dreams are believable -- post-World-War-III dreams. Miles and miles of empty houses. No voices, no cars -- an eerie silence except for the distant rumble of dump trucks, the occasional crunching of wood. Now and then a darkened limo, or a Katrina tour bus, would drive through. The initial documentary Gold Rush -- photography inspired by overturned houses, cars in trees, and mountains of debris -- was plainly over. Dramatic spectacle had given way to pervasive loss -- a condition far less tangible, and difficult to photograph. I'm not sure what I felt about what I saw. Disbelief? To be honest, I wasn't able to grasp the disaster. It was too large to be emotionally comprehended, especially by someone who doesn't live there.

And then, despite my original intentions not to, I began to take photographs -- photographs that reminded me not so much of the New York photographs I took in the early 1970s but of the fundamental reasons why I even became a photographer. In those early years I'd walk around the city for days (as I imagined Cartier-Bresson had walked around Paris) searching for something to photograph -- a person, a dog, a store window, a movie marquee, anything that might open up and reveal an idea about life in New York City. One afternoon, however, as I watched a wrecking ball punch holes in a building I had admired only the week before, the thought crossed my mind that whole sections of the city -- particularly the parts with a distinct cultural identity -- were beginning to disappear. This image of the disappearing city stayed with me, and, almost immediately, I began to photograph everything I considered imperiled -- seltzer bottles stacked high in old wooden crates, Ukrainian men playing backgammon in Tompkins Square, a three-masted model of a ship in the dusty window of an Italian seamen's club in Little Italy. I'm glad I took those photographs. The parts of the city I intended to fix in memory have largely disappeared. And since that time, for more than 30 years, using photography as a means to memorialize loss has served as the wellspring of my work.

By the time I arrived in the Ninth Ward in the winter of 2007, a large part of the neighborhood had already disappeared, and the rest was in danger of being hauled away. I began to photograph those things that still remained: beautiful wrought-iron railings, a church organ covered in cracked silt, and, oddly enough, a Sunday School bulletin board full of thumbtacks. I wanted the photographs to say "See, this was here, and that was there." For a photographer, that seemed a simple enough and legitimate task. After all, the moment we allow ourselves to forget the intimate details of a Somewhere, Donald Trump and his friends, waiting in the wings, will happily make an entrance and build us a new and improved Nowhere -- monolithic, impersonal, luxurious, and white. The Ninth Ward was disappearing, it seemed to me, not only because of Katrina, but because of a long-standing indifference to the poor, an indifference now transforming itself into a mercilessly strategic land-grab.

Photographs, though, not only remember, they register surprise. And what surprised me most about the Ninth Ward were the left-over particulars of a multi-layered human geography. What did I expect to find there? The media invariably headline poverty and crime, but those words, chanted like a mantra, don't reveal or illuminate anything; they merely divert us from the deeper problem of American racism. In fact what I found and what I photographed wasn't simply the remnants of a dilapidated and dangerous neighborhood now demolished by a hurricane, but the vestiges of a working-class community in which aspiration contended with scarcity, and where religious faith found expression on every block. From my perspective, the floodwaters had washed away not only bricks and mortar, but also the toxic stereotypes that separate us from each other. What was left, in other words, was the vanishing common ground, and it is this familiar terrain that I have photographed.

For more of John's photography, visit

Herve Pelletier

I’ve met and worked with Herve in his capacity as ad photographer for Froggy Bottom Guitars. It has been my pleasure to hold (and play) many fine instruments just before they are shipped off to dealers and new owners, courtesy of my friendship with Michael Millard.

The cover shot for Thunder's Mouth and the shot I used for the poster were both taken at the foot of the hill below the shop in Williamsville, Vermont and feature my Froggy Bottom guitar.

For more than a decade Herve worked as a Boston-based editorial and advertising photographer. Clients included New Balance, Wang (that's dating ourselves!) American Airlines, Inc. Magazine, the Charles Hotel, Boston Magazine, and MIT.

Since moving to the heart of ski country in southern VT – though his focus shifted a bit – Herve's still concentrating on creating memorable images for private, commercial, and creative clients including Froggy Bottom Guitars, Imaginary Road Studios, the Boston Pops, and the NY Times, among others.

Scott’s Photographs

Thunder's Mouth features two photos that Scott took in Louisiana last year. The back cover was shot during a lazy brunch from the booth in the front window of Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge (Pont Breaux), LA.

The inside left image is a picture of reflections in a puddle in the French Quarter in New Orleans a couple blocks down from Cafe du Monde. When the graphics department sent me proofs for the CD, they generously pointed out that this photo was 'upside down.' I gently pointed out that it wasn't. But it is delightfully disorienting, isn't it?