Category Archives: Photographs: Music & Musicians

Cello Detail

Cello Detail
Cello Detail

Cello Detail. San Jose, California. June 6, 2014. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Close up photograph of a cello — strings, fingerboard, bow

This is a photograph from my three-year project photographing the members of two professional classical music groups. Most of the photographs were made during the fall academic terms while I was on a sabbatical, though much of the post-processing, editing, and organizational work continued beyond those periods. In fact, some of the photography continued in the same way, and I continued to photograph both groups outside of the specific time frame of the project. This is one of the photographs from that outside work, as it was made in June 2014.

As I photographed these groups I found more and more things to “see” photographically and more and more ways to photograph them. Part of the reason for this, no doubt, is that I had never before had the opportunity to focus on a single project for so long where the main subjects are people! Frankly, at the beginning of the project I had a lot to learn about that — and one of the best outcomes for me has been learning how to create photographs of human subjects, from the technical, aesthetic, and human perspectives. But I also have become much more aware of the visual possibilities of things I might not have considered photographing before. This detail shot of a cello might not be the ideal example, as the forms of string instruments have long interested photographers. However, I recall first “getting” the qualities of the large string instruments when I made a photograph of the entire lower string section early on in the project. I saw the obvious after making that shot, that these very large instruments, with their attractive shapes and rich wood textures and evidence of use and wear are visually interesting objects and evidence of the relationship between the player and his or her instrument.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

The Choral Project (and more…)

The Choral Project
The Choral Project

The Choral Project. Santa Clara, California. December 17, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Members of the Choral Project raise their hands as they rehearse for a joint holiday concert with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra


I have more than one reason for sharing this photograph. First of all, I like the photo! I think it captures the focus, intensity, and joy of the chorus members as they raise their hands and sing this gospel number at a rehearsal for this week’s holiday concert.

And the second reason? To let my San Francisco Bay Area friends know about this wonderful joint holiday concert by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and The Choral Project, an annual tradition that brings together both groups, wonderful soloists, and a diverse range of music, old and new and from all over the planet. Here is more information about the concert:

Winter’s Gifts: Evocations

Saturday, December 20 – 8:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church
1140 Cowper St.
Palo Alto

Sunday, December 21 – 7:00 PM
Mission Santa Clara de Asis
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Classical Musicians — Four Photographs

This post includes a set of four black and white photographs from my ongoing project photographing classical musicians.

Backstage Before the Concert
Backstage Before the Concert

Backstage Before the Concert. Symphony Silicon Valley, San Jose, California. September 27, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Musicians backstage preparing for the concert.

Musicians Backstage Before the Concert
Musicians Backstage Before the Concert

Musicians Backstage Before the Concert. Symphony Silicon Valley, San Jose, California. September 27, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Musicians backstage at the California Theater, preparing for a Symphony Silicon Valley concert

Checking the Score
Checking the Score

Checking the Score. Symphony Silicon Valley, San Jose, California. September 27, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Timpanist Robert Erlebach and conductor Karen Kamensek consult the score during a break in a Symphony Silicon Valley rehearsal

Consulting at the Break
Consulting at the Break

Consulting at the Break. Symphony Silicon Valley, San Jose, California. September 26, 2-14. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Conductor Karen Kamensek and violinist Allison “Gigi” Dang consult the conductor’s score during a rehearsal break


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Violist Janet Sims

Violist Janet Sims
Violist Janet Sims

Violist Janet Sims. San Jose, California. June 5, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved

Symphony Silicon Valley violist Janet Sims at a June, 2014 rehearsal

This weekend I am sharing two more photographs from my ongoing project photographing professional classical musicians, a three-year project during which I have the opportunity to attend many rehearsals and concerts and generally spend a lot of time learning to see and understand this world. (I already understood more than most since I’ve been part of it in several ways for many years.) Both of these photographs are casual shots made during rehearsals. Such photos remind us of several things, I think. First, it is possible to get some odd ideas about who the musicians are if your only experience is seeing them in formal concert situations — but backstage and during rehearsals… they are “regular people” just like all of us. Second, and from the same perspective, it is easy to overlook that fact that the vast majority of the work necessary for a live performance is actually done outside of the performance, with often intense and lengthy periods of individual practice and preparation and significant time spent on group rehearsal. And, finally, in both of these photographs I think you will see the intense focus of these musicians. Janet Sims is a first-stand violist in the Symphony Silicon Valley.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Meredith Brown, French Horn

Meredith Brown, French Horn
Meredith Brown, French Horn

Meredith Brown, French Horn. San Jose, California. June 5, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Symphony Silicon Valley principal French hornist Meredith Brown

This weekend I am sharing two more photographs from my ongoing project photographing professional classical musicians, a three-year project during which I have the opportunity to attend many rehearsals and concerts and generally spend a lot of time learning to see and understand this world. (I already understood more than most since I’ve been part of it in several ways for many years.) Both of these photographs are casual shots made during rehearsals. Such photos remind us of several things, I think. First, it is possible to get some odd ideas about who the musicians are if your only experience is seeing them in formal concert situations — but backstage and during rehearsals… they are “regular people” just like all of us. Second, and from the same perspective, it is easy to overlook that fact that the vast majority of the work necessary for a live performance is actually done outside of the performance, with often intense and lengthy periods of individual practice and preparation and significant time spent on group rehearsal. And, finally, in both of these photographs I think you will see the intense focus of these musicians. Meredith Brown is the principal French hornist of the Symphony Silicon Valley.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Fly Space Rigging

Fly Space Rigging
Fly Space Rigging

Fly Space Rigging. San Jose, California. March 23, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Looking straight up into the fly space of the California Theater, San Jose

As I work on my three-year project photographic classical musicians, I spend a lot of time around their rehearsal and performance spaces. In addition to photographing the people, I have also photographed the environment within which they work, and not always the obvious parts that are visible to those who attend concerts and see the formal appearance of the stage.

A lot of interesting things exist in the backstage world. In contrast to the stage itself, at least as viewed from the perspective of the audience, this is a world seems as much industrial as artistic, but even that “industrial” aspect is an interesting combination of some very modern technology (such as lighting and sound systems) and some very old technology (the equipment for hoisting sets and other equipment on and off the stage). This photograph looks straight up into that equipment and the catwalk near the highest point in the backstage fly space.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Conductor George Cleve

Conductor George Cleve
Conductor George Cleve

Conductor George Cleve. San Jose, California. June 5, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

George Cleve conducts the Symphony Silicon Valley in rehearsal

Bear with me. This may be a long story. I’ll start with some basic facts concerning this photograph. As some of you may know, I have been working on a long-term project to photograph classical musicians. This is related to a sabbatical project at my college, and one goal is to document aspects of the lives and works of classical musicians that might not typically be seen by those who only get to come to see performances. For this purpose, I have been “embedded” with a couple of groups for over a year. It has been a great opportunity, and I’m grateful to the musicians and others who work with them for allowing me a kind of access to their lives and work that they might not afford to just anyone. It helps that I know many of them, that I’m married to one of these musicians, that my academic training is in music, and that I used to perform with people like these. All of that also helps me be sensitive to things that other photographers might not as easily see. (This is a long story in and of itself, and I’ll save that for later.)

The conductor of this concert “set” is George Cleve. His name is not exactly a household word, but his experience and skill and musical sensitivity is of the highest level. My experience with George goes back many years, to a time when he conducted orchestras in which I occasionally played (San Jose Symphony and the Midsummer Mozart Festival Orchestra) and one for which I served as orchestra stage director for a few years. In a surprising coincidence I even took a conducting class from him when I was an under-graduate music major “back in the day.”

Conductors are not always patient people, and there are many reasons that this can be the case. The work they do is unlike almost any other work that I can imagine. Even though I’ve been around music for many years, I still find it difficult to offer a really good description of the complexity of the role—which includes elements of ring-master, leader, coordinator, passionate interpreter, analytical listener and teacher, and much more. Truly watching a skillful conductor—and preferably not while performing, but instead while your full attention can be on the watching—is an illuminating experience. From the visual perspective of a photographer, the appearance of the conductor is in a continuous state of flux. His or her facial expressions change faster than you can follow, and subtle movements—a quick glance, a hint of a smile, a momentary intensity, a curving motion of the hand—convey things in a fluid way.

But I have one more story about George, and it involves that conducting class. His was an intimidating presence for young music students. I recall him at one of the first classes asking, “You do all have the nine symphonies of Beethoven committed to memory, right?” Wrong! Though we quickly set about trying. (That task takes far longer than a college term!) I recall a day when we were to individually conduct the second movement of the 6th symphony for him. As I remember it, we entered the room alone to face him and conduct as a pianist played a reduction of the score. One after another nervous students entered and soon emerged from the room, often seemingly crushed by the realization of how little they understood what they had to do. It was my turn. I entered and faced him and began to conduct. In my recollection, which is probably no longer completely accurate, he quickly stopped me and said something along the lines of, “No, no, no!” But then, for reasons I never quite understood, he gave me a musical gift that I did not expect and which has remained with me since then. Instead of telling me I was done, he said, “Watch me.” Standing a few feet in front of me and conducting as if the full symphony was where I stood, he put on the full show for me, intensity of expression, cues to all, the perfect physical expression of what did and could happen in the music, and I saw what it actually might mean to understand and lead such a performance of such a piece… even if I never learned to do so even close to his level.

This week, at the rehearsals that included a different Beethoven symphony, I finally had the opportunity, decades later, to thank him for that gift.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.