Obsessed Life Camera
Photographs by Jamie Harmon, through April 27 at Material, 2553 Broad. Reception 5-9 p.m. Friday. Call 901-219-1943.
You remember the guy who used to take pictures of tourists on the Mississippi riverboats? His name is Jamie Harmon, and he now operates the Amurica traveling photo booth that you see parked here and there at various events and openings and at perennials like the Cooper-Young Farmers Market.
Harmon is also an indefatigable chronicler of the Midtown bar, music hall, street, backyard and party scenes, and you can see the raucous, delirious results of his efforts in the exhibition “Obsessed Life Camera” opening with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at Material, in conjunction with the Broad Avenue Spring Art Walk.
The 500 images, arranged cheek by jowl in grids on the small gallery’s three walls, offer such an explosively colorful, spontaneous and joyful vision of musicians, artists, filmmakers, actors, writers and performers of all stripes — and their children and dogs — that one might pause and think that perhaps Memphis is a pretty cool place after all. By “Memphis,” I mean Midtown, because this great pastiche is, with a few exceptions of some pictures taken in Montana and maybe Downtown or on South Main, fairly thoroughly a between-the-Parkways phenomenon.
The world of “Obsessed Life Camera” includes The Buccaneer and The Cupboard, the Crosstown Sears and the Peter Pan’s Pantry sign, many bizarre costume parties, acres of tattoos — you have to love the fat man with the zipper tattooed on his immense belly — and, besides The Buccaneer, innumerable music venues. It’s not the enclaves of, say, the rooftop parties at The Peabody or The Madison; these occasions are wilder, bawdier, more reckless, certainly more eccentric and, dare I say, fun.
Even someone like me, who never goes and never does anything, recognizes iconic figures in these images. Legendary photographer William Eggleston is in one picture and singer/songwriter Sid Selvidge in another, both looking like the serene gurus of us all. Musician and artist Jimmy Crosthwaite; artists Hamlett Dobbins (owner of Material), Mark Nowell, Melissa Dunn, Tommy Kha and Terri Jones; filmmakers Chris McCoy, Morgan Jon Fox and Brad Shannon; The Commercial Appeal’s society writer and official partygoer Michael Donahue (three times!). Those who are hipper than I, of course, and it doesn’t take much, will recognize far more.
What’s most important about “Obsessed Life Camera,” however, isn’t its plethora of major and minor and anonymous players in the local arts and music communities, but the very density, variety and vitality of the world that Harmon depicts. That’s why it’s necessary to the overall picture that so many images of children are included, with a panoply of costumes, masks, toys, running and relaxing and hanging out, making funny faces, reacting to adults and to one another. “Obsessed Life Camera” offers a deep immersion not only into a community but also into the life of a photographer who can’t help, it seems, pointing his lens where the happiness is.