by Max Hirshfeld on Aug. 8, 2020
A couple of years ago, in one of the inevitable dips in the flow of work, I decided to tackle an idea that had lain dormant for a while. Some of my biggest heroes in photography seemed to almost effortlessly straddle — and blur — the line between “fine art” and “commercial” definitions of their work. This still strikes me as both a noble pursuit as well as a misguided need to pin labels, and due to that I have maintained a strong interest in how other artists go about their craft. And so that dormant idea, photographing artists at their most absorbed creative moment, was ready to tackle.
Deep in the Shed is the name of a 1990 album by Marcus Roberts — a stellar piano player who is a protégé of Wynton Marsalis — and is also the title of my series. As a phrase that references how jazz musicians get lost in the pursuit of that perfect riff or that moment when they are truly in the flow, I realized that same moment of clarity can occur in most artistic endeavors and that I wanted to try to capture it in 1/15th of a second. Though in its early stages — featuring so far a group of artists here in DC who are also friends — and especially through the slog of waiting out the pandemic, I have been feeling the inexorable pull of wanting to continue to expand this body of work.
My nascent series photographing artists is an homage to jazz practitioners everywhere and can hopefully serve as a way to capture the almost uncapturable as my subjects try to thread the needle of creativity.
©2020 Max Hirshfeld. All rights reserved.
I grew up in a house full of books and music to parents who survived Auschwitz and settled in small town Alabama. My father, a child prodigy who played with The Warsaw Philharmonic at the age of nine, pushed me to explore the arts with a curiosity born from generations of intellectual and artistic pursuits. After five years as a staff photographer with The Smithsonian and a career-altering week at The University of Missouri photojournalism workshop in 1978, I opened a studio in Washington shooting for advertising, design and editorial clients.
In 1993, I accompanied my mother on her first return to Poland in forty-six years and photographed her attempt at closure. This rare gift gave me a fresh appreciation for the power of photography and added a new dimension to my work: respect for the great traditions of documentary photography wedded to a love of humanity. Years of practice in the analog world is now meshed with a loving embrace of digital technologies and keeps me thrilled to be still shooting.