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21 May 2010

Ray Charles In The Sessions Project (1985)

The image on the cover of Genius 
Loves Company comes from 
the photo shoot discussed 
in this posting.
In more than 2000 photo shoots since 1969, Norman Seeff has worked with stars, scientists, visionaries and entrepreneurs. More than 400 of these were "sessions", a combination of a workshop and "a celebration of creative spontaneity" that attracted audiences of 30-40 at each session, swelling to over 200 on some occasions. Many of these shoots were filmed. A release of The Sessions Project documentary was announced for 2009 (but didn't happen yet, as far as I know).
Ray was in top condition in this session (originally planned for a Pioneer print campaign), talking and joking, and playing and singing (a very soulful improv about the "Feeling inside").

In this preview of a documentary about Seeff (an episode of 60 Minutes, first aired on May 1, 2017) are some more snippets:

Norman Seeff in his 2013 TedX talk:

The shoot led to a marvelous series of iconic, often quoted, portraits:
Photos by Norman Seeff.
Rest materials from the same shoot.

In his notes to a photo exhibition in 2013, Seeff remembered:
"When you work with someone who's blind, all their other senses have to be heightened. They don't have the same ego. When you're blind, you have to feel like, 'Do I trust this person? Am I willing to put myself in their hands?'
"When Ray came in, he was a little edgy and a little, kind of, how can I put it... He was testing me to see where I'm at. 'Is this guy genuine, or is he full of shit?' kind of stuff.
"I brought a piano in, and in between stuff he started to play, and we ended up having one of the most profound conversations. By the time we finished, he was calling me brother. Once he trusted me, he could feel my energy. He was like an antenna for a radio station.
"I would never do commercial photography — it was always for album covers or magazines. But this ad agency had brought him on as a spokesperson for [Pioneer] LaserDisc, and since it was an artist of his stature they wanted someone who knew how to handle personalities of that scale. I probably had him for an hour and a half. I went bang, bang, bang, and it was over in two seconds. And I said, 'We're done, thank you. We have the shot and you can go home.'"

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