Zack Smith’s Festival Portraits exhibit

“Exit Stage Right” Festival Portraits Zack Smith



Run to the loudness and make a quiet space 

There is a vibe and a culture that exists beyond the stage in Louisiana music. From the backyard festival to the massive multi-day rituals there are the smaller stories and portraits of the people that make the magic happen. The musicians, dancers, the makers and doers have long been a photographic thread through my work since very early on. From the backyard portrait of my own family at age 8 to my first live photographs of the 1985 Festival International artist Zachary Richard, South Louisiana and it’s art continues to lead me on a lifelong journey to story tell through images. 

David Batiste Sr. photographed at cPonderosa Stomp, New Orleans 2013 – Zack Smith

There is tranquility in the eye of a hurricane – a soft hush where the sounds pause and music lowers in the echo of your brain. The portraits all around you are purposeful stories borrowed from the hustle and madness of music festivals and creative endeavors. Each moment and fraction of a second I could get with the faces on these walls was a chance to connect to another creative soul and share a moment behind the stage. 90% of the work here was shot on medium or large format film – not because I am a luddite or have an aversion to digital. When I shoot film, I slow down. When I shoot large format film we all slow down and there is a shared respect for the big bellows and 210mm Schneider lens staring at the empty stool. “Oh this is for real”…

Eve Abrams photographed at Chaz Fest, New Orleans 2017 – Zack Smith

“Exit Stage Right” Louisiana Festival Portraits all started in front a white bedsheet and a tree on Grande Route St. John and Sauvage. 35mm film in my dad’s Canon AE-1. As the crowds walked in and out of the Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 5th, 2001 I photographed family, strangers, and friends in a variety of poses. 

I made my own Ring-Light out of a bathroom vanity and plywood for 2010 Voodoo Fest portraits and re-assembled a post-Katrina bedroom that was flooded hinging its wood paneled walls into a “V”. My favorite’s, shot on a 4×5 Cambo Rail Studio Camera.

I am grateful for the ones who took a chance on me in all steps of this journey. Ben Jaffe, Kourtney Keller and Alex McMurray and many more. They gave me space in their space to create, photograph, and hone my craft. 

My years photographing the intimate one day backyard festivals like Chaz Fest and small festivals like Geronimo were key to my growth as a photographer. They allowed me to abandon fear and stretch my creative impulses just to see where it went. As a visual storyteller this element of a nurtured creative space is a cornerstone of so many facets of my business now.

I try to make a quiet place at each festival that is behind the stage right exit, I try to keep some things the same. If I am doing portraits at a festival, you’ll know where to find me. Just exit stage right and look for the cameras. Long before I became a known live music photographer I planted the seeds of my style of musician portraits that continues to this day. This honest and powerful look behind the scenes of our musical surroundings Is yet another layer to the powerful story of culture and creativity. Witnessing and capturing a moment is pure joy, but collaborating and creating a one-of-a-kind moment with an artist you look up to is where my heart is. Enjoy the show…

Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship photographed at Chaz Fest 2007 in New Orleans by Zack Smith

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Beginner Digital