Aspen’s music scene, through a lens sharply |

Aspen’s music scene, through a lens sharply

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN To paraphrase sages through the centuries, quality is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the art of concert photography.One highly localized example of that sentiment will be on display this weekend, and probably only this weekend, at a show at the LivAspenArt gallery at Aspen Highlands, featuring images shot by Stewart Oksenhorn, arts editor of The Aspen Times and chronicler of the local music scene for nearly a decade and a half.The show’s opening is Saturday from 3-7 p.m., featuring live music by Shakedown Street, Colorado’s premier Grateful Dead cover band for the past 19 years (Oksenhorn, as is well-known, is a dyed-in-the-wool Deadhead) and Melvin Seals, veteran rocker and one-time member of the Jerry Garcia Band.”It’s going to be a great party,” said Oksenhorn about the opening. “I’m psyched!”He said he is acquainted with the band’s agent, who lives in Glenwood Springs, and the gig came about when he learned the band happened to have Aug. 25 open.

“It was meant to be,” he declared.Familiar to readers as a local arts and entertainment writer, Oksenhorn recently took up an invitation from gallery owner Olivia Daane Reische to go public with what began as an adjunct to his writing, but has become his latest passion – photography.On the gallery walls will be 15 large-format photos of visiting musicians, framed and for sale.Oksenhorn, 43, has been shooting musical icons for the past 14 years, capturing images of some of the best in blues, rock, reggae and everything in between as they appeared locally. He estimates he has shot the shows of somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 artists in that time, starting out using black-and-white film and graduating, in the last two years, to digital photography.Although his roots go back to those days of black-and-white film, and he remembers fondly the process of learning to print his own photos for the paper, he was thunderstruck by the results of digital technology.

“It just doesn’t compare,” he said of the sharpness and detail that he gets now, compared to his past efforts, although some of his film photos will be in the show, such as a shot of folk artist Gillian Welch.With the new technology came a new intimacy with his work, as he is in charge of the entire process from the camera, through the Photoshop enhancement process in a computer, to the printing of the final image on a special Epson 4000 he recently bought from nationally known rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith.”It’s the most hands-on I’ve been in 12 years,” he said. “It’s cool to be so engaged in the process,” although it has been interfering with his sleep lately. He said he finds himself waking in the middle of the night contemplating Photoshop techniques he wants to try.The show will be a two-part event, Oksenhorn explained, with the large-format prints on the gallery walls as the first part.But, he explained, “I don’t see this stuff as art, so much. To me, it’s concert photography,” although he called concert photography “one of the great kinds of photography there is.”

What he sees as “the art aspect” of the show will be in the gallery’s rear nook, where “I’m basically going to reproduce my office,” he continues. As visitors to his office can attest, it is resplendent with an overwhelming array of posters, photographs (personal as well as professional) and paraphernalia. He’s even taking his office door off its hinges for temporary relocation to the gallery.”It’s almost like an installation,” he explained, “a visual history of me over the years.”The show is scheduled to hang only for this weekend, Saturday and Sunday.John Colson’s e-mail address is


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