By Melissa Mergner
Photographing Jamie Cullum was very interesting for me, to say the least. Normally, when photographing musicians, I try not to listen too much to the music, instead focusing on what is going on through the lens of the camera—seeing rather than hearing. But as soon as Cullum came out onstage, energy radiated throughout the crowd and he instantly began to jump around—across the stage, on the piano (he told the crowd not to worry, that “I’m so small, it’s like a hamster landing on it!”), in place, anywhere he could. Even while sitting at the piano, he was making faces, bobbing his head, swinging his arms and pumping his legs. He seemed perpetually in motion.
It was simply impossible not to smile and rock out to the music along with everybody else in the audience. Cullum’s energy was contagious, his charisma undeniable and the performance incredible. I half expected fireworks to erupt from the stage at any moment. (Sadly, none did.) Even when Cullum was just talking to the audience, he continued to engage them, using his charm and wit to keep their attention. He even drew laughs from the most straight-faced and hard-boiled of photographers next to me in the pit in front of the stage. Photographing him was both fun and exciting, but it was a chore to try to keep him in frame. He really was a moving target. He may indeed be a small guy (though bigger than a hamster), but he’s got enough energy to power a city block.
I came to the festival without knowing his music and came away a fan. Looking at the photos afterward, I was struck by the wide range of expressions and poses he struck. I thought it might be interesting to share a sampling of what I and the audience saw that day at the Newport Jazz Festival. I hope that I captured at least a small portion of Cullum’s boundless energy.
Read the article and check out the amazing photos here