jazz, free-jazz and improvised music

john rogers | catch 22

john-rogers-portrait1.jpgan interview with John Rogers…

metropolis | When did you start documenting the jazz/improvising scene as a photographer ?

John Rogers | I started documenting the Jazz scene in N.Y.C around 2000, but i didn’t move here until 2003. I would come up for a few months in the summer from Tennessee and go to a lot of shows. It was around this time that I first met and became friends with William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter and Marion Brown amongst many others. I didn’t really get serious about it until 2003-2004; that’s when I started sharing my photos at first with friends and then in the media.

metropolis | Is this a part of your profession? What is your profession anyway?

John Rogers | Photography is a part of my income. I would like it to be more of a part of my income, but these things take time I suppose. I’m also a full time baker at Amy’s Bread which is one of the more high end bakeries on the east coast; if not the whole country.

metropolis | Who is using your photographs? Why you are giving them away for free?

John Rogers | All About Jazz N.Y.C published my work as does a small magazine called Beyond Race. I have done a few CD album covers in the last year as well as promo shots for musicians. I’m not of the mindset to just give my stuff away free, so I can’t say that I’m doing that. However, it is like a catch 22 because everyone wants your stuff for free and you have to get started somehow. What I am doing is putting photos on Flickr and the web to share in the joy of music with other like minded people.

metropolis | Are you a musician as well?

John Rogers | I was a bass player for about 14 years and I led a large Big Band in Nashville Tennessee called the Transcendental Crayon Ensemble. However, when I moved to N.Y.C the cats here made me not wanna play since they were so good. So that’s another reason I got into photography is, because it made me feel like I was part of the music. Photography also made me feel like I was doing something creative and artistic with my mind.

metropolis | You are a N.Y.C native? And what does this city means for you?

John Rogers | I’m not a N.Y.C native. I was born in Nashville and lived there till I was 12 years old. I went to Military School in Southern-Alabama, boarding school in Southern-Tennessee and spent a few years travelling the country. I eventually went back to Nashville, but my heart was always in N.Y.C. The city right now to me; to be honest, is pretty fucked up. The police basically have created a Police-State, where even the most basic things like riding a bike can get you beat up and arrested.

Manhattan has basically turned into a damn shopping mall and anything with character has or will be forced out because it’s sky-rocketing rent prices. In the last few weeks 4 small music venues have been closed due to this problem. However I take it in stride, N.Y.C has so much history rooted in music and even when it sucks here it’s still better then other places. I just hope that all the politicians who only see $$ will not be able to succeed in turning the city into a suburbia-nightmare.

metropolis | Besides taking photographs what are you doing else in your free-time ?

John Rogers | In my free time I’m a year round bicycle rider. I participate in races, workshops and group rides. I enjoy reading and watching good movies usually on the smaller non Hollywood screens. I enjoy good food and have recently gotten into the wonders of Chinese cooking.

metropolis |
Any future plans ? Dreams ?

John Rogers | I have been really lucky to make friends with almost all of musical heroes since moving here and that was a big dream of mine. For me you see I’m living my dreams its all about staying above water and not crashing the dream. N.Y.C is a really hard place to live, you really have to WANT to be here because many things will happen to make you want to leave. However only here could I have say become friends with Ornette Coleman or Frank Wess. My dreams now include one day photographing for the New York Times or some other sort of major publication, getting out of debt, and being able to not worry about being broke.

John Roger’s web page with more than 1.900 great images. A must see.


  1. Drew

    I’ve known John since he was maybe 10 years old, before he was sent off to boarding school. He is one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met. By that I mean that what you see is always what you get: there is no guise, no underlying ruse. He’s just JR: a truly honest soul.

    He has always loved music: in the early days, he got me hooked onto surf rock (Dick Dale, for example). Later, he and my brother moved into jazz. Throughout it all, JR had to deal with difficult circumstances, at home and at school.

    JR has incredible talent, but I never truly appreciated his eye for photography until seeing this. He’s got a way of letting the viewer “see” the music. That’s a special gift.

    JR, best of luck to you. Keep fighting the powers that be!

  2. Régine


    John’s picture are simply great!

    Remember his name!

  3. Tiffany

    Great interview! Good to know that John’s finally getting some recognition for his photography.


  4. Graham

    JR + the Transcendental Crayon’s rawk the house. Yermom likes it, too.

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