Michael Loyd Young – Blues, Booze and BBQ

Being an americanophile when you live in Northern France is not that easy. I had no difficulties fulfilling this hobby in the past years when living in Paris, Brussels and London: capital cities are always places of intellectual and cultural buzz where you can easily meet people from all around the world, and access museums and exhibitions without dedicating much effort to covering the distance between you and the place you want to visit. But I am now living in a provincial town and my interests seem a bit more out of reach…

However, from time to time, I’m happily surprised to find events related to what I like. This was the case with a photography exhibition entitled “Blues, Booze and BBQ” that took place in Lille a few weeks ago in a former brewery now converted into a cultural building that promotes arts and hosts special events.

While listening some background music including jazz and blues artists, the visitors were invited to discover the work of Michael Loyd Young, a photographer “focusing on cultural symbols and the impact they have on daily life” [Source]. The photos were shot in the Mississippi Delta and are borrowed from a book that was published in 2009. Young describes the aim of his project as follows:

“There is not much in the Delta other than poverty and broken dreams. However, what is left is hope through music. The Delta is the origin of the blues which is the home of many blues legends such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and many others. Through my project I attempt to capture the hope rather than the poverty. […] Blues music is the glue that binds these poor towns together. Whether it’s a blues festival, juke joint, picnic, or just hanging out on the front porch of a clap board house you will be welcomed as part of the family.”

Beyond the apparent ordinariness of the scenes and people that Young photographed, I was stunned by the lively colors, the movements and the faces of the people he captured. It feels like Young used the blue of the sky and the brightness of the clothes, buildings and lights to express all the joy and dignity of a community rooted in a heavy social history and omnipresent music tradition. In the end, it’s not just about lifestyle, it’s not just about people, it’s about how powerful and domestic music can be for individuals who, despite their humble backgrounds, enjoy the essence of life through music and community gathering.