Two weeks ago I first met Jeff, the owner of RAW Vibes Art & Performance Space in St. Petersburg. I showed him some of my haikyo photography from Japan and to my surprise he really liked it. Jeff quickly began talking about having an exhibition of my work and of RAW Vibes' upcoming grand opening.
I arrived a bit fashionably late to the grand opening (had to stop at Publix and buy more Gatorade!). Even from half a block away though I could tell the place was already packed as there were some people also outside milling around. After meeting Jeff at the door and giving him a small grand opening present (a framed haikyo 8x10 print) and getting a water from the bar (I do not drink), being a relatively shy person I just quietly browsed all the paintings and photographs along the lengthy wall spaces. After that lap I got the ok from Jeff to start shooting away, and I went right to work and as I raised my D300 to my eye all my shyness went away, as it always does. I now had a purpose and could stop being in the event and switch to being in the event while outside of it via my lens. This is how I feel most comfortable at such social gatherings--in them, but not of them.
I was mostly on the hunt for candids and interesting angles, but there were a few posed shots like the above one with Jeff and the crew that helped him get RAW Vibes off the ground. I know the guy on the far left is the photographer whose work was on display, and the guy second from the right was one of thew two DJs. The guy to the left of Jeff is an illustrator.
Jeff gave a short speech thanking everyone who made the grand opening possible and to everyone who came out to show their support. A small stage was setup and and a flamenco dancer performed several dances which got the people in attendance quite energized. I was focused on trying to get a good shot switching between full power flash, and a bit of shutter drag as can be seen in the above image.
After the flamenco dancing Jeff took over the turntables and did a bit of DJ-ing. I thought the dark brown wall behind him made for an interesting color background. Fortunately, he was wearing a white shirt too. I had to to experiment with angles to get only Jeff in the shot as there were always people ambling in and out of frame.
In a very subtle way, all of a sudden Pedro (above) commanded the attention of the crowd with a seemingly out of the blue spoken word performance. There was quite a diverse demographic on hand from perhaps his usual target audience all the way up to older family members and kids, so it was interesting to see how the words he was spitting fell on the different people in the crowd. He transitioned into a hip hop performance with a crowd pleasing number with I think his wife rapping back and forth with him during the chorus.
Last but not least for the happening in the main gallery room, was David, a well-known poet in the St. Petersburg area. I had met him that first night I met Jeff, but this was my first time to hear him speak. I was immediately impressed as his normal somewhat laid back demeanor dissolved into a rapid-delivery poet of demanding attention. He gave only a few sentence burst in the main gallery room, and said if you were feeling what he was saying, then join him in the back room, also called the "Black Box" room, a place where Jeff has stated several times there is "no censorship." A bold performance ensued and I was able to make my best photograph of the evening (above).
Although the performances continued on, I made my way home early as is also my custom.
RAW VIBES Art and Performance Space info:
- website: http://www.rawvibesart.com/
- phone: 727-557-8266
- address: 2109 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33713