Rick Olivier has created some of the most iconic photographs of legendary musicians such as Eddie Bo, Snooks Eaglin, Earl King, Boozoo Chavis, and George Porter Jr. As a musician, Rick is a founding member of The Creole String Beans and The Bush Hogs.
“Early ’80s Tipitina’s was still serving two dollar suppers. Alex [Chilton] mopped up after closing at Tupelo’s Tavern, where you heard everything from Johnny Copeland to Jonathan Richman, and you stood practically on stage with them. Jimmy’s [Club] booked The Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and every one-hit ’80s “new wave” act you could name. The Dirty Dozen at the Glass House, Earl King and the Rhapsodizers at Tip’s…
Scott Billington at Rounder hired me a bunch. All of the artists that Hammond and Nauman [Scott] recorded at Black Top Records were exceptional people. Snooks [Eaglin] always seemed like he could be a member of my family, and he had some wild Chitlin’ Circuit stories. Earl [King] stood me up a couple of times for album cover shoots, but I knew the drill. He showed up eventually. I just had to be flexible. I shot Solomon Burke, Champion Jack Dupree. I had gumbo with Ms. Leona and Boozoo [Chavis] and again with D.L. Menard and his family. Shot Fats Domino playing with Doug Kershaw, and Dave Bartholomew hanging with Mac Rebennack at Ultrasonic.
Social media, cellphone photos? Shoot ’em, hashtag ’em, if ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Shit ain’t goin’ away anytime soon. Music videos on the iPhone? Hell yeah. I’m only five years late to Instagram. Social media will probably break the world, but it’s a blast to get your conceptual/performative kicks out into the world.
Image making—not to sound pretentious, but I do work in various media, gig posters, etc.—is not a “passion” or a “calling” for me; it is who I am. In my dotage, I realize that all art activity is based in the human survival imperative—like breeding. We want something to carry on after we depart. Does it matter if we succeed or fail? I don’t think so.
On the whole “digital versus film” question, hell, they’re just tools. But, I do find that black and white film is “photography” refined down to its essence, because shooting, processing, and printing become bound together in tangible materials you manipulate with your physical body directly, not virtually. Like dancing, it gets you out of your head and into your body. The darkroom is an actual laboratory for one’s practice. It’s okay to do work that is obscure or difficult, work that people “don’t get.” You might just be ahead of your time. Or behind your time, also fine. It’s all Lascaux cave painting.”