A former street performer in New York City, Jim R. Moore turned his love of the eccentric performing arts into a photographic collection in his Don’t Miss This! A Decade of Eccentric Performing Arts due out February 1, 2022. Got to chat with Jim about his photographic expertise and experience shooting his fellow eccentric performing artists.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Jim!
Q: With the millions of photos you’ve taken, what parameters did you put on yourself in choosing the images for ‘Don’t Miss This! A Decade of Eccentric Performing Arts’?
A: Choosing the photographs was very difficult. I had to narrow the number of images from quite a few thousand to about 500 first. I had many that I really liked but had to cut due to the edit.
Q: Your chapter titles seem very straightforward, with your ten chapters starting with the year 2010 and progressing through the year 2019. Chronological order must have been one of the easier methods of categorizing your images. What were your sub-categories from there?
A: I wanted to assure that I had a wide category of ‘eccentric’ performers in the book, so I selected images that fell into the categories I shot. Clown, Variety, Performance art, Burlesque, Circus, theater.
Q: How did you decide to include only four essays from associates in the front of your book?
A: I had these people in mind for the essays since I love their work and they express themselves very well on the written page.
Q: What is your favorite shot in the book?
A: That is an impossible question to answer since I really love all the shots in the book!
Q: Were there venues you frequented that presented these eccentric performers you shot?
A: The venues that produce shows I photograph are many. The performers I photograph sometimes work in different venues depending on the type of show they are in.
Q: Are any of these venues still around today?
A: All of the venues featured in the book are quite active today as they were ten years ago when I began shooting for the book.
Q: Any of the eccentric performers you shot in 2010 still active in their performing?
A: All of them are still performing today!
Q: Were your earlier shots taken of fellow performing friends?
A: I photographed many of my peers when I was performing and shooting.
Q: Did you have an opening spiel in approaching artists to shoot that you weren’t friends with?
A: Yes! Since my blog Vaudevisuals.com is about 14 years old now, I would refer them to visit the blog and see what I had done with previous performers. Mostly shot their shows and sometimes did a video interview.
Q: How many friends did you shoot for free before getting paid for your photographic talents?
A: I have been photographing performers for over 40 years. So, yes, I did many in the early days for free.
Q: You started photographing performing artists in 1970s. Do you remember the camera you were using then?
A: I have been through many cameras and types. Film and now digital. The early photographs I shot with a Nikon F camera or FTN. I had five different lenses for that camera – 20mm, 35mm, 55mm Macro, 85mm and 150mm. They all were used extensively during that time.
Q: Did you ‘upgrade’ your photographic equipment as newer models came along?
A: I didn’t start shooting digitally till late in the game. I was so use to my method with film. The film I used and the developer I used to make a picture look a certain way. I wasn’t sure I could duplicate that look with digital since I wasn’t knowledgeable of what was possible.
Q: What camera do you use today?
A: I have three cameras that I use today – Sony A7c, Sony RX100M7, and a Fuji X100T for street shooting.
Q: How many years of negatives do you have archived?
A: My performance negatives begin in 1970 and go through 1997. I am not sure how many negatives/slides I have in my archives, but it must be in the thousands.
Q: Are your earlier photographs converted to a digital archive?
A: I scan the earlier work when I need them in a digital form. I have a great Nikon Coolscan 9000 that scans many of the formats I shot.
Q: As a professional photographer for decades, what is your thought of smartphone photography?
A: The cell phone has become an amazing camera. Every model of any phone that comes out always seems to be upgrading the camera features more than the phone features. They are great tools, but I still like shooting with a camera better.
Q: Was shooting for Crawdaddy! Magazine your first professional photo gig?
A: I shot for a rock magazine called Zygote which preceded Crawdaddy! by a few years. One of the shows I photographed was John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in Central Park. That concert was recorded and is available on CD. Amazing show!
Q: Who was the first big-name celebrity you shot?
A: Celebrity? Well, I went on tour with Jethro Tull (Ian Anderson) for a few weeks during his big days of Rock & Roll. I am really not a ‘celeb’ photographer.
Q: What was your most challenging celebrity shoot that resulted in shots way beyond your wildest dreams?
A: I photographed George Carl in my studio. He was one of the world’s funniest physical comedians. He appeared on the Johnny Carson show many times. But not known to the public in general. The studio shoot was so much fun and the photographs of him came out so wonderful since he was just damn funny all the time.
Q: You studied mime, became a street performer, and founded Hudson Street Studio in the late 1970s to promote variety artists. Do you still have the itch to perform?
A: Performing was such a ‘high’. Feeling the admiration from the audience is so special and really can’t be replaced with anything else. So… YES. I miss that but in order to earn that, you must spend hours perfecting your craft. I realized I enjoyed shooting more than rehearsals.
Q: What cosmic forces first brought you and Philippe Petit to become roommates and eventually friends?
A: I became friends with Philippe when he first set foot in New York City. He performed on the plaza of the 42nd Street Library early in his arrival in New York. I recommended that location to him since I had performed on the steps and knew it would be a good spot for his ‘circle.’ After his first show in New York City, we went and had lunch and talked about his ‘idea’ about putting a wire in New York City. I was game to help him document locations and so began our working friendship which today is a decade-long friendship. He shared my loft in Tribeca for a few years after his engagement with the Ringling Bros. Circus ended.
Q: Was your chest bursting with pride when Man On Wire won the Documentary Oscar in 2009?
A: Yes indeed! Many of my photographs and I appeared in the film, and it is so well crafted. The editing is wonderful. The story is wild!
Q: What’s in the near future for Jim R. Moore?
A: I continue to photograph the world and my passion for theater is now being extended into my new publishing venture Vaudevisuals Press. I have a few books coming to me from wonderfully odd performers and a tribute to my good friend magician Jeff Sheridan.
Work is good if you enjoy what you are working at, and I do!
Thank you again, Jim! I look forward to picking up a hard copy of Don’t Miss This! when it becomes available for presale on February 1st.
To order a presale copy of Don’t Miss This! A Decade of Eccentric Performing Arts beginning February 1st, log onto http://vvpress.com
The book will then be available through all standard booksellers online and in stores beginning May 2022.