Photos by Eilon Paz
With its resurgence into the music market place and vinyl sales skyrocketing this past year, there’s been much hype on the return of the record. While some people might think the LP is dead , there is a whole other faction of individuals that argue that it never went away and have been living and breathing vinyl much of their lives. I am definitely one of those people, and I know many of you out there are as well (or could at least name a handful of friends who live and die by the record). In the past, there have been books and web sites dedicated to home studios and set ups (Behind the Beat, DJ Rooms, etc), but there has never been a site specifically dedicated to people’s vinyl collections. Here’s where photographer Eilon Paz comes in with his vinyl photo blog Dust & Grooves. Originally from Israel and now based out of Brooklyn, NY, Paz travels the globe to get a peek at a bastion of vinyl enthusiast’s collections and properly document them. FMF caught up with the busy Paz in between vinyl trips, and here’s what he had to say:
How did you come up with the idea to create the Dust & Grooves site, and what is your inspiration to take photos of vinyl and the people who collect it?
I moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2008 after having a successful career as a photographer in Israel. I decided to move to NY to evolve, expand, and progress as a professional photographer. As a working photographer, you are always on the look out for personal projects to nourish your creativity, and since I’m primarily a portrait photographer, I was looking for a subject matter that will fulfill my passion for photography and for music. When I arrived, I asked myself: What is here in NYC that was not as abundant back home in Israel? I was always collecting records, but back home it was so limited. When I arrived here, the sky was the limit. People were digging for vinyl everywhere. I would walk in Greenwich Village or in Williamsburg and see record vendors out on the street. It suddenly made sense that there is whole world here that could and should be documented. This gave me a whole new inspiration for a personal project.
What was your starting point for the Dust & Grooves Project? How did you approach people to get into their private spaces and have them show you their personal record collection, essentially their most personal space?
I was reading the Village Voice on the subway one day, and I saw an article about Frank Gossner, aka Voodoo Funk. Frank is a guy who travels all over Africa to bring back these great African records no one has. I looked at his site, VoodooFunk.com, and contacted him. We met for coffee and I presented him with my idea. He embraced and supported me. Frank gave me an introductory tour of the city’s best record shops and the people involved with them. In the first record shop I approached, I came across one employee who was trying to discourage me about the project. He said, in not so many words, that “records have already been written about” and I shouldn’t bother with it. I decided to not pay attention to him and moved on to the next record store. Luckily enough, I met Joel, a super cool Brazilian dude who ownes Tropicalia in Furs, a little record heaven in the East Village. He immediately loved the idea and opened up his collection to me. We had an intuitive photo shoot, where Joel pulled out some rare Brazilian Psych records, among other rare vinyl. We listened to music, had a blast, and this is when I realized, this project was going to be something special.
Dust & Grooves is the only site that actually gets into an eclectic mix (DJs, collectors, etc.) of vinyl enthusiasts’ collections and documents them in their private environment. Why is this important?
I can only answer this in retrospect, after seeing all these amazing record collections. I’m getting a look into people’s private spaces, a space reserved usually for a small amount of people (close friends & family). I think these collections are all one of a kind, and that they are preserving a musical heritage and culture of each individual artist or group. They actually serve as these little museums that hold the person’s most intimate passions, a soundtrack to their lives. My favorite question I always ask is: “What was your first album?” When I ask this question, I always get this moment where the person goes back in time inside their mind and it always brings a smile to their face. These records, besides the music, have such a deep, meaningful connection to their personal history.
I understand there are plans for a Dust & Grooves full color book, can you tell me more about that?
My initial thoughts were just to start a photo project, with no immediate future plans for it. When I started blogging about it, it drew a lot of attention through the Internet and social media. It slowly gained popularity, and I was approached by other collectors and photographers who told me I should make a book out of it. I was hesitant at first, and after taking a bird’s eye view of the project, I realized I had a broad and diverse selection of characters. This could be a great book not only for the music and the stories behind it, but also for the human aspect of it.
Has anyone documented your record collection yet? If they did, what kind of records would they find?
Through the years of making Dust & Grooves, I was approached by several media people, asking to document my collection. I think there is some kind of dissonance with my work on Dust & Grooves as a photographer, and my passion on searching and profiling all these record collectors, and my own passion for vinyl. My current collection is no where near as close to the smallest collection I’ve documented. I was always into music and I was always into vinyl, but I’m not such a dedicated vinyl collector myself. I love going digging for records, but I would always go records that usually are not more than $5-10. This is why I really admire and am obsessed about the people I document. They’re kind of living with this great passion which is a source of inspiration to me. People come with great expectations as what my record collection is or should be. I have some great records, but they’re not necessarily rare or special in any way. They are just music on records that I like. If you really need to ask, you will find a lot of Quincy Jones, James Brown, Fela Kuti, Funkadelic, among many others. I will admit that I do have one record I am obsessed with: Donald Byrd’s Ethiopian Knight. Every time I go through a record store or record pile on the street, I always look for this record. I don’t want to kill this obsession by getting a quick fix by bidding for a copy on eBay, or buying a reissue for that matter. I guess a person has to keep an obsession about something.
“One day I could be drinking tea in a suburb of London listening to Rockabilly music with one of the world’s most appreciated collectors, and on the other end of the spectrum I could be sitting down with a retired truck driver in a muggy basement in Istanbul listening for the first time to some Turkish kitsch sung by this phenomenal transvestite entertainer.”
I know we’re detouring from the Dust & Grooves project, but I have to ask you this: what’s your favorite record at the moment?
It’s definitely Quincy Jones, Walking in Space. I discovered this record when I was 16, right when I started listening to Jazz music. This record just blew me away with the arrangements, the great sound recording and of course the players who participated in it. This album is great for any moment of the day: waking up, drinking coffee, driving, cleaning the house, shooting a portrait, and baby making.
As a photographer who travels the world documenting people, places, and life, what is the most rewarding part of the Dust & Grooves project?
It’s first of all about meeting different people from all over the world with different life styles. Sometimes it’s a short acquaintance, sometimes I make friends. One day I could be drinking tea in a suburb of London listening to Rockabilly music with one of the world’s most appreciated collectors, and on the other end of the spectrum I could be sitting down with a retired truck driver in a muggy basement in Istanbul listening for the first time to some Turkish kitsch sung by this phenomenal transvestite entertainer. I’m always attracted to the actual personality, so I get to meet these characters though the music. That’s the main reward. The music that comes with it is a bonus.
In the past year, the sale of vinyl was up 55%, what do you attribute that to?
The music industry has just gone through a revolution; with good and bad sides to it. We can now share music in a legal way, stream it without owning it while having unlimited choices. That’s an amazing thing, but it is our nature to get attached to physical things, and since CDs don’t make any sense these days, people are going back to vinyl because it satisfies the other senses. It has a great space for artwork, a smell, it feels good in your hands, but I think most importantly, it deserves your attention. You put the needle on the record and you know your listening experience begins. In 20 minute or so you will have to flip the record. Like it or not, you will be really listening to the record now.
Are there any bucket list people whose vinyl collections you want to photograph?
Bucket list?!? It’s a well. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Clint Eastwood. Quentin Tarantino. Matt Dillon. Jimmy Page. The list goes on, so many out there.
Where was the craziest place you have gone to photograph records?
Going digging with Frank Gossner in Ghana in Africa last year was definitely a different experience. We found records in the last place you would ever imagine. The sad part of it is these amazing African records we found (from Afrobeat to Jùjú music to some killer funky dance floor fillers), preserving music has no value there any more. People will just sell you the records because they need the money. It might be our fault as well, but in a way we’re revealing these records and exposing them to the world. I’m not waiving the righteous archaeologist flag here, but by selling them to real music lovers we’re saving them from absolute doom.
What is the next step in the future of Dust & Grooves?
Since I started, it has grown and attracted many people who want to collaborate. I’ve started to feature writers who write small essays and conduct they interviews, and I also started to ask collectors to interview influential record people in their life. In each profile, I ask the collector to make a mix tape of the records we shot in the photo shoot. These mixes are fun to listen to as they are always eclectic and unique to each collection. Ultimately, I’m working now on finding a publisher for the book. When this happens, I plan on embarking on a 3 month road trip across America to visit all these collectors that I gathered in my list throughout the three years existence of Dust & Grooves. I’m hoping three months is enough, because the list is big and is spread out all across the United States. That would be a dream come true for me.
See more of Eilon Paz photography here.
Check out Dust & Grooves, a crate diggin photo blog.
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Watch the Dust & Grooves video on Vimeo.