Interview: Rudy Lu Continues To Soar After Nearly 50 Years of Photography
Photo: Jay Hunter
Rudy Lu has been capturing live musical performance across the Capital Region for a long time, mastering the craft along the way. He realized his love for photography at an early age as he received a camera as a Christmas present and continued to develop an eye for the artform while in high school. Throughout his journey, he has photographed international and national touring acts but most importantly poured his energy into local music. His concert photography journey really took course in the early 2000’s and since then, has done a lot to support the local Jazz community.
I first met Rudy Lu in the concert pit back in 2016 or 2017 and noticed right away how friendly and humble he was. He was not afraid to share his knowledge and as a beginner at the time, it meant a lot that Rudy was inclusive. It taught me a lot of important things about how to carry yourself and to take care of other peers in the photo pit that are along for the ride. Check out the full interview with Rudy Lu below:
Word on the street is that you have some of your photography shots displayed at Art Associates Gallery until the end of march.
Yes there are photographs on display until the end of March alongside those of 23 other photographers. Gallery hours are posted on the Art Associates Gallery website.
What can some folks look forward to when checking out your art along with other Capital Region photographers?
After I was invited to the show, I thought of an organizing theme for the display. After kicking around a few ideas in my head, I decided on highlighting the excitement of attending a live show focusing on expressing motion, color and excitement of performance as captured by a single image. Some are just brief moments in time during the performance, some are the motions the musicians go through to play their instrument and some are of listing images one can take back of the performance itself.
What made you first pick up a camera? Was it music or did you have other interests.
My first camera was a Christmas present given to me by my uncle John. It was a Brownie that I used to take snapshots of my family. Then in high school, my late father loaned me his Pentax Spotmatic to use for my high school photo class. I used that for the assignments in the class. For many years, my mine interests were nature and landscapes. Landscapes are relatively motionless so easy to start. I did not start photographing concerts until college. My first concert was Chick Corea’s Return to Forever at Union College in 1975. Others that followed included Patti Smith and Loggins and Messina in 1977.
What was the first concert that made you realize that you could do this for a long time?
After my college days were over, I photographed some of the many free concerts that are part of summer in NYS on and off until 2001. It just was one of the many subjects I photographed but I wanted to concentrate on landscapes. It was not a concert but a lecture by a master photographer when I attended a Maine Photographic Workshsop that made me realize I could and really wanted to do this. He told how it was easy to photograph people by making them feel at ease and reading their emotions, which is a lot of what I did at my day job. That was in 2006, when I decided to photograph more people capturing concerts . Andrzej Pilarzyck took me under his wing in the early 2000’s and showed me some of the ropes and is still a good friend.
We are blessed to have a collective of incredible photographers in the Capital Region. How does it feel to able to shoot a concert like Alive at 5 and be comrades with majority/if not all of them?
I love when there are a bunch of us at the same event such as Alive At Five. Even though we were at the same event, you will see as many points of view as there are photographers. I have enjoyed following yourself, Claude Christopher, Amy Klemme, Leif Zummerlein, Albert Brooks and Stephanie Bartik among many others.
Photo: Thom Bellino
Reflecting on all of your accomplishments. Who are some of the acts you are most proud of photographing?
Odetta at Washington Park Albany 2008- This turned out to be her last tour. She was already on oxygen. She wanted to live long enough to sing for the Obama inauguration but passed on before the Obama presidency.
Pete Seeger numerous times since the 80s. I knew Peter personally and felt truly privileged to photograph him in both performances at small venues and large festivals as well as not performing just socializing. It was truly an honor and a privilege to photograph him at his last concert with his sister Peggy at Eighth Step at Proctors. This was not only a performance, but a family reunion that I photographed after the concert. After his passing, he was honored at a series of free concerts ranging from Poughkeepsie to NYC. I was backstage and behind the scenes for many of them.
Marshall Allen, leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra (part of my gallery) last summer at Opus 40 Saugerties, NY. He is 98 years old and still active (99 in May).
Roy Haynes, jazz drummer who is one of the musicians still living who played with Charlie “Yardbird” Parker in the 40s-50’s.
(part of my gallery). 94 at the time of the photo.
Buffy St. Marie at the 8th Step in Schenectady in 2012 (part of my gallery) dancing of the stage and stunning the audience by appearing with a Native American punk rock band.
Is there anyone on the bucket list still?
David Byrne. Loved his unique sound and concepts since when the band burst upon the scene in the late 70s.
Peter Gabriel. I have been following him since his days with Genesis. Only saw him live once at SPAC in 1982.
Stevie Wonder. Been a fan since I was a boy. However, I am sure this will never be likely as I understand Stevie is retired and living in Ghana.
As a baby boomer, many of the others that I loved have either passed on or retired from touring.
Who are some local folks that helped you get to where you are today?
Andrzej Pilarcyck encouraged and mentored me in the early 2000s and coexhibited with me at my first show in 2009 and curated a 100 photo plus exhibit in 2011 in Saratoga of many music photographers, Sara Hill who was at Proctors now at OGS, Richard Lovrich former of Proctors, Mona Golub who curated and underwrote many of the free summer concerts in our era through her companies Second Wind Productions and Music Haven, Maria McColl and the staff at the Skidmore Jazz Institute. Brian Pataneaude who published albanyjazz.com, the late Greg Haymes founder of nippertown.com and Jim Gilbert , the present publisher of nippertown.com who has given me a lot of latitude to “do my thing”.
I would be remiss not to mention the folks that have encouraged me outside the 518 that have encouraged me. The late Tony Falco owner of the Falcon in Marlboro, NY (mid-Hudson Valley) and Spike Wilner pianist and owner of Small’s and Mezzrow’s in NYC. Also the many musicians I have met in the jazz world in NYC and beyond.
We all have our own reasons for why we shoot photography. At the end of the day, what keeps you going?
Photography has been an essential creative outlet throughout my life. It has become more important since I retired from my day job and is the primary positive reason to get up in the morning and look forward. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.