The Colgate Scene
September 2005

Capturing the Blues

Frank Frost and his harmonica
Since 1997 Margo Cooper has been traveling to Mississippi three or four times a year with her 35mm Nikon camera to document the blues scene around the Delta and northern hill country. "Once I get off the plane in Memphis, drive south on Highway 61, and turn on the local soul station, I feel like I'm heading back to my second home," she said.

Cooper visits clubs, festivals, and homes where the musicians -- some of whom have become good friends -- are legends. Then, with an eye that only someone who truly loves the music can have, Cooper snaps intimate photographs of the people, the culture, and the "sound" of the blues.

"I was turned on to the blues in high school when a friend played a Buddy Guy and Junior Wells album for me," Cooper said. "I fell in love with the music just like that. It took another 20 years before I finally headed for the blues bars around New England and Chicago with my camera."

A former public defender, Cooper balances her art with a full-time solo practice specializing in juvenile law. While Cooper enjoys her work with children and families, "the law doesn't leave enough time for photography." Still, she makes the time. She recently completed a 10-year project documenting teenage mothers and their families in rural Maine.

Cooper's blues photographs were shown earlier this year in an exhibition, "Deep Inside the Blues," at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Mass., that opened to accolades from critics, press, and the public. Cooper hopes to publish a collection of her photographs.

— Vicki L. Wilson

All photos © Margo Cooper.
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