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Friday, June 22, 2012

Time and Place: Finding Mitch

Atlanta's known as a hub for music, but it can't hold a candle to other hubs like New Orleans when it comes to street musicians. For the music issue, I wanted to take a picture of a street musician, something that fit in with the theme, but didn't feel like the rest of the photos. I had only one day to do so. I'd been racking my brain for where I might find a performer. I'd seen a girl playing a tuba around Little Five Points a few times, full of quirk, and knew well of the homeless man who padded away on an empty water jug from time to time. I recalled seeing a saxophonist in Decatur's square once and another time met a sousaphonist practicing at a bus stop. None of these memories felt reliable, though. I could explore, of course, meander the city in hopes for something, but I didn't have time to chance it.

There was one musician who I'd seen often, a man who played the trumpet at the lowest dip in North Avenue in front of the Masquerade. Most days, when there's a big show filling in or out of the popular venue, he'll be on the corner playing his tunes, waving at passersby, his case open for tips. One early evening I took my camera and strolled down the hill on North Avenue, down the dip, to his spot, the only spot I'd ever seen him. He wasn't there. I decided to wait and spend some time walking around the park next door. After 30 minutes of retention pond gazing in hopes of repressing the growing anxiety of what I was going to do if he wasn't there, if I didn't get the photo, I headed back to the venue, and there he was, brandishing a silver trumpet. He said his name is Mitch Green.

Business was slow that night. The act at the Masquerade didn't drum up much attendance. As dusk turned to dark, groups of twentysomethings trickled past now and then, some offered nods in lieu of money, some passed without acknowledgment. Mitch played renditions of classics like "Sir Duke" and "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay." Mitch said he plays because he loves to play and has ever since he got his first trumpet as a gift at the age of 7. "I don't care about money, I don't expect it from people. My art would suffer if it was about making money. ... I'm just here to play my sound and stand my ground." He paused, then repeated with satisfaction, "I play my sound and stand my ground. ... I've never said that before. I like it."

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