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Photographer  Efrain Ribeiro: Documenting Baltimore’s Jazz Artists History and Future

I met with Efrain Ribeiro virtually this past week and was greatly impressed with his dedication to photographing and documenting the local Baltimore area Jazz artists and scene. If you are a jazz musician or fan, you have probably seen Ribeiro with his camera at the various Jazz venues around town.

Ribeiro first became interested in photography in the late 1960s while in high school and seeing the family photography of his uncle in Lima, Peru. He started out shooting 35 mm black and white, color slides and 16mm film. Two of the venues where he started  photographing jazz concerts were the Left Bank Jazz Society and the DC Space in Washington DC. While attending Johns Hopkins and majoring in English, and participating in Creative writing and Filmmaking, Ribeiro became immersed in the Avant Garde Jazz artists of the day, such as Ornette Coleman, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Julius Hephill. He managed to combine his Jazz interests and photography whenever possible and has continued to take many photographs through his international travel during his 45-year career working in global market research.

Ribeiro elaborated on some of the differences between shooting with a 35mm film camera and shooting with a digital camera. With film, the costs are much higher due to film costs, and also the post-processing in the darkroom can be cumbersome. With digital format, he can take many more shots and experiment with framing and composition without impacting his costs. He has developed his own techniques for shooting in low-light and also enjoys experimenting with Infrared photography. With his experience, he can utilize his own customized pre-sets and templates to apply to his photographs and achieve a unique “look.”  He explains that as a photographer,  you want to look at everything that you shoot as soon as possible so you can understand the setting and apply any alterations to improve your images. This is something that he can now do on a regular basis since he has retired. Digital also provides the unique opportunities to review your output with the many excellent tools available. Some of the digital tools Ribeiro uses are Lightroom, Nik 2, and Photoshop..

Ribeiro has a flexible approach to documenting concerts and enjoys adapting his techniques to the various music venues he works in. He makes adjustments for the challenging and irregular lighting of each setting and determines how much mobility he will have without disturbing the performance or the audience. His experience is evident in his vivid photographs. 

I asked Ribeiro which events he enjoys the most, and he mentioned most of the venues in the area, but gave a special shout-out to the “The Session,” a Monday night Jazz jam at the R-House hosted by Clarence Ward III and Rufus Roundtree. Musicians from all over the Baltimore/DC area show up for The Session and provide an opportunity for uniquely expressive photographs of very talented Jazz artists. Ribeiro mentioned he really likes photographing Clarence Ward III,  whose dynamic personality is always on display. I also asked if there is a venue in the area he has yet to visit, and he mentioned the Caton Castle and Werner’s Diner and Pub.

Other artists Ribeiro photographs on a regular basis are Ebban and Ephraim Dorsey. Ribeiro has over a thousand photos of the Dorseys and makes those photographs available to them. His intent is to help musicians highlight their unique and special talents and thereby promote the jazz music which he loves,  and in turn document the contemporary history of Baltimore’s jazz musicians.

We talked about what it was like during the past couple years with the COVID pandemic. Ribeiro attended four to five concerts a week pre-pandemic,  and once the pandemic shut down live indoor concerts, he started participating in the livestream concerts at An die Musik, where he has been photographing both local and international talent. Starved for live jazz, he also started attending Eddie Hrybyk’s Park pop-up jam sessions from the beginning. He estimates he photographed about 40-50 of those events.

He also contributed some of the photographic images for Todd Marcus’s latest album, In the Valley and for the Baltimore Jazz Collectives studio sessions.

Efrain Ribeiro is showing his appreciation for Baltimore local Jazz musicians with open ears and eyes. He is giving back by providing photography services to area artists at no cost and expanding Baltimore’s Jazz Scene to the world with his photography.

Enjoy some of Ribeiro’s work seen in this article in this BmoreArt article.

By Sue Carlin

Sue Carlin is a member of the BJA board and a dedicated fan of jazz.  She can be seen out at area clubs at least once a week and often makes trips to Philadelphia and New York City to hear her favorite artists perform. Professionally, Carlin is an executive assistant at Wexford Science and Technology, a firm that works with partners to help create “vibrant knowledge communities” built on principles like discovery and inclusion. Through her love of the music and the people who make it, and her networking know-how, she has helped forge many fruitful connections within the Baltimore jazz community. 

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