Bas Slabbers’ top shots of the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival

    Editor’s Note:

    Photographer Bas Slabbers has a knack for getting into the middle of things, and it came through clear as, well – a picture – at the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival.

    Whether it be, getting a virtually perfect shot of superstar Chaka Khan during his few minutes on stage for her performance, or capturing the fleeting birth of a mini flash mob, or winding up in the living room of the only family in West Oak Lane that had balcony seats for the performances, Bas can’t do a photo assignment without literally getting into it.

    Watch the slideshow above for his top five pics from the hundreds of photos he took for Jazz Fest. And have a close read of the expanded captions below where he explains what each picture means to him, and how he made the shot work.

    Explanations for each photo are below in the same order as the slideshow above.

    Keep an eye out for an expanded selection of Bas’ pictures from Jazz Fest coming soon.


    Bas’ top shots of Jazz Fest

    by Bas Slabbers

    We Jazz June,” OARC Stage – Friday 5:57 p.m.

    I was on the lookout for people with character. I saw this woman standing out of the crowd in front of the OARC stage on day 1. On stage the Rising Star talent search was going on. With tattoos covering her crossed arms, this woman was enjoying every second of Charissa the Violin Diva’s performance. Through the years I have learned that an image capturing the moment often happens off-stage rather than on-stage – a festival is about it’s attendants rather that the performers.

    This photo is inspired by the ‘Phenomenal Woman’ photo ( by my wife and creative partner Jana Shea from a photo she took with her iPhone on Germantown Avenue earlier this year.


    “Flash-mob,” Ogontz Ave & Homer St – Friday 8:18 p.m.

    At the end of the first day I met with community editor Patrick Cobbs near a wifi-hotspot across from Homer Street to share the experience of the day and to upload some of the shots to the live blog. The festival was nearing its end that day when large groups of teenagers started to socialize. In a classic cat and mouse game police officers tried to break up groups before they grew too big to control. Suddenly, one officer started to run into a group of teenagers. I grabbed my camera and followed trying to get close to the action. In my opinion it was the motion of the cop and perhaps even me that triggered a bigger crowd movement among the teens. In an instant it was what the media and police tag as a small “flash mob.”

    The motion-blurred images shows enough little details in the faces of the kids and the cop to show the energy of this cat and mouse game. This photo appeared on NewsWorks within 5 minutes after it happened.


    “Busted,” Ogontz Ave & Homer St – Sunday 4:29 p.m.

    Around 4:30 p.m., when the temperature was reaching its high I was experiencing a dip in motivation. I knew the big photo opportunities of the event were still ahead of me but with several days of shooting behind me I lost a little confidence in myself. I was walking around in search for something to drink to boost my energy for the hours to come when I found this scene on the corner of Ogontz Ave & Homer St.

    A License & Inspection officer confiscated merchandize from 18 year old Lennai (in the middle). The young man arrived about an hour earlier and made 60 to 70 bucks by selling cans of soda on the street, a practice that was common within and around the festival for all three days. This L&I officer enforced a rule that only permitted people to sell food and beverages on the festival grounds (namely the street).

    According to what I learned on the scene, neighbors are allowed to share homemade goods on the sidewalks alongside the festival grounds. This rule turned up some commotion and ended up in a fine up to $200 and temporary confiscation of Lennai’s merchandise.


    “Moment of the day,” Main Stage – Sunday 7:05 p.m.

    This was my first time at the West Oak Lane Festival. What I noticed right away was the open and friendly character of the event. Approximately 60,000 attendees were there to see and listen to the acts, and one of the biggest in the festival’s eight-year history was the performance by superstar Chaka Khan Sunday night. Festival organizers are keen on showing a favorable picture of the work they do, I felt lucky to be one of the few photographers allowed on the stage during the first songs of Chaka’s set.

    I took many pictures of the music icon trying to get as close as I could without getting on her way. In this shot, I raised the camera above and to the side of both her and me – out beyond the edge of the stage – and hoped for the best.


    “Doorstep Stage,” Living room, corner Ogontz Ave & Middelton St. – Sunday 7:46 p.m.

    This photo was taken after I was allowed to take photos on stage during the first two songs of Chaka Khan’s performance. Many performers allow photographers to take photos during the first three songs (“3 and then go”), the bigger the artist the less room there is to shoot.

    After I was ‘kicked’ off the stage I was searching for a next photo-op. From the stage I spotted a young woman in blue leaning against a blue arrow sign on the corner of Ogontz Ave & Middelton St. I tried to get close and while doing that I stumbled upon the Robinson family.

    They were gathered together enjoying the ‘best seats in the house’ in their own front yard and house windows. The whole house has a virtual balcony view of the stage.

    After taking some family snaps they invited me into their home and offered me cocktails. At the end of the set, Chaka Khan sang her classic “I’m Every Woman.” The West Oak Lane’s Jazz Festival climax featured special back-up vocals by every woman around me at this private party.

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