Local photog gets shot at Grammy fame


March 16. 2013 8:16PM
By Bill O??Boyle, Special to the Weekender

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The cameras were turned on Jim Gavenus for a change last Sunday.


Gavenus, the 47-year-old Kingston photographer, was pacing around the Hops & Barleys Bar and Restaurant (131 Main Street, Luzerne) waiting for his moment ?? when his photograph of legendary musician Doc Watson would flash on the screen during the global telecast of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards from Los Angeles.


As he paced and went from table to table, nearly everyone in the place was snapping pictures of Gavenus.


The moment came just after 11 p.m. when a color photograph of Watson flashed on the screen and the crowd cheered, champagne flowed, and Gavenus stopped sweating.


??It wasn??t the photo I expected,? he said. ??They decide to use a color shot I took in 2012 at MerleFest in North Carolina. Doc played for three straight days. That photo was taken on the second day. He never played again after that event.?


Gavenus said he wasn??t 100 percent sure which photo he took of Watson would be used ?? he expected a black-and-white shot of Watson leaning on his guitar ?? but he said he submitted 15 to 20 pictures, and the Grammys?? organizers indicated they might use a color shot.


Amy Bezek, 37, studies photography at Luzerne County Community College, and Gavenus is Bezek??s professor. She and several other LCCC students showed up at the gala to capture Gavenus?? moment in the big time.


??He rocks,? Bezek said. ??I feel privileged being coached by him. He has a keen eye for natural light.?


With his mother, girlfriend, family, and friends all around him, Gavenus anxiously waited for the moment to arrive when his photo of Watson would be shown during the portion of the night when the music industry remembers those who died during the past year.


??It??s nerve-racking,? he said. ??I??m so nervous.?


Gavenus said he started photographing Watson ??by accident,? but their relationship grew to the point where the two got to know each other beyond the music.


??I have some mixed emotions going on,? he said. ??My work is going to be shown on the Grammys, but it??s because Doc is gone forever. This has caused me to think about all the times I spent with him.?


Gavenus said he found Watson, blind since childhood, to be very humble and a true gentleman. He said Watson often talked about his life and how he got started in music.


??He taught me so much without knowing it,? Gavenus said. ??He taught me many life lessons. It went way beyond his music.?


Ruth Gavenus, Jim??s mom, said her son loved to take pictures from an early age. She said an aunt ?? the late Audrey Billings ?? gave Gavenus his first camera on his eleventh birthday.


??He took a lot of pictures,? Ruth Gavenus noted.


Ruth Gavenus said she was ??very proud? of her son and couldn??t wait to see his work on display at the Grammys.


Scott Snider and Rich Lukasavage, co-owners of Hops & Barley, said they put the event together for their friend; Lukasavage grew up with Gavenus.


??This is a big honor for him,? Lukasavage said.


Watson was a bluegrass, folk, blues, and country guitarist; the singer/songwriter won seven Grammys and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award during his career. He died on May 29 at age 89.


Gavenus is an award-winning photographer whose work has been published and displayed in exhibits and museums around the world. He first met Watson more than about 12 years ago at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, N.C., the last weekend in April. It was held in memory of Watson??s son, Eddy Merle Watson, who died in a farm tractor accident in 1985.





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