Photographer Profile: Arni Cheatham

Those who have followed the Boston music scene for a while would say Arni Cheatham? Why, he’s a saxophone player who performs with the Aardvark Jazz Band and his own group Smoke...but I never knew he was a photographer.

For me, music is my public art, and photography is my quiet art, and yet I consider them both part of the same continuum. Many years ago was fortunate to come across an article in “Psychology Today” magazine, which delved into research of a phenomena of the human mind called Synesthesia. Scientists proudly announced that some individuals experience color as sound, smell as color, and sound as visual imagery. I was neither surprised nor impressed. For me this was an integral and normal part of the creative experience. When I compose or interpret a piece of music, there is often a visual image just behind my eyes.

And so, I explore photography in the same way. Going out into the world with a camera, I allow my ears to hear the music of what I see, and when the sound appeals to me, I photograph the image. While I photograph a variety of subjects Cape Cod, has a special appeal to me. In Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Chatham and other towns near the tip, one can find amazing light, the magnificence of the ocean, and a quiet communion with nature that is peaceful and awe inspiring. Not far from this natural beauty, one can find loud and busy shops, restaurants and galleries where merchants sell art, trinkets and sustenance to the many tourists that flock to the area. The contrasts of these elements are the ‘music’ that inspires my photographs, although I am decidedly more partial to the former rather than the latter.

In 1969, I moved to New England to study music and expand my music career. While performing music and creating music and art programs for children, I became involved in photography again as an additional tool for involving students in the creative process, and as a vehicle for personal growth and expression.

Today, the two disciplines have remain an integral part of my artistic life and expression. I see my music and photography as two different but very complementary art forms. That is to say that the modality in which these two forms happen is very different, however the end result is very much the same. To bring a moment of beauty into the lives of others.