Petite with a soft southern drawl and a shock of silver hair, Evie Quarles found her muse at the Grand Emporium, a smoky, boisterous blues joint located near 39th and Main Street in Kansas City. While taking a photography class at a local community college in 1997, Evie became enamored of taking and developing photos. As part of a project for her final exam, she began taking photographs of the musicians, dancers and assorted characters perched at the bar at the Grand Emporium.
Becoming hooked on photography and the Grand Emporium, Evie returned night after night to photograph the musicians and fans dancing and milling around the club. She found that the black background of the stage perfectly framed her sharp, intimate portraits of the blues men and women that played there night after night.
For the next twenty years, she documented blues concerts, clubs, and festivals in Kansas City. Navigating her way through crowds at festivals, clubs, and late night jam sessions with her camera hanging from a strap around her neck and a vest full of film, Evie captured musicians in mid note, dancers swirling across dance floors, and fans carrying on in the audience.
In 2013, Evie donated 856 prints to LaBudde Special Collections in the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri—Kansas City. The breadth and depth of the self-curated collection is stunning. The collection ranges from Kansas City jazz legends at the Mutual Musicians Foundation; the downhome charm of the Kansas City, Kansas Street Blues Festival; Blues Masters at the Crossroads, Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival along with the Grand Emporium and other clubs around Kansas City.
Consult Evie Quarles’ LaBudde Special Collections page to see the collection finding aid.
See also: Evie Quarles and Her Muse.