If you didn't know that Bob Reuter's latest photographs were shot in St. Louis, you might guess they were taken in New York. That's because he tends to points his lens at gritty urban characters, tattooed young drinkers in bars and alleys, and sweaty rock musicians. His St. Louis is a sort of Nan Goldin-style look at South City, and his photographs are peopled by his expansive social whirl, comprising quirky types having fun to the beats of their individuated drummers.
Reuter, a singer/songwriter who plays solo and also fronts the roots-rock band Kamikaze Cowboy, has compiled a huge body of photos snapped over the last six years. A selection of 30 shots taken over the past year or so will appear in an exhibit at the University of Missouri-St. Louis called Artists -- South St. Louis (a similar show titled While You Were Sleeping: St. Louis at Night opens next week at Left Bank Books).
When Reuter says "artists," he includes writers, tattooists, sculptors, slam poets, fashion designers and all manner of free-spirited types, mostly pictured at play. You may recognize club owners Bob Putnam and Freddie Friction, bartenders, local band members and other scenesters. The relatively young subjects are smoking, kissing, singing, acting crazy and just hanging out.
Reuter's lonesome honky-tonk music is not too different in style from these loving images of his pals. He casts a sentimental spell by capturing the generous spirit uniting this lively gang of characters. His photos tell a story that surely titillates his buddies now and, more, encapsulates a scene. Pictures of New York's jazz mecca along 52nd Street in the '40s and of San Francisco's Haight Street in the late '60s remind us that scenes don't last forever. All too soon, these photos will seem as romantic as a Merle Haggard tune.