CHARLES WHITE: I grew up in Chicago. And it was the greatest Blues town. You know, you had people like Leo Green, Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, uh, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill, Little Bill—legendary Blues people.
ESTHER ADLER: Bessie Smith is another one of these tremendous musical figures that becomes a muse for White. And so you have Smith in a moment of performance, but maybe not actually one of singing. Maybe she's taking a breath. Maybe she's preparing herself for song. It's this moment of repose, like so many of White’s images, it's this beautiful moment of contained action before the action is actually released. Then she’s set in this almost surrealist background that seems to have golden wallpaper with kind of a pattern on it. It's almost like she's existing in this magical space that she would have created through her music.