Guitars become photo art

Joe King may not be a musician, but he recognizes the beauty of a distinctive guitar. Recently he turned two vintage instruments into a photographic work of art.

The guitars were owned and signed by Gregg Allman and B.B. King, and they are among six signed instruments on display at the Ridgefield Playhouse.

King caught sight of them when he went to an event at the Playhouse. When he asked about photographing them, the Playhouse staff was very supportive, he said, taking the guitars out of their cases — Allman’s Epiphone and King’s Hagstrom — so he could shoot them. And shoot them he did, using his Nikon and Olympus cameras to take thousands of photos of each, capturing images of all focal lengths and angles.

With the assistance of a number of computer programs — many which he wrote himself — he then edited, cropped, colored, and cloned them to create 1,000 to 2,000 miniature photos which he then puts together to create a photo mosaic.

“The whole picture,” he said of each photo “tile” “might be the size of one guitar string.

“The key,” he said, “is to have the eye to have enough shape.”

He then prints the final photo mosaic on a 32-by-44-inch canvas.

King has been doing this for about 20 years. While still working at Citigroup in New York, he found time to pursue his hobby while riding the Danbury Branch line.

“I took the Danbury Branch line for 30 years,” the recent retiree said. “And Metro-North for 44.”

“I have an idea of what I want them to look like,” he said of the mosaics. “They work best when you have a good closeup and highlight the individual pieces like the strings, or the acoustic hole or the edges, the curvature of the body.”

The Playhouse guitars are not the only ones he has done. His son graduated from the Berklee School of Music and he photographed a few of his guitars. Then a friend asked if he had ever done a Gibson Les Paul. She commissioned a mosaic as a gift for her husband.

For that assignment he worked out a deal with Rudy’s Music in Manhattan in which they allowed him to photograph 10 vintage guitars.

“I took thousands of pictures and created a series of mosaics,” King said. In return, he gave Rudy’s a copy of his work.

King has also done photomosaics for a number of nonprofits, including Wildlife in Crisis and the Benedictine Grange. He has also exhibited his work in a number of places, including Tusk & Cup in Ridgefield, Connecticut Coffee, and the Wilton and Cannondale train stations.

The Ridgefield Playhouse Guitar Series may be viewed at A portion of any purchase will benefit the nonprofit Ridgefield Playhouse.