Shein Die: the mystery photographer keeping blues alive
Updated March 2021, on sadly learning of her death. An obituary is below.
Who he or she is, I don’t know. They prefer to remain anonymous. But what they’re doing, obviously as a labor of love, is exploring the Mississippi Delta, recording for posterity some of today’s disappearing blues treasures.
This mysterious figure goes by the name of Shein Die, and I know little more than that. I do know Shein Die, like myself, became interested in the blues due to a love of rock ‘n’ roll and blues rock. This I discovered in an interview SD gave to the U.S. podcast series “Talking ‘Bout The Blues”. You can find the full interview on the Shein Die website here:
This photographer’s so private, our only communication has been by twitter and email, but I am allowed to use two of Shein Die’s photographs here on my blog. You can almost feel the quality.
The first photograph is of Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, now 70, said to be the last of the Bentonia bluesmen. Shein Die tells me Jimmy’s parents founded the oldest juke joint in town, Bentonia’s Blue Front café, which Jimmy now runs. Bentonia, incidentally, is in Mississippi’s blues-seeped Yazoo County.
Doing a bit of research on Bentonia blues, I’ve found it’s a school of blues founded by the great Skip James, whose song “I’m So Glad” was immortalized by British rock band, Cream in the 1960s. Born in 1902, James was “rediscovered” in 1964 at the age of 62 and subsequently contributed enormously to America’s blues revival in the 1960s.
Skip James songs have been recorded by a host of influential musicians and bands including Robert Johnson, Gene Austin, Lonnie Donegan, Beck, Deep Purple and Eric Clapton.
The second Shein Die photograph featured here is of Clarksdale-based James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson. A purveyor of what’s been described as an edgier, electrified version of raw Delta guitar blues, Johnson is also known for his unique guitars.
These Johnson builds from objects he finds; and many such instruments are found in blues museums and the homes of celebrity musicians.
The second Shein Die photograph featured here is of Clarksdale-based James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson. A purveyor of what’s been described as an edgier, electrified version of raw Delta guitar blues, Johnson is also known for his unique guitars. These Johnson builds from objects he finds; and many such instruments are found in blues museums and the homes of celebrity musicians. Shein Die photographs also grace many of America’s leading museums, hotels and blues magazines, such as Living BluesBlues. You’ll find more of Shein Die’s work at:
While I try to unveil the mysteries of blues’ past, Shein Die captures sublime images of the present, although I read in the TBTB interview, Shein Die is also a blues historian.
Above is just one of a wealth of blues photographs you can peruse on Shein Die’s website. I’ll leave you to check the full interview out on Shein Die’s website. That address again: https://sheindie.wordpress.com
I’ve also since found out that any money made by the sale of Shein Die’s photographs goes directly to the blues musician featured. Wouldn’t we all like to know more about this generously-spirited blues photographer?
Obituary. As posted by Shein Die’s family.
“On Saturday, March 6th, Suzie Kusnetz Bobele, Loving Wife and Mom, passed away. Born in Brooklyn, New York.
Suzie “Sheindie” wanted to be remembered as a Beloved wife, mother, sister and aunt. But she was much much more. She worked on Wall St. in NYC for many years as a mutual funds administrator at a time when women didn’t hold these positions. She met the love of her life at the Altamonte Publix leading to a 40 year dream marriage to Ron and raised two fantastic children, Rod and Skye. Suzie was an accomplished 12 string and Martin guitar player. The joy of her life was as Delta Blues Photographer and Historian. Her photography has graced the covers of Blues Albums, several international Blues concert posters, many hotels display her works in their rooms and hallways. She was honored to have a number of Musicians select her portraits to be displayed at their funerals. Big thrill for her was meeting and spending time with numerous famous “Old Blues musicians” and sharing a drink. Her knowledge of Blues music was so extensive that she was regarded as an established historian with a blog that was viewed internationally. The University of Mississippi has requested all of her photography for their archives.
Suzie was preceded in death by Rod, her son. She is survived by her Husband Ron and Ezah (Rod’s dog). Burial will be at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.
She will be a light in our hearts forever. MAY HER MEMORY BE A BLESSING.”
Shein Die was a great supporter of my book, America’s Gift, and my blues research. I always knew her as Shein Die or SD and she never corrected me. RIP, Suzie.
Shein Die passed 3/6
So very sorry to hear that, Ron. Is there an obituary anywhere? A huge loss. He was a great supporter. Thanks for letting me know.
I communicated frequently with Shein Die, and felt a nice friendship with her.
I was terribly sad that she passed away. I feel i lost a good friend.
Likewise, Sherri. Blues lost a great supporter. She’ll be missed.