Jax music community rallies to help photographer who gave much, asked for little

Photo of banner for Celebration of Mike's life. Banner created by Melissa Smith.
Photo of banner for Celebration of Mike’s life. Banner created by Melissa Smith.

Friends and supporters of photographer Mike Hamilton will converge at 1904 Music Hall on Sunday, October 6, to celebrate his life.

Jacksonville’s music community is rallying to help the family of Mike Hamilton, the photographer who gave so much and asked so little in return. Spearheaded by Crystallea Monroe, Mike’s partner and friend, a celebration of his life will take place at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville on Sunday, October 6. A time for the event will soon be announced once all the plans are fully in place, so keep the date open.

Crystallea Monroe (left), partner and best friend of Mike Hamilton.
Crystallea Monroe (left), partner and best friend of Mike Hamilton. (Photo used with permission)

Like so many in the arts, Mike lived his passion every day. He wasn’t getting rich, at least not in terms of money. But the photos he captured of so many working musicians are priceless.

I said in a previous column there was no way I could keep up with Mike’s schedule. He made it out to so many different events for so many bands, and he shot photos of musicians working in just about every genre on the planet.

At the celebration of Mike’s life, a number of bands will perform. One of his favorite vocalists who is very talented, Melissa Smith, will be there. Other bands include Chaos, Lift, Suffering Overload, and AD HD. Indie Art South will continue to update this event as information comes in and more bands are added.

Photo of Mike Hamilton courtesy of Crystallea Monroe.
Photo of Mike Hamilton courtesy of Crystallea Monroe.

Crystallea, a multi-talented soul who has also enjoyed a music career, will sing. Among the songs to be performed is one of Mike’s favorites, “Man in the Box.” As an aside, Mike often talked about Lift, and you could tell it was one of his favorite bands.

Mike also talked a lot about Melissa Smith and her awesome voice, and his friend and partner Crystallea. We’d talk about meeting up together, but it seemed our own band always had a show when other bands were free and vice versa. I regret we didn’t get to have that get-together. Crystallea is very close to his family, and she’s helping handle everything from his website and portfolio to the life celebration event October 6.

Crystallea told me, “Mike’s mom is like a mom to me.”

At present a fundraiser for Mike is being held:

“Most of the time the work and photography that he did was at no cost. Now since his passing he has left behind his mother and two brothers. The expenses for the autopsy are above and beyond something that the family is capable of paying for on their own. To imagine someone that you love dying and never knowing how they passed would be tragic. We are asking for your help in order to raise funds for the autopsy, cremation, and for a celebration of life which will be held here locally in Jacksonville.”

The venue for the fundraiser is being donated by Jason Hunnicut, co-owner of 1904 Music Hall. Photographer Danielle Mystkowski from F.A.M.E. photography will cover the event.

Mike passed away on September 14. We still don’t have full details, but we’ll share those as the family permits, in time.

Mike Hamilton gave so much to Jacksonville’s music community. Now members of that community have the chance to give something back to him and to those who loved him. His legacy will live on in his work, and Crystallea told me she will work to keep it alive. One thing his friends can do is to share information about the fundraiser, whether it’s by posting to your supporters on Facebook or by word of mouth.

Rebecca has a show at Ragtime tonight. She’ll dedicate a song to the friend she cherished. After the trauma she experienced in an attack on the same day Mike died, I realized something. He’d have been one of the first friends supporting her through the aftermath of an ordeal. She learned about his passing as she walked through the door, coming from the urgent care center where her injuries were treated. She’s still recovering from that, but recovering from the loss of a friend takes time and self-patience.

Personally speaking, I don’t think anyone can fill Mike’s shoes when it comes to the music community in Jax. He was at the heart of it and he worked it every single day. He died too soon and he died too young, but we will see to it he is not forgotten.

(Kay B. Day/Sept. 25, 2019)


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