As the dusk began to fall over the warm, sunny Tacoma sky and we continued to explore the industrial area just across the Tacoma Bridge. My wife kept asking “Do you smell that?” “It smells like shit.” After checking the bottom of my shoes and my tighty whities. I confidently replied “That’s horse shit.” Quickly and visibly puzzled, she cocked her head before asking “How do you know the difference between the smell of dog shit and horse shit?” Knowing an answer was required. I quickly replied “I grew up in New York City.” Despite that lingering smell and the questions of it’s origins. I really enjoyed my time under and around Tacoma Bridge.
My wife has put it in my head that I should get to work on publishing a book. After numerous conversations and shared ideas. We decided it to play it safe by starting with what I know and do best, that being music photography. Noting my special gift in lacking focus and working on numerous projects at the same time. She gave me the simplified task of choosing twenty images from the last four years of shooting live music and occasionally having them in the studio. Simple enough right? Well, in the two weeks that have followed I’ve set two images aside. Slow? Yes, very. However, I’m going on a number of factors when deciding. One factor being the subjects reaction and appreciation of the image.
The image below was taken of The Brixton Riot’s Jerry Lardieri at Maxwell’s during a particularly rewarding benefit show. Since that show I’ve become a big fan of the band as well as a friend of Jerry’s. I hope to finish this “Twenty Bands” project before long. As I continue picking the next nineteen. I hope to share my choices as well as the stories behind them. Feel free to share your feelings on my choices as well as the bands and artists featured. Here we go.
It happens sometimes. You go to a club or music venue to see your favorite band and there are four to five bands you’ve never heard of playing before them. Some of those bands will knock you on your ass, opening the doors to becoming the next band you give your heart to. Then there are the ones that make you second guess why you ever left the house in the first place. Over the years I’ve seen my share of bands that left scratching my head, covering my ears or imagining myself as a machete wielding harbinger of death to shitty bands across the planet.
You can often remedy that disdain by heading out for some much needed fresh air, hitting the bar or merch table. Or, if you’re like me. Document that shit. I’m often surprised at how I can manage to get a quality shot of a band I dislike or absolutely hate. Sometimes a good shot can go a long way to erase the memory of a bad experience and in the end, make it all worth while. And remember, while you might not like a bands sound, music or personality. There’s always going to be those that do.
Last night a friend and fellow photographer visited to give me a lighting tutorial using just one hot light and a couple of flags. Having someone just down the hall from me who’s more than happy to stop by to talk shop while sharing his experience and knowledge keeps me inspired and appreciative. No matter where my journey as a photographer takes me. I need to learn and grow in order to keep that passion alive.
As we were shooting, he mentioned how this style would work well with my artist and musician portraits. Adding dimension and drama to my images. As we viewed each image as it was shot. I was reminded of a shoot I did with Brooklyn’s Cinema Cinema at my old home studio in Hoboken. This image was also shot with one light that was fitted with a soft box. At the time, and still to this day. Both the band and myself loved the results. It seems that this was the direction I was hoping to move towards for some time now.
Having all the space I need to shoot and the tools to help my work grow. I can only hope to continue doing what I love. To quote the late, great Joe Strummer “The Future is Unwritten.”
As I continue to dig through my photo archive. I find myself coming up for air with some real keepers. Some of bands who remain current. Others who came and went in the blink of an eye. What started as a much needed purge of old, unused or less than stellar images, quickly became an opportunity to more easily pinpoint the ones worth keeping, or perhaps tweaking. Looking back, the amount of pictures I’ve taken at shows is insane. Moving forward, I doubt that will change.
On an almost daily basis. I take a few minutes to spend a little time visiting a past shoot to either tweak an overlooked image while sending any less than worthy ones to the trash. It’s a practice that has allowed me to purge thousands of images while giving me time to savor and care for the ones that really count. As I look back to my earliest home studio work. I see my leanings towards broad/flat lighting. A style that may have worked for me at the time. Clearly displays my fears of fucking things up and making mistakes. Perhaps revealing my rookie status. And while the image below might look good to some. I clearly remember feeling like that first day on the school bus. Luckily, that day helped me capture a number of images that would lead to future work and ultimately, more confidence.
On this latter image I had not only gained confidence, but I learned some essential lessons about successfully communicating ideas and concepts while gaining the confidence and trust of the model. On this particular shoot, I took a more creative approach with both the lighting and concept. I knew exactly what I was looking to accomplish as well as the message I was looking to convey. As I revisited this image for the first time in over a year. I decided to add a little shadow and highlights while adjusting the contrast to give it the dramatic and moody feel the shoot called for. As I grow and hopefully evolve as a photographer. I look forward to taking chances with light, make some mistakes I can learn from and shoot with a more ballsy, confident approach.
During an open studio tour this weekend. We had the chance to visit many of the varied creative spaces housed in Mana Contemporary. One particularly memorable exchange came during visit to Omorphy Photos. Just minutes before, I ran in to my neighbor and friend Kevin. During an exchange that lasted all but thirty seconds. His eyes widened as he said “Go upstairs to have your mind blown. “Knowing full well our common interests in fashion and studio photography. I quickly made my way upstairs. As I entered the room my jaw began to drop as the drool rushed from the bottom of my gums to the tip of my lips. A deep, spacious studio with ceilings high enough to touch the Gods filled with a candy store of studio lights, equipment, backgrounds and enough inspiration to last two lifetimes. Against one of the walls, large prints displaying the results from that setup. I sighed as I confessed how, while I always loved working with black seemless paper and muslins. I never had enough room to distance the subject far enough from the background to create the separation needed without compromising the space needed between myself and my subject. Lessons, that for me, came the hard way. His warm, engaging personality and the patience he displayed while listening to and even laughing during my rant. While the exchange gifted me with a lot of inspiration and creative energy. It wasn’t until I got home until I began to recall some of the times when I really got to test the limits and boundaries of the space my apartment / studio space offered.
When my wife and I originally moved to Hoboken. We quickly realized the limits of the space. Though a two bedroom. The awkward layout and the simple fact that we only had two small, badly designed closets made had me run out to the town’s Gothic Cabinet Craft and buy an armoire for the bedroom. For years that piece held my entire wardrobe as well as books, portfolios and many other odds and ends.
During one particular shoot I decided to test the limits of the space and replace all the junk with a beautiful woman. Short story long. That dingbat idea made me feel just a bit more grateful for the 12 x 12 space I was shooting in. Since then my wife and I have moved from our shoebox size 400 ft. apartment to a spacious 1,400 loft. In the end I am incredibly grateful for the change of scenery and space. And while our space has more than tripled. We have less than half of the furniture that once occupied that space. Call it room to breathe.