…But here’s another recently completed one, this time for Matt Wilson. Essentially an exercise in making the Berwickshire coast have a flavour of California. Ok, it was a little cooler!
A good photograph, even a quick snapshot from a holiday can evoke the sensations, sense and emotions of a place and time with perfect clarity. And actually that is what defines good in this case, not depth of field, sharpness and composition, but what it means to the viewer. Music has the same effect and is in some ways even stronger. For whatever reason, if I hear ‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club, I’m instantly transported to the cramped confines of my mums old car on the A6 roundabout in Stockport heading into college on a damp Thursday morning. Always Thursday, always damp, always dreading my maths.
There’s a lot going on in the Middle East at the moment, a place I love, have visited many times and where I am always astounded both from the sheer beauty of the place and the generosity of the people. Damascus, in Syria, is one of my favourite cities, a place that is living breathing history, existing cheek by jowl with modernity, chaos and great ice-cream.
The photo above evokes the following for me – superheated air in my bike helmet as I rode the desert roads in 95 degree heat, the perfume of tarmac, diesel and woodsmoke from the roadside cafes, the glorious, yet sterile beauty of the sand. As goes one of the famous lines in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – ‘Just another desert loving Englishman’. Anything else? Oh yes, the slight concern at finding myself on the road to Iraq. I also made a big decision on this road, so again, another reason for it being good. For me at least.
The Arab Spring is something quite amazing. But then it is an amazing place full of contradictory, intelligent, passionate people. And, oh, fresh bread, olives, hummous and sweet mint tea eaten at the side of the road….Let me dream awhile.
Nearly eighteen months ago we were very lucky to be able to photograph a very talented singer-songwriter called Annie Drury. She sings like an angel, is completely beautiful and is a lovely young woman. And here is her first video – it’s not been done by us, but I love the simplicity, grace and skill of it. For me, as a new devotee of video it’s definitely something to aspire to. The panning shots and colour grading are just perfect, while Annie sings and feels her music like the true professional she is. Check it out, it’s glorious.
What does the future hold for the still photographer? It’s a common theme in forums, magazines and anywhere else photographers congregate – especially those who are attempting to a make living from the industry. Digital killed photography! Is one cry, closely followed by digital is the saviour of photography! Undoubtably it’s much harder to sell prints these days – people want files. Using this analogy, the photography industry is in much better health than the music biz, where new artist development has plunged and where generational changes has meant that anyone under the age of 25 feels that downloads should be free. The intrinsic value of a file is seen as being practically zero.
For me, it’s about still be able to produce something that ordinarily couldn’t be produced by just a guy with a camera. That’s why I use flash a lot, and reflectors, and the best lenses and special locations and most importantly, a bucket load of thought behind each image combined with RUTHLESS editing. If it’s not 100% right, it gets binned. Sure this means it takes time to build up and refresh a portfolio, but if you shoot a lot and shoot varied subjects it needn’t be so. We do a lot of work with unsigned bands with not much money. We charge them an appropriate amount of money for this – which is of course discounted. However, that doesn’t meant they get sub-standard images – they get exactly the same quality and thought that Biffy Clyro would get. Exactly the same. No corners cut.
That’s one way of ensuring a future. The other is to diversify. With the advent of D-SLR’s that have HD video capability the limits of what a photographer is, are vanishing. I love video, I’m still learning it, it’s a challenge – all of which are the same feelings I got when striving to produce professional looking stills millions of years ago. I can do that now – so time to move on and learn another discipline which may lead to another revenue stream. Interestingly, although ‘video’ is pretty much in the reach of everyone, just like stills, the quality of video, the editing, the story telling isn’t. It takes time and a lot of skill to get great video, to piece it together, get the soundtrack, add titles – so I feel it hasn’t yet been totally democratized in the way that photography and to some extent music has.
This week has been very busy for 80eight – shooting green screen video, getting secondary matte footage, creating titles and motion graphics…And no stills! Perhaps ‘photographer’ is an outmoded term. Maybe it’s simply a visual digital content creator? Hmmm, that’s not too snappy is it? And so, to illustrate this piece, here’s a still. But one that is suitably cinematic.
In a previous post we mentioned the great photo shoot we had with the unfeasibly young and talented Matt Wilson. Despite the fact he has a scooter and lives on the seaside, thus displaying slightly mod tendencies (motorbikes, grim council estates and no fashion sense being my 18 year old modus operandi) he’s cool, articulate and more importantly has particularly good shades. And of course he’s very skinny. So yes, we hate him really 🙂
Anyway, enough of me working out my middle-age anxieties in the medium of blog (I would try mime, but never fancied the trousers), here’s a couple of freshly minted video’s of Mr Wilson playing in the infamously reverb heavy 80eight kitchen. If Matt is looking hungry on occasion that’s because there was much baking of delicious cakes going on at the time. Rock ‘n’ Roll and home baking, it doesn’t get any better!
It’s all about originality, ultimately. We’re all on the look out for something that will interest or excite the senses – something not of the commonplace or has not yet entered the lingua franca of everyday parlance, whether it be visually, literary or sonically. I personally, don’t consider photography to be art (so shoot me) even though I love it’s power, look and obvious place in history as a visual mover and shaker. Perhaps an image is art once it has been PS’d and manipulated into something completely different? I love being able to create photographs – but camera’s are actually very imperfect devices when compared to paint brushes for image creation. How many times has anyone with a camera ‘saw’ a scene yet upon pressing the shutter, something merely mundane was captured?
Personally, I like simple juxtapositions combined with eye-popping quality. Hence, one night I opened some pink fizz and put a carrot in it. I just thought it would look good. To me it does. What it could ever be used for I have no idea, but I think the important factor here is to be taking photographs out of joy, desire or need alone. Also, raw carrot and pink fizz is actually quite nice. You should try it.
I am, sadly, addicted to Apples Final Cut Pro suite of professional editing software. Some of it I simply need to use everyday, such as Final Cut Pro the movie editor, some, such as Color, I’m slightly scared of. Others like Motion, the motion graphics editor, I’m in awe of and find myself scratching it’s surface every so often desperate to understand it’s incredibly hidden and complex depths. The fact I can only think in 2D doesn’t help either I guess 🙂
My first memory of motion graphics, although I didn’t they were called that at the time, was the original and colourful Channel 4 TV logo. This was composed of multi-coloured bricks that spun in 3D space. I had seen nothing like it and it amazed and transfixed me. I later learnt it was probably created on some hideously expensive and complicated Quantel system, and it’s only been recently that such capability has come to the average Joe. And wow, it’s brilliant. I could tinker with titles, FX and 3D swoops and pans all day long. I lurk around motion graphics forums and see amazing things that people do with shadows, light and reflections. Much of this is beyond me as yet, but here’s a recently completed example – the 80eight logo, spinning in 3D space as my own personal homage to the C4 logo of all those years ago.
Well the temperature is slowly creeping above freezing, the mornings are getting lighter and the evenings are getting longer. Has this been the longest, coldest winter you can remember? Time then to grab your girl and go, find a beach and take a photograph. So here’s one – taken in February, the water on the beach a balmy 5 degree’s and absolutely no danger of frostbite. Honest. We have a hundreds of glorious locations here in The Borders and I have to say since moving here, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The scenery, the people and the tranquility are just wonderful.
Factory Records from my hometown of Manchester were always incredibly cool. Tony H Wilson, one of the founders led an interesting double life as a presenter of news and debate programs on Granada TV – smoothly dressed and professional while never hinting on screen, of his role as hedonistic guru to a legion of homegrown musical legends such as Joy Division, Happy Mondays, New Order and of course, Crispy Ambulance.
Then there was the artwork – all originally designed by Peter Saville – minimalistic, stark and uber-cool, which combined with the Factory Records numbering system that found it’s way onto everything they ever made, really captured my imagination. Even The Hacienda, their infamous nightclub was given a serial number. Was it fac 051 from memory?
It’s all gone now. A label that never had any signed contracts, splurged many hundreds of thousands of pounds on The Hacienda, was not destined for future longevity, but perhaps it’s better that way. They were of the time, of the place and reflected the zeitgeist of a Manchester that was struggling out of depression, IRA bombs and of being forgotten. The city is now another place completely, new and regenerated like so many others. The Hacienda is now a block of flats – but complete with blue plaque to denote it’s place in history. This box set is a glorious compilation of the great, mad and bad of Factory Records, a soundtrack to a certain place and time.
The sun shone bright, there was a touch of warmth in the air and off we set trying to find a piece of California in Berwickshire. And in fact we did, even though the shot shown here show’s something rather more British. Matt is a young and very talented singer songwriter who has major influences from the West Coast of the US, in terms of music, fashion and lifestyle. We had a very enjoyable shoot with him at the weekend and bagged some amazing promo shots, together with a couple of unplugged video’s which we’ll be posting soon.
Matt is leaving Edinburgh in the next few weeks to head back to his secret songwriters hideaway, where we understand all sorts of plans are being put into action. In the next month or so we’re expecting to see an explosion of material from Matt, so keep an eye out on this blog for more details. And he’s 18 – or to put it another way, 30 years younger than someone else in the 80eight household. After pointing this fact out, I must admit I wished I hadn’t, but too late now and I’m a firm believer of ‘in with both feet first’ 🙂