So for all the wonderful privileges that being the in-house photographer for The Fly magazine brings, the greatest challenge for me is constantly coming up with new ideas for shoots to best represent the huge array of fantastic musical artists the title constantly features. Of course I love my job and the magazine very passionately indeed, but (beware media students - spoiler ahead) it's not like the golden days of publishing when huge creative teams with endless budgets for huge set builds in massive studios and first class travel to international locations would guarantee a glorious, luxurious spread with a happy band (and even happier photographer).
No - the reality today for your journeyman editorial photographer is customarily such: loads of waiting, then a wrung out artist who's done five of these already today and only has 10 minutes tops, a wall outside the venue, an anxious, hand-wringing yet seemingly world-weary PR lingering too close-by, then squeezing the opportunity for all you can get (sometimes very little, other times a lot) then a quick turnaround edit and wait for the glory of your name in print a couple weeks later.
Having done this since Ilford, Kodak and Polaroid still ruled, I no longer can do the grabbed pose-up against the wall, the whole, "yeah here's fine, nah I'll sort it out in post-production" thing. I want to use lighting, in a worthy location, with an assistant to help lug my boxes of weighty Elinchroms. And an Addison Lee account wouldn't go amiss. It's either called raising your game, or getting old, decided by the side of the fence upon which you're sat.
It can be so great. This week I shot Graham Coxon, ex-guitarist of Blur, also very successful, respected solo artist and bonkers doodler (more to follow on that). Having shot him for another mag the week previously, I knew Graham was most comfortable when you give him a task. He's a self-effacing, modest, shy man, with loads of personality quietly tucked behind this, so ever keen to carpe my diem but also not receive a quashing from the hand wringers - I sprung the idea of letting him just do the shoot himself. This came in response to the question, "how can I get the most from this engaging character, without him feeling or looking daft and me compromising myself beyond the point of no return?"
The answer was (relatively) simple. Camera on a tripod with a self-firing mechanism called a cable release and tethered to a laptop so he can see how he looks, and a complimentary portrait lighting set up then just stand him in situ and clear out the room. Hey presto, 30 frames later and we're in the pub in no time. It went so well in fact that Graham was happy to illustrate the white backdrop with a close-to-hand Sharpie and step in for a quick portrait against that too. Boom - two for one, that's a good day. Oh, and you'll see the fruits of Graham's toil in the April issue of The Fly or the-fly.co.uk.
Needless to say it doesn't always go this way. Someone needs to amend the new band starter pack to advise on how looking cool need not equate to looking very bored, but that's a story for next time. Until then - nice work Coxon!
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