I returned to Korea after my SE Asian adventure this winter just in time to go out on assignment for Groove Magazine. I hadn’t had time to recharge my flash batteries or brush the sand out of my vagina my camera and lenses, but there was work to be done.
The March issue of the magazine focuses on musicians making an impact on the Seoul music scene. My task was simple enough; interview Garan Fitzgerald and Zach Bardon as independent artists, then shoot them as part of their band, Solitaire Love Affair. I hadn’t written an expose since I was working for papers in university, so I was charged up. Making the photos…well that’d be easy, right? I mean, it’s what I do.
I’m not going to spill the beans on Garan (or Zach) here; that’s what the magazine is for. However, the reason I was sent out to interview Garan is, other than being a class act of a guy, he’s a brilliant, classically trained bassist and part of Co-amrous, a tango outfit that just won first prize at the 10th Osaka International Music Competition.
Cool. How do I make a photo of that?
Well, I failed epically the first time. Shooting in a recording studio is great when you’re working for Guns N’ Roses – it even worked for Slash’s Snakepit – but to capture the essence of the tango de la meurte, you need a location more forgiving. Plus, we didn’t have a busload of groupies or a garbage bag full of coke.
Deceptively simple light here: SB-80DX in a small softbox high camera left, just in front of Garan and the guitar shooting light back towards the camera. I used my change bag as a gobo to control flare. I usually don’t use it as a change bag. Often, I go to photo shoots clothed.
This is Garan. That’s a bass guitar. But this is Rock Garan, and that’s a rock guitar. Do you get tango out of this? I don’t get tango out of this. No one gets tango out of this. Tango and hoodies don’t mix.
Do I love the image? Yes, I do. But it doesn’t capturing the essence of my article. I went home, talked to Summer, my editor, and came up with a new plan of attack replete with diagrams (I love diagrams). I decided to go Full Monty; rent out studio space, hire some models and deck Garan out in his Sunday finest.
My incredibly hi-tech, ultra-modern computer generated lighting diagram. They don’t teach this stuff in school, folks. Street certified.
Not so simple light here, but the best we could do under cramped, unyielding circumstances. Light 1: SB-80DX, softbox, on a monopod heaved in the air by Megan aimed down at Garan. Light 2: SB-80DX on the floor behind Garan, lighting Cassie and Phil from the front. Light 3: SB-28, bare, in the frame camera right adding a little drama and rim to the action.
I couldn’t get lights up high – Cassie is almost touching the roof as is – and we’re cramped into a corner. What you see is what you get. Tony and Megan, bless them, helped out as VALs while Phil and Cassie modeled. Does it work? Sure. I dig it. Do you get tango out of it this time? I think so.
Lighting on different planes; SB-80DX, high camera left behind Garan, reflective umbrella. SB-80DX, high camera right, shoot-through umbrella, behind Garan. SB-28, bare, low, rim light for the audience.
True to form, it’s an image that came off the cuff and without planning that I like the most. I’d say that nearly 50% of the time, when on a shoot, it’s the spur-of-the-moment shot I end up going with. Not sure what that says about my planning. It can’t be good. Again, I’d do a few things differently here given different conditions; lights would go much higher, something would be draped overhead (a beauty dish, in this case) and I’d have shot with a longer lens from behind more people. But cramped spaces require you to think of new solutions, so the experience was the thing.
I sat down with Zach to talk about the aptly named Zach Bardon Recording Tour of Love, a 49-state odyssey of profound musical diligence. Sadly, I knew only briefly of his exploits beforehand, so I wasn’t able to prepare anything or diagram a shoot. That is, of course, my way of excusing myself from an incredibly creative series of shots with the multi-instrumentalist.
Not like it would have mattered on the day I met the boys, though; shooting a drummer in a studio has serious limitations (I’m sure I’m going to get slaughtered with examples of how it’s not limited). By the time I had a moment with Zach and was able to shoot him I had a thousand shots in my head that all involved different locations. In the studio, I decided to try and capture him as he found himself on the road for the Recording Tour of Love; isolated, alone for long stretches, dependant on himself to complete his masterwork.
One light: SB-80DX in a softbox, camera right, blasting Zach in the face and throwing shadows across the wall.
I only wish we had somewhere else to shoot Zach’s portraits, or more time; drummers are never given their due! There’s always next time…
Seoul Photo Club/Seoul Strobist Club
As I mentioned on flickr, the March issue of Groove has SPC and SSC influence pasted all over it. Dylan Goldby, Aaron Brown and Lee Smathers all worked tirelessly to make it the most well-photographed issue of all time. I’m not just saying that because these guys are my friends, either (I don’t even really like Dylan!); their work is spectacular and humbles mine. Into the corner to think about what you’ve done for an hour kind of humble. Dunce cap at school kind of humble. Check out their work. It’s worth it. Then join the Seoul Photo Club. Then buy a flash, and join the Seoul Strobist Club. Then get involved with the Seoul Metro Project. There are so many things you should do.
Next time around, I’ll get into the work I did with the rest of the band; I can’t spill too many of the beans now, since some of what I shot is going into the April edition of Groove, but I’ve got a couple teasers from the cutting room floor.
Two exposures. 1: SB-80DX, small softbox, high camera left, behind Marc slightly. 2: SB-80DX, small softbox, high camera right, behind Marc slightly. In-camera multiple exposure. No photoshop. Just good use of the light.
Marc Proulx, lead singer of Solitaire Love Affair. I think Marc resembles Alan Frew from Glass Tiger in a lot of ways. So I gave him the Radiohead multiple exposure treatment. I remember thinking there was a connection in there at some point…
I believe this shot ended up on a poster for the band at a Haiti benefit concert, but I could be mistaken. It was supposed to run for the show in The Korea Herald as well, but it didn’t make the final cut. They went with a photo actually taken in Haiti. Can you believe that?! I know I can’t!
That foot there belongs to SLA’s Simon. More on him a little later.
Greg James Hanford. I’m doing a piece on him for the April Groove. No, this isn’t the photo we’re running; this is the tasty teaser. We all love ice cream. Greg is a rockstar. These things work together. You’ll find out why.