Archive for 'Editorial Photography':
That guy above is hip hop legend 8 Ball. I had the opportunity to photograph him about three years ago. We shot in the studio and then headed out on location in his completely tricked out Hummer. * Ball came up in Memphis with MJG. You may not have heard of 8 Ball. If you like any sort of hip hop coming from the south then you most definitely have heard his influence. Everyone from T.I. to Luda to Andre 3000 all talk about how they were influenced by 8 Ball and MGJ early on in their career.
I was, of all things, folding socks this morning thinking about anything but folding socks. There are some who look at me and say, “Wow. Zack has made it.” From my view point I will say I’ve “made it” when I don’t have to fold socks ever again in my life. That got me thinking about 8 Ball and I thought I would share this interesting personal story…
As I was steaming Ball’s 6XL shirts for this shoot I was asking him about his career. I asked one question and he told me something that has stuck with me ever since.
I asked… “When did you know your career was to the point that this was now your job? Like, you made it.”
Ball stopped rolling his “smoke” and sat back and told me about growing up as a kid in a poor neighborhood in Memphis. He lived with his mom and grandmother in a shotgun shack. He slept in the den. One of his daily chores was going around the house and collecting the mouse traps in the house, take them outside, and get rid of the dead mice. Then he had to reset those traps and put them back around the house. He told me that he knew he had “made it” when he could throw away the whole mouse trap and reset a new one. He was making enough money in hip hop that he could just buy a new bag of traps every week instead of using the old ones.
8 Ball bought his mom a house. He’s doing well. He’s influenced an army of rappers. He knows he made it when he didn’t have to use a used mouse trap.
It doesn’t take a whole lot to make it does it? He made it but still had to set those traps. He still had a long way to go before he could just buy his mom a new house. It’s such a great story. For those of you who just discount hip hop as “crap” you ought to listen beyond the ho’s and rims and hear the stories of people who came out of nothing and into something. There are a lot of stories of redemption that come out of hip hop. Not exactly your Sunday school stories of redemption but redemption all the same. Go watch Hustle & Flow. It’s one of my top three favorite movies of all time. It’s about a small time pimp coming up in hip hop in Memphis. 8 Ball, of course, is on the soundtrack.
Here’s another one…
I get asked a lot about where I get my inspiration. That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many things and people in my life that inspire me. Let me tell you a story about a white guy from Arkansas that raps.
More after the jump ::.
Last night Meg and I were able to get a babysitter and go see our friend Dan Smith play a show. His project is called “Listener“.
Dan has a schtick. A persona. A presence on stage. He does this “thing” that is amazing. Dan does “talk music” and it is his own thing. Love him or hate him, when Dan takes the stage people get off their phones, stop chatting, and watch. His stage persona is mesmerizing. It never bleeds into background music. His music isn’t ever going to make the top ten on the billboard charts and I think that’s just all right for him. He’s not following. He’s not replicating. He’s not trying to find what is popular and pursue that.
I met Dan about six years ago when he was more of a hip hop artist than folksy/indie/something/talk music artist. I was introduced to him through this cat in Nashville named KC Jones. KC said to me, “You gotta hear the Listener. He’s a white dude from Arkansas that raps.” That introduction was enough to pique my interest.
The first song I heard was Train Song (mp3 download). “It’s my habits that make my fingers weak…” Listen closely to the story. Pretty amazing.
It’s been interesting to watch him change. To watch him find who he is. To start at one place and end up somewhere else and to see he’s not “there” yet. Dan has always been Dan, yet with each new part of his project he is becoming more true to his core. He’s walking through the shit of life and stripping off the non essentials and building back from there. It’s really an amazing process to watch from the outside.
I need to sit down with him sometime and see what it’s like from his perspective because I know for a fact it will be much different than my perspective. Maybe I’m wrong about how I see Dan. Maybe Dan is wrong about how he sees himself. Sometimes people on the outside see the real you. The “you” you can’t see. And sometimes people from the outside have the wrong idea about who you are. Hmmmm. This reminds me of something Meg is working on but that’s not for this post. (Dan, next time you’re back in Atlanta let’s talk it out)
If you listen to his older music you can hear the framework of his newer work. Meaning, you can look back and see the progression but you never see it when you are moving forward. The same thing goes for photography. It’s called personal style and it takes years to develop and you can’t really see your style until you have some years under your belt and can look back.
Dan is a huge source of inspiration for me. That inspiration doesn’t change how I look through my viewfinder but it changes how I look through the eye in my brain if that makes any sense at all… Which it doesn’t. I went to public school so trying to flowchart how inspiration works for me is a bit difficult. My brain eyes connect to my face eyes which connect to my viewfinder so maybe he does inspire how I see the world. How “inspiration” like this works for me is the music gets in my head. I listen to the stories in the lyrics. I connect the dots from the songs to the dots of my own life and those thoughts sort of lead me down a path of more thoughts that eventually lead to actions with my camera and with my business. Inspiration for me isn’t seeing one person do something and then I go do something similar to that. I think that’s more like plagiarism than inspiration.
Dan’s magic really comes through his show. He’s brave. He’s full on. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t care what he looks like. He just lets the f#ck go and pours it all out. I’ve seen him perform to a packed venue and to 8 people in a living room and he brings everything he has to the stage with every performance.
You can find his new album here. Be sure to give “Wooden Heart” a listen. Buy a copy and support an artist. Don’t you want someone to give you some support in your endeavors? Pay it forward.
You can stream his new album. Sorry iPhone/iPad users. These are flash embeds.
This is his last album. It’s called “Return To Struggleville” and it’s about a traveling knife salesman and it’s brilliant.
His songs are stories. They are pulled out of his head and out of his experience. He’s living his story. Are you? Are you aware that you’re walking out your story? Are you keeping your eyes far out ahead and busting your ass to get there or are you sitting around on said ass looking backwards? How’s that working for you? I saw a great quote on Twitter yesterday…
“Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet.”
Dan’s played more than 800 shows and he has 800 more to go. He’s doing it. He’s sharing his life. He’s changing. Growing. He’s moving his feet. Stripping it down to the essentials. He’s inspiring thousands. He’s just a white dude from Arkansas that raps and he is a really important character in my own story. Fun trivia – His 800th show was at a Mexican Restaurant. 800th show.
Where are you getting your inspiration from outside the photography world?
Are you moving your feet or sittin’ on your ass? I’d rather have sores on my feet than on my ass. There’s a t-shirt.
I can’t tell you how overwhelming this past weekend has been for me on all fronts. Hundreds and hundreds of man and woman hours went in to pulling this three day live event off. It was frantic. It was stressful. It was exhausting. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you one and all. Here are a few selects from the weekend.
Interested in seeing the 16 hours of studio training? Check it out here.
More images after the jump…
The shot above and the shot below were using the same background.
There are some other images on this blog post from the weekend.
Want to find out about the class I taught? Check it out here.
Many thanks to ::
Affix Music (provided the bumper music on Friday and Saturday)
And the entire crew who made this thing happen.
And you know what? I would not be able to do this had Marc Climie not put a camera back in my hands 6.5 years ago.
We have more material, videos, and stuff coming to the blog from this event.
I dig “photo aware” shots sometimes. At least that’s what my BFF Kevin calls these kinds of shots. Do you? I know some folks who hate these kind of shots.
We snuck a last minute shoot in tonight for one of my favorite MC’s in the Hip Hop business. That would be Manchild and he’s the one on the right. He’s half of Mars ILL. The other cat in this photo is Playdough.
24 hours until we take off for Seattle.
I just finished editing my first music video this week. I shot this in New York last fall thanks to the help of friends, twitter, and Kmart. Read a little story about it after the jump.
I had a few extra days in New York last fall and I spent those days shooting as much personal work as I could. I was in the area to shoot a wedding with Marc. Assistant and intern extraordinaire Brian Hall was along for the ride as well. I reached out to as many people I knew with connections in NYC to find musicians to shoot. It turned out that Snowden frontman, Jordan, was in the city at the same time. Snowden is one of my favorite bands in the world and I’m blessed that they are from Atlanta and I’ve been able to work with them a few times.
Jordan and I decided we would meet up Sunday night and shoot some new promos for him. He sent me a few of his new songs for me to listen to before our shoot. I heard this song Lemon Peel and loved it right away. Saturday night I’m riding the train and I decided we should shoot a music video instead of portraits. I sent Jordan a text and he was down for whatever. Sunday morning I put out a message on Twitter that read something like,
“I need a rooftop. In Manhattan. Tonight. With a garden hose.”
Ten minutes later I get a message from Neil at Nomadic by Design. He had access to a rooftop on the upper west side and it most definitely had a water hose we could use. The only caveat was we couldn’t make a lot of noise because we would be standing over his friend’s apartment and their two year old would be asleep. So no screaming, jumping, playing loud music. Ok. No worries. I thank Neil for helping me out and we plan to meet at his place later that evening.
Now then, I had flashes for portrait work but I sure didn’t have any video lights with me. The 5d MkII does pretty well in low light but not in no light. I knew that I wanted to build off of the water references in the song and I knew that water looks best if it can be back-lit. I also had to do this on a budget of “not much”. Like, less than $50. I went to the Kmart at Penn Station and bought six flashlights. I would have bought some more but that was all they had and I still had another band to shoot AND take 10 portraits of 10 strangers so I didn’t have a lot of time hitting up the entire city looking for more flashlights. On a tech note, these are those focused LED beam lights and they were making odd patterns of light on the roof behind Jordan. I needed to diffuse them to get rid of the pattern so I used the white plastic Kmart bag they came in to do that. I ripped the bag up and put pieces of the plastic over the front of the flashlights and that got rid of the patterns. Ghetto Video Dot Com!
Marc and Brian came along for the evening. Marc was on the flashlight lighting Jordan. Brian was on the water hose. Everything and everybody was soaked by the end of the sixth take. The wind was really unpredictable and we just had to deal with it. Jordan’s MacBook playing the song was wet, the 5d was dripping wet, and Brian turned out to be just as soaked holding the hose as Jordan did getting hit by it. All in all… it was a great night.
So why did it take me so long to edit? Because the idea I had for the edit sucked and I couldn’t re-envision the project. I had it set in my head that it was going to be one way but that way turned out like crap and I couldn’t “see” anything different. That happens to me a lot. I get an idea for a shot. I see it in my head. I pick up the camera. I take a photo. The photo sucks. It is nowhere close to what I see in my head. In photography I have learned to let those things go until another day. I couldn’t let this one go until one evening this week. I’ve been editing images for a new portfolio and this Snowden video was bugging the hell out of me. Jordan froze his ass off for this video and I still haven’t pulled anything out of it. I divorced myself from my first plan and just started fresh and new without a plan and I knocked it out in one night. Seriously. One night. Done. WTH? It’s like doing taxes. No, no it’s not.
So yes… my first music video. I’m happy with it. I’ll hate it soon enough but for now I’m really glad I dropped my first idea for the edit and went in a different direction with it. Am I going to sell my self as a music video director? Nope. Do I want to do more of these? Absolutely. Yes. Just spoke with a past client last night about another one of these. Hip to the hippity hop!
PS – I won the last GOYA shoot out! I really thought it was going to be Robin (photographer E). I’ll do another post later.
There is a nagging question that haunts photographers…
“Do I have the right set of lights?”
This question is bugging me right now. I do not have an answer for you just yet. All this question has done for me in the past year is create more questions.
I’m going to get a bit nerdy on you here and take this post from looking at lighting systems to looking at camera systems. I really don’t nerd out about gear on my blog but you need to be warned… Total nerdom after the jump.
My dear friend, Marc Climie, often says…
“Let your work determine your clients. Don’t let your clients determine your work.”
In order to live by that philosophy you have to be very careful what work you show to the world through your site, blog, and book. If you don’t want to shoot family portraits, then don’t show family portraits. If you hate selective color photographs (as you should) then don’t show them. Here is a good scenario…
You want to shoot portraits of bands and musicians for press kits and promo work. You are a struggling photographer just trying to get started and you get a call from a friend of a friend and they would love for you to shoot their family portraits. You need the work so you agree to it and, hopefully, you do a kick ass job. You just shot the best family portraits of your life. What do you do with them?
Continue reading and seeing after the jump ::
Just finished my 2nd day of teaching this week in Texas. Tonight I’m in Austin. We wrapped up at 2:30am. I’m beat but I wanted to share at least one from the OneLight… even though this one is TwoLights.
I keep telling myself… “I just need to make it through November.” If meetings this week go as planned then I may need to start saying… “I just need to make it through December.” Am I running to stand still? Nope. I’m running to grow.
I’m thankful for work. I’m thankful for my wife supporting my work. I’m thankful for the community I’m surrounded with. I’m thankful for opportunities to connect, share, and learn.
All that said, I’m at that point where I wonder if I’m biting off more than I can chew. I’m really glad to be at this point because it means my field is growing and that means I get to bring more people on board. As I grow, others grow as well. We all grow together.
Things I have to get done around these here parts…
• The “Call To Action” update blog post. I’m totally slacking on that one. Sorry! • I have a draft called “Get A Grip” that helps you put stuff together and rig things to other things. I like things. I hope you do too. • October 11th will be our next episode of Critique! Thanks for keeping us to the fire on that one everyone! • I have to tell you all about my experience at the Vincent Laforet 5dMkII workshop. An eye opener. I was like, “Whoa.”
Coming up… I’m teaching the many uses of white seamless at PhotoPlus in NYC later this month. Hope to see you there.
Here’s some pics from last week’s LA workshop. Well, one of them. That was a double header. Big ups to Marc D’Amour for making the LA workshops run like German trains. If you are unfamiliar with the way in which German trains run then let me be the one to instruct you that, according to my high school German teacher, they run real güt.
Know when to turn your light off… Apologies to the synagogue. I had to tag something. It washes off.
We were in Hollywood so all I had to say was… “Cue the birds! And…. Birds in 3… 2… 1… Birds! —- Aaaaannnnnnddd… CUT!” Yes. I’m a dork.
Ok lighting folks… Take a look at the next two photos. One of these was shot in the afternoon and one was shot at night. I was demonstrating that off camera lighting is predictable and can be replicated over and over and over again no matter where you are. Which is which?
More to come?
• The Seattle workshop was amazing. Seriously. Big thanks to the Boone brothers and Chase Jarvis and images and thoughts to come from that. You know, one of these days. I still haven’t put images up from the Australia OneLights. I’m so effing behind on blogging. But you know, it’s not like I’m curing cancer with this thing!
• I twittered about thinking about thoughts while flying home from Seattle. I’ve given myself a deadline of 2/10/2010 to get our new brand off the ground. I wish there were 20 months in the year so I could have until 20/10/2010. I know what I’m going to be doing this winter. It better not be comparing myself to others! Update – It took me until 1/2011 to get it done. Branding takes time.
Oh… Crap. This the wind beneath my wings today…
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