Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The 27's

So back in September I had the pleasure of working with two guys that were in the process of self-publishing a book that they were co-creating called The 27s. Eric and Josh both seemed to have a very clear vision about what this book was to them -- and what they wanted the final product to be. I could see that they had put so much of themselves into it.

Well -- their hard work seems to be paying off for them. I received an email from Josh late last week informing me that the book had been picked up by Random House publishing and would be released worldwide today. What a huge deal that must be for both Eric and Josh. Couldn't be happier for them -- and they deserve it, too, I think. The book itself is like a work of art -- filled with cool illustrations and interesting information about all the musicians that have died at the age of 27 in the past: Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and so on and so forth.

The book seems to be creating quite a buzz, as it has obtained favorable reviews nationwide by critics and radio stations. Apparently their first printing has almost already sold out. So my hat’s off to both Josh and Eric.

If you are interested in seeing a REALLY cool trailer promoting the book, it can be found here. The 27s website can be found here -- and if you’re are interested in getting a taste of what the design is like check out a preview of it here. And last but not least, it can be found on Amazon here, or at your local bookstore.

So how did I get mixed up in all this? Well, I was asked to create the following portrait of The 27s creators to be published in the finished book. It is an honor to have asked to take part in such a cool project. They seemed to be really pleased with the outcome of the portrait, as was I. So thank you, Josh and Eric -- thank you for trusting me to be part of something that you both put so much into. I am happy that it is becoming such a success for you. For those of you who care to hear more about how the shot was created, keep on reading.

I was initially called by Josh and told that they were interested having me create the portrait of them. Of course, the first thing I asked was what look they had in mind for the shot. His response, as I remember, was that he wanted me to just do my thing -- but that he did really like the idea of shooting the shot much in the same way that musicians have been photographed in their recording studios in the past. Kind of a candid type feel -- not over done -- just showing who the musicians were and where they created their music. Well, this shot was my interpretation of that. It is shot in the house where they created the book. Subtle things were placed in or omitted from the shot due to special connections with the project – such as them both being barefoot.

Let me tell you though -- this WAS NOT an easy shot to do. Josh and Eric were great to work with, but it was tough. Sometimes I can just walk into a place and know almost immediately what I want to do lighting- and composition-wise. Other times it feels like pulling teeth. All I knew was that I wanted to do a good job not only for my clients but for myself as well; I don't like disappointing either. My problems started with lighting: I knew what I wanted it to look like in my head -- but this was one of those times that it took me a bit to get the light where I was happy with it. My goal was to create a sense of depth through the lighting and restrict it in such a way that it kept your focus on the both Eric and Josh, while allowing the environment itself to add to the shot but not distract from it in the process.

So what was my biggest issue? Well, I wanted to shoot from the perspective you see in the shot -- but notice the glass. My lights reflecting in the glass would not have looked very good at all, so I had to work with the lighting in order to keep it having the feel I was going for -- all the while looking good on my subjects, yet still placing them and my subjects in a way that you could not see the reflections in the glass. So after working with it for a bit I finally got what I was looking for, which is what you see in the final shot. I ended up having to use Josh (in the foreground) to hide the reflection of the light lighting him. If I had moved up my camera angle six inches up or to the left or right even a foot you would see the reflection in the glass behind him of my softbox lighting him. In the background I was using a grid to light Eric. The reflection was not so much of an issue with it -- the issue with it was keeping an eye on the harsh shadows that it created. I raised it up pretty high just outside of the frame to the camera left of him to keep the shadow of his nose and the liquor bottle from being distracting respectively on his face and the wall behind and to the camera right of the bottle. Keeping some light on the left side of his face but placing it just so I wouldn't catch any reflection in the glass. In theory it sounds pretty simple, right? Well, not always. Lighting with grids and hard light sources in general can look very cool, but they require for you to place the light in a much more precise manner than, say, a 7 ' Octabox that you can just point at your subject and shoot for the most part and get a good result.

This particular night was one of those when things just were not clicking into place for me. At one point I started to just give up on the idea of shooting it like you see it and doing something totally different. Luckily both Josh and Eric liked where I was taking it and encouraged me to keep on working on getting it the way I wanted. They were really cool, but I tell you -- minutes can feel like hours when you have your client standing right there waiting as you are trying to get things set lighting wise. With them I had the luxury of taking extra time with it, but with other clients it is not always that way. I have had executives show up to shoots earlier than scheduled and expect me to be already ready to shoot. What fun it is to be under the gun and have to make something happen in minutes in a unexpected way. It's all part of being a professional photographer, I guess.

Special thanks to Justin Phillips for coming along as an intern/assistant and helping me out with it all. Cheers to Josh and Eric for creating such a cool book -- you should be very proud of yourselves.


1 comment:

JnE said...

And thanks to you for the great work on that shot. It's invariably the first page people flip to in The 27s (as it is the final page of the book). We're glad you kept working it while that Makers bottle got a little emptier every fifteen minutes or so.

We're finalists for the Independent Publisher Book Award in pop culture. David Byrne won last year for his book, so we're humbled by the company. Hope all is well Keith. Peace from J&E