So when Shanda from We Are the Wilderness, contacted me about headshots earlier this year, I was determined to make up for my fourth grade mistakes with the Night Sneaker ™ and set things right in the world.
I told Shanda I saw the band as steampunk-ish gypsies, mysteriously lounging in the woods like actors on a set, like they were waiting for you. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus meets The Proposition during a Sakura Cherry Blossom Festival.
Unfortunately, she just kept saying it all sounded perfect. I had run my mouth off and was now stuck making it happen.
All I knew was what I couldn't do. I couldn't create the equivalent of a Shakespeare in the Park theater set in Prospect or Astoria Park because the cops would kick us out faster than you can get pepper sprayed for saying "Hey, the meth head across the street is actually committing a violent crime, but please, send four officers to this local band shoot!"
Thankfully, my friend Erik is a wonderful NYC history buff who can practically recite The Power Broker by heart. He hooked me up with deets on a top-secret prime location that is most definitely not a bike trail in Queens.
In order to procure the set pieces, I paid a visit to Build it Green -- an epic salvage yard at the edge of Astoria. This is the kind of place where you can buy a casket, a toilet, a marble fireplace mantle, and a wind turbine and still have money left over for five half-used cans of paint.
Meanwhile, Shanda was texting me photos the clothing she was picking up from Mandate of Heaven Clothing, a vegan-friendly fashion line out of Brooklyn. I guess you could say we were literally making sure the curtains would match the drapes.
I went home and hot-glued pieces of glass and an alarm clock to a broken coat rack. I spent two days trying to figure out how to get a Speedlight and a Pocket Wizard to stay put inside a paper lantern without ripping. But the whole time, I was secretly freaking the f*ck out. I mean, THIS was in my kitchen...
|Either a good idea or a horrible, horrible, art school mistake.|
I was asking myself what the hell I was doing, if any of this was even going to show up in a photo. Worst of all, my biggest fear was that I just didn't have the skill or experience to pull off the ideas in my head.
I was so nervous, I even diagrammed the entire shoot in Photoshop layers. Yes, I photoshopped pictures of clamps onto a picture of a tree. It got that weird.
In the end, my OCD diagramming at least seemed to save everyone some time. The set was put together in 30 minutes, I knew exactly how the ropes would tie. No one waited, so there was no weird energy. The shoot peaked at sunset, just like we'd timed it. But most importantly, the band was happy.
Even though I spent a lot of time building a set, ultimately, my job was just to take a picture of a band and have it represent their personality.
Here's an awesome video of theirs that you should watch, followed by some shots of mine. It's interesting how different the styling and look in the video is from my photos. Two different takes on an amazing sound!
Shanda's clothes by Mandate of Heaven