tim sutton’s new feature film MEMPHIS is having it’s US premiere at the sundance film festival this week. the film stars the incendiary singer willis earl beal and chases, in the form of a filmic essay, the ever-fleeting soul of the creative process. as some of you know we have had the great honour of working on this film and you can read more about that in an interview we did with black book magazine here.
since putting together the posters for the film, we’ve created a small teaser site to celebrate the sundance acceptance. additionally the film has since been written up in dazed & confused magazine. to say that it’s a thrill to see the film (not to mention one of our photographs) in that legendary periodical would be an understatement.
here’s wishing the whole memphis film team all the success at sundance and beyond. it’s not often enough that films as experimental and searching as this get this sort of recognition.
thanks to indiewire you can view a brand new trailer for the film below. do please immerse yourself for a moment. to paraphrase one of my favourite songs – nothing quite like the feel of something new.
lastly, if you have the means – see willis earl beal perform live. he’s touring europe in february and i can honestly say that there are very few out there of his caliber. lyrically, musically and performance-wise, he will most assuredly smash you to pieces.
the general approach i’d discussed with him of course centered around something cosmic, yet within the realm of standard portraiture.?in order to achieve this he brought several cameras to the fore, including a canon 5D and a hasselblad?501 cm?loaded with FP 3000b instant?film. the latter make of camera was responsible for the still photographs of mankind’s first steps on the moon, so it seemed appropriate for this.
in terms of process, jeff tried a number of interesting techniques including photographing the paper that was peeled off the instant film after an exposure, and then making a negative of this. additionally he scanned the instant film in all manner of shitty ways to create a distressed quality that felt like stars, space dust and other atmospherics.
once the images were ready, he passed them along to us. we then added a little something?where necessary to bring them that bit further into the big black delta universe. it goes without saying that?the punk nature of the shoot gave the images a more raw, personal and humorous quality. we felt this was important as the same can be said for jon’s own communications with the world, as he continues to push big black delta into new territory in his own personal fashion.
at the last second jeff insisted i get into the frame for a few shots and ? well let’s just say it was a pretty sweet nebula.
if you’ve ever heard their cover of cheap trick’s song he’s a whore, you’ll know that both big black delta and war widow are bands to keep an eye on. both new, both from LA and both with singers called jon. now whilst we’ve been working with big black delta for some time now, war widow are pretty new to us. both bands share the same record label – coming home records – who have handled not just releases from a large amount of nine inch nails alumni, but of course also the magnificent mellowdrone. it was through coming home records that we got wind of some of the new tracks by war widow. the label’s boss erik andrews posted a couple of tracks on soundcloud one morning and i joined the others on twitter who follow the label’s feed, and gave them a listen over a hot cup of coffee.
tear it up (above) is the track that immediately grabbed me. the first thing that struck me was the dirgey feel of it. then when the dark + seedy lyrics filled my ears i started getting a range of very particular images dancing around in my brain. so i immediately looked to see if any artwork had been announced for this release. sure enough they had a record cover on their website. it was of a cat snarling. rich colours. very vibrant. it was tough, but it didn’t seem to mesh with the music i was hearing. so i quickly fired off an email to erik and asked if the artwork had been printed yet. he said it hadn’t. i then started ripping through various photographs i had lying around on hard drives and bookmarked on various sites, trying to find things that seemed to fit the music. i then put together a few designs using the bands logo and some of these images, and fired it off as quick as i could to erik. he amazingly passed them right onto the band and just moments later i got news that they were into trying a new cover and wanted to know what else we had up our sleeves.
i then emailed two people. first my friend?matt sundin, who took the photographs for the 65daysofstatic album cover,?we were exploding anyway. i briefed him quickly on the sorta images i was after and asked him if he had anything lying around. i then reached out across oceans into distant lands i’d never set foot in and contacted a ukrainian photographer who’s flickr account i’d been obsessed with for some time now. i felt his photos were utterly perfect for this and had in fact used some of them in the initial comps i sent to the band. this guy’s name is alex alekseenko, and you can see more of his work here.
knowing both would need some time i then told the band i’d need a day or so to pull things together and if they could hold off the printing presses for a moment, it’d be worth their while. they were cool with this.
the next morning i was elated to find an email from alex in my inbox. turns out he was 100% down with us using one of his photos for a record cover, particularly for a rock band. he himself was a collector of many records and was very excited at the prospect of having some of his work used in such a fashion. similarly matt also got back to me with a few shots of his own that he felt stepped into the murky conceptual arena i was after with this.
the images then started to speak for themselves. certain images coupled very well with others and those that didn’t lead me to ask if they could delve deeper – send me anything. i wanted them to send me the stuff they might even be scared to send through, because of the content of them. needless to say but we were all excited and definitely beginning to get that feeling again. that feeling that made you remember why you do this damn thing for a living.
pretty soon it was done. round 2 was off to the band and we were checking our emails regularly for anything back from them.
the band got back to us after a few days. they’d made a decision. they wanted the image you see above for the cover, and the image you see below for the backcover. we then started about ‘finishing up’ the design, which of course involved making it feel like you’d find the record in the damp corner of someone’s basement in the middle of nowhere.
if you’re into hearing the record, needless to say we highly recommend it. it will be out on 12 inch vinyl and was produced by none other than jonathan bates of big black delta. you can grab another song from the record from the band’s site here, or from the label’s site here.
we hope you enjoy it and that the artwork in some way helps you get deeper into the music.
65daysofstatic’sheavy sky EP pretty much has to be heard to be believed. it’s a collection of songs that for one reason or another just didn’t make the cut for we were exploding anyway, their last album. perhaps its most intriguing quality is its slightly erratic nature, in terms of sounds and styles. in and of itself this is nothing new for an EP, however when it arrives after an LP in this fashion, it offers an exciting insight into the band’s thought process when they made that album – sonic directions that for one reason or another they didn’t pursue.
therefore our task this time around was to create a sleeve that echoed the artwork of the album, but that had a more abstracted, less direct narrative. as such we kept the same design template as before, but looked into an entirely different style of photography. one that was more transient, and that focussed more on mood and ambience.
after sifting through 50 odd photographs we’d taken that echoed this sentiment, we put together a sleeve design that had this texas chainsaw massacre / halloween type vibe about the setting. which isn’t to say it was about horror, but looking at it now it certainly has a darker, almost voyeuristic tone to its domestic leanings. a tone that is of course balanced by the record’s title and the warm, evening glow that permeates through each photograph.
you can download a track from the EP for free here:
we were recently hired on a weekly basis to photograph those attending a club night in new york’s lower east side. the party goes by the name of just the tip and is in a club called happy ending (a disused erotic massage parlour). taking appropriate cues from wong kar wai’s film?in the mood for love and the exploitation flicks projected onto the club’s walls each night, we wanted to give the photos a warm, grainy, ambient, cinematic feel.?thus we chose to use our new canon 5D mark II, a canon 580 EX flash (purely for it’s laser focussing facility)?and a 50mm lens to take flashless RAW photographs and rely on the club’s own light sources to set the scene. we then post-process the shots back here in the studio both in terms of exposure, temperature and imitation chemical cross-processing. the results are pretty far from your last night’s party vibe of club photography and justly so given the more refined and elegant nature of this particular club night.
you can view the complete sets from each night here.
in june we were invited to tour with 65 days of static for a few days whilst they supported the cure. in the photography section you can see a selection of the photographs we took as we shadowed their every move. stay tuned for more website and printwork from us very soon.