Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Portraits: 30

Four musicians' portraits – or "portraits": the quote marks there to question exactly how much they are just portraits, and how much a combination of portrait and promotion.

Joshua Redman, musician (saxophonist), at his record label offices, London, 199?
This was a portrait commission for The Independent on Sunday magazine. (They finally went for a shot that was closer-up and clearer. My tendency was to shoot in natural light, as I did here, but this particular spot in the offices was actually quite dark, so the result is grainy.) It's a portrait, but given that it's "with instrument" and in the record company offices, it's probably a certain type of portrait – one that reveals only the information needed. Does that make it one that hides as much character as it reveals? Or one that just serves a certain purpose. Compare with Lester Bowie or Ian Dury, where something other than promotion comes through – even if, since I only met both minutes before, it's not necessarily "real" character.

Steve Reich, musician (composer), on stage during rehearsal, London, 1988
This was during a rehearsal/soundcheck at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Like the shot of Paul Reid below, it's a shot taken while other things were going on. In this case he had also come out on stage partly to allow for a press shot. I did something I liked to do for creative people/music shots, which was to make a "thinking" space above the person's head – and this time allowing light to "stand in" for music. Somewhere in which the thought processes involved in creating could be imagined to be occuring. So, it's not a portrait in the sense that he was sitting for it. Quite a "grabbed" shot.

Paul Gladstone Reid, musician, backstage, Crawley (England), 1988
This, like the Reich one above, was used in but not commissioned by The Wire magazine. Paul was an up-and-coming pianist (who now is very much involved in the wider music of the UK for which he has been awarded an MBE). He was chatting backstage with others as I grabbed a shot. He would appear on one Wire cover by another photographer in clear portrait, but this was just a live-section shot – reportage or portraiture, or do we need to make any delineations?

Reload, musicians/DJs, Surrey countryside, 1993
Although I remember these shots, I don't clearly remember their purpose – I imagine, though, that they were promo shots, perhaps asked for by the duo rather than a publication. I haven't seen them anywhere in print, and don't know if they were ever used, although I like the shots. Each picture has the pair (Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard) only obliquely featured, often obscured. As such they are promotion shots for the duo's work – but partly also, perhaps, portraits in which they don't want to fully appear.

For more on these portraits see here and the portraits tag on the right

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