It’s a good thing that this is all lies and that The Phantom Band don’t exactly fall under the simplified banner of rock. Them, their music and even their name have never been simplified, so why should a photoshoot be straightforward?
To coincide with the release of their third album Strange Friend, The Skinny asked if I could shoot the band for the latest cover and in Dumbarton. Enter stage right: two car loads of Phantoms and myself, on the road west one sunny Sunday afternoon, what could be simpler? In the run up to shoots like this I always like to prepare. I pencil down visual ideas or a theme and check out artwork. I was sent a clandestine link to the new album which I listened to in complete darkness. I packed and repacked my gear like a sherpa. I even had time for some chakra vowel chanting before meeting the guys. The band though, were suffering from their side-project obligations from the night before and had used the morning to spontaneously move their entire studio.
Fifteen minutes later, we have bypassed Dumbarton looking for a good location, made every wrong turn and both cars are now totally separated in an Exodus scale downpour. Unimaginably, the only constant to the shoot is our original idea to eat some ice creams by the seaside. We career into the first sodden, seafront we find. A phalanx of Phantoms head off to find somewhere for ice-creams and to genuinely buy chips, priorities. As always, at the height of the struggle, from the wall of rain emerges the most enthusiastic local out for his Sunday rain walk who see’s our head scratching as an opportunity for the chat of a lifetime. By the time the band are back, shielding their dissolving ice-creams with takeaway bags, we’ve been on the go for 2 hours. But we’ve had chips.
Fifteen minutes later, Helensburgh pier is littered with flakes of sodden cone wafer and streams of ice-cream runoff. The sky and the sea are the exact same colour and the rain has charmed its way inside my camera making all my pictures look like we are in a turkish bath. Except we aren’t, and to our further disbelief Andy’s car battery has died during the shoot. What a scene this must have looked from above as me and Iain push-start the car and it rolls to a halt in the centre of a lagoon of rainwater. A lucky set of jump leads at hand we wait wringing with monsoon, listening to the revs of a very low fuel tank from the other end wondering if we need to start thinking about something more substantial then chips.
Back on the road and soaking the upholstery, the guys all kick back and get talking about albums and afterpartys with no afterthought to the shoot as if this was as ordinary a day in the life of The Phantom Band as they come.
Another blast from the past. Every time I collect new film I am stopped in my tracks. Every time a reminder of what this whole thing is about. Photography for me is still learning, still my main mode of discovery.
Over the last few months I have made lamentable starts at writing posts to apologise for the blog silence and account for the dip in updates. Really tragic writing actually. Some great apologia,and in the end I don’t even have room for photos. In reality, it turns out, I’ve not had the time or the enthusiasm to write about what I work hard and enthusiastically at all week. This ol’ blog has always been an archivist and diary to my heady, chaotic activity. But by the time I sit down to sift through my thoughts on a project, I have already moved on to the next two. Of the things I should always be writing about, is photography’s great brotherly companionship showing us how to keep exploring. Not specific to any camera, or any format, the very act is still universally thrilling.
So hey! I am once again drawn back to earth. Not the commissions or work that I finished in the last two weeks, but small iridescent rectangles of emulsion that I shoot at important points on my search for new ideas. They document and promise nothing but humble, forgettable microseconds in my own travels. There are no stories, nothing to sell.What is here in these rolls, are the beginnings of a documenting of Glasgow’s Southside. Something, I hope in time, I will talk a lot more about. Here is a place I am drawn to like gravity. Its latent, hidden colour and personality are heralding an adventure. For now, film still has a place at my side.
The exhibition is open until Friday in Out Of The Blue, Dalmeny Street. An extended edit of the project is below for those who can’t make the show. If it was me though I wouldn’t need a reason to get my red gallery troosers out, come one come all.
I feel pretty grateful to hold this document in my hands. A playtext, precious on two counts. Firstly, In Time O’ Strife, the latest production from NTS. Its genesis in the writings of Joe Corrie, a beautiful but largely obscure Fife poet and playwright. “Obscure” may be an unjust description of this striking and humbling career, but it does hint at the ephemeral coincidence and fortunes that brought his writings back to the stage in 2013. A reminder that some of the most brilliant works spend a lifetime on the verge of never happening.
Secondly, this is my first published playtext. With images from my shoot with the company during rehearsals, the script becomes a more immersive medium to get lost in Corrie’s writing. I was sat front row centre last week for the opening of the production’s short run. A brave seat choice, as Joe Corrie’s words crystallised before us into a thunderous and emotional wave of stark, politicised energy. But gratitude remained as the smoke and lights cleared. To have worked on something so unintentionally evasive enjoy only a fleeting run. It felt that history was being made and remade on a torrential October night in Kirkcaldy.
|Hannah Donaldson, Ewan Stewart, Tom McGovern, Vicki Manderson, Paul Tinto, Owen Whitelaw, Anita Vettesse
|Ewan Stewart as Jock
|Ewan Stewart and Anita Vettesse
|Anita Vetesse as Jean
|Owen Whitelaw and Hannah Donaldson
|Hannah Donaldson as Jenny
|Owen Whitelaw as Wull Baxter
|Paul Tinto as Bob
|Vicki Manderson as Kate
|Tom McGovern as Tam
|MJ McCarthy, Jennifer Reeve, Johnny Scott, Adam John Scott
The house lights have come up on the Traverse Theatre’s first full production of 2013, which finished a sensational run last weekend. But I couldn’t be happier its over.
Quiz Show is a rare double-edge sword for a photographer. At one end, it is decidedly visually brilliant. It abounds in colour, fun and dynamism that kept me curious and on my toes. A sumptuously gaudy set with screens, monitors and teleprompters of a dated TV studio that provided additional layers of perspective to play with. The show has a careful veneer that conceals a heavy hitting commentary which, as it gradually lifts away, made me readjust my approach. The action is frantic and the images pay it full justice.
But therein is the double edge. The play undergoes such a transformation and such unexpected action emerges, that to even hint at the violence and the darkness contained would ruin the reveal for the audiences over the run. Having seen the very first performance of the show, I wouldn’t trade any knowledge of the plot for the shocks in store. So I have sat on these beautiful photos for the last 3 weeks! When you produce something you love, its hard not to shout about it.
The first production of the year from the Traverse Theatre will be opening this week as a work in progress.
Me and the Traverse worked together on the poster before Christmas to tease Andy Greig’s visually rich and euphonic poetry into a working image. I always work off a script for visuals, but this time I had to measure my reading. Written as a poem, the prose crashes like waves, heavy and atmospheric of Orkney. Each line was so nuanced and connotative I kept finding myself re-reading passages just for pleasure.
We took the shoot to my own local The King’s Wark, in Edinburgh’s traditional Shore, for a genuine seafarer’s vintage. No strangers to Leith, Tam and Lewis knew the venue and charmed coffee out of the staff for us to warm up with.
Since the temperature hasn’t changed a great deal since December, I am looking forward to cosying up to the show and seeing how it has developed from two glasses of whisky and some old maps.
Back last month it was very much business as unusual. Bouncing over Edinburgh cobbles in rush hour, our headlights on a freezing dusk, I found myself very unexpectedly riding shotgun in a hearse. A situation made all the stranger by the company of Frightened Rabbit, riding coffin in the back. The Skinny managed to pluck them from a very intense media day of interviews and photocalls in a local bar, so we could bundle them in the back of Ed’s hearse and chauffeur them around to a soundtrack of heavy metal.
We did have a slightly larger agenda though. For their forthcoming release of Pedestrian Verse, we wanted to accompany Darren’s feature with images of death. Not the graveyard and lightening bolts type, but death that mirrored the solemn and mature journey of the band’s transformation to now – a glowing portrait of expressive and rooted Scottish songwriting on a world stage.
Forboding and dark, especially for January, our shoot was actually very light-hearted by the absurdity of it all. Thanks to the band for laughing off the cold, Ed for the civility of an undertaker and big thanks to Matt for helping out so last minute.
On the s i t t e r s calendar this week is the SCE final year exhibition in the Out of the Blue Drill Hall on Dalmeny St starting on Tuesday night. If you haven’t gotten wind of the glorious spectacle to be, you need to get yourself down to Leith walk for a visual feast! It is only the cream of Scottish Student photography and the gourmet capital of aesthetic cuisine for the next week in Edinburgh. The team has designed and built a website as well as a blog that you can go right ahead and get a preview of whats on show. If none of that is enough, I have been in the workshop, and Arthur the toilet..has been PIMPED (and cleaned)! He’ll be on public display for as long as i can get him so come one, come all and take a seat!
Two images from s i t t e r s will be exhibited along with the recently printed, and delightfully exciting, hardback coffee table book. It is a luscious square format banquet of high quality prints of the project. It will be on hand for some light toilet reading material. Enough said!