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.
This weekend ushers in the end of The Arches Behavior Festival for 2013. A heady five weeks of completely new work for the stage from Scottish and international artists. Eclectic and contemporary as only the Arches can, even the term “stage” is only applied loosely. This year saw a new creative partnership come to fruition between the Arches and NTS, which I am very indebted to have been involved in from early on.
The project gave five rising Scottish devisers an opportunity to research, incubate and perform new work at the festival. Each with their own developing trademarks and disciplines, some of them out and out rogues, but all of them auteurs of their craft. Having had the chance to meet them together for the school portrait lineup for a feature in The List, I was brimming to shoot all of their performances individually over the course of the month.
First was Gary McNair’s brilliantly referential investigation into stand-up comedy: Donald Robertson is not a Comedian.
Kieran Hurley explored notions of community and ideals of Scottishness in, effectively, a living room jamboree. Intimate and foot tapping: Rantin
Claire Cunningham’s ongoing curiosity in the body brought her to and back from Cambodia to begin a work meditating on the effects of landmines. A framework of disability through which the indiscriminate excess of war can be viewed from a humble perspective: Pink Mist
Finally, Rob Drummond’s centenary revisiting of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, through a screen of contemporary dance and music as well as recent societal dysfunctions. Leaving the outcome in the hands of the audience: The Riots of Spring
There have been heaps of great writing documenting the Festival, but for a succinct in house perspective check out Rosie’s blog.
Continuing our winter round-up, here is a selection of some live music i have been shooting between here and Glasgow for the Skinny the last few months.
|Gruff Rhys @ The Bongo Club|
|Muscles of Joy @ Orán Mór|
|Gillian Welsh @ Clyde Auditorium|
|The Dirty Dozen with Clean George IV and Riley from Aberfeldy|