By: Pro Photographer Drew Gurian. Featuring The New Basement Tapes, Brian Fallon and Kendrick Lamar
I find most of my best work occurs when things aren’t planned. When and where there’s the unexpected, is usually where I find success. A lot of my work revolves around my level of trust with the artist. The commonality between these three photos is that they were all spontaneous and done very quickly. I push myself on every shoot I go on. I look at every shoot as the most important one of my life. Why waste your time otherwise?
These three photos are my recent favorites. Here are the stories behind them:
The New Basement Tapes
T Bone Burnett had been given a box of lyrics from Bob Dylan. Lyrics that had been written, but never made their way into a song. Burnett was tasked by Dylan to write songs for these unreleased lyrics so he put together this group of Jim James, Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith and Rhiannon Giddens.
I was asked to come in and shoot a portrait for the album release. I had a substantial setup ready to go inside the rehearsal space in New York City. It took hours to set up. The shot that ended up being far and away the most successful of them all was completely unplanned. After shooting inside with them on the set I built, I noticed some cool light outside and asked if we can run out for two minutes. This photo was literally a test frame. I barely had the camera to my eye. I saw Marcus standing up against the wall. Elvis just walked into the frame and I knew I had to shoot it. It’s just one of those found moments where some of the best stuff lies.
This was the first time I ever photographed Brian Fallon. He’s very outgoing and super witty onstage, but also needs his space offstage. I was shooting for Red Bull and he was doing this show as a special guest with The Bouncing Souls in Williamsburg, playing an acoustic set. I usually shoot candid’s of the acts, backstage and during sound check for these types of shoots. I was told I could do that on this particular night, but needed to check with Brian first. As a photographer to be invited into the Green Room, there’s a certain level of trust that you need to have.
This shot is backstage with Brian. We started talking about New Jersey and discovered we had a few mutual friends. I then asked Brian if it would be OK if I snapped a few candid shots of him in the Green Room. He said, if I come in quick and I’m in and out, it would be cool. That’s exactly what I did. To the left of the frame was a couch where three of his friends were sitting. They were having a conversation. Brian was listening, but in this moment, just gazed off. I don’t think I could have produced this any better. It was not posed at all. It was just such a great quiet moment. This one frame really built the relationship that he and I have. It’s what forged our friendship. Photography breaks down barriers and allows me into people’s lives. This is a testament to that.
This was a situation that almost did not happen. I had a spot picked out and knew where I wanted to photograph Kendrick. I was asked to come into a hotel room set to shoot portraits on a press day. I was supposed to take shots of him with his friends and him talking to the media, just basically capturing the day’s events. I prepared to have my own frame just in case.
This day was well below freezing and we are on a rooftop of the Dream Hotel in Chelsea. As the day was winding down, I mentioned to Kendrick that I would love to do this specific photo of him. I noticed the terrace outside the hotel room had this classic New York perspective. He couldn’t have been nicer and said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” We were probably out there for two or three minutes tops. The big lesson here was to always be prepared and push the envelope. Try to make something happen that wouldn’t normally occur. This shot was right on the verge of failure. Right on the verge of not happening. But it did and it was successful. You hang on by a string and they somehow work out. Those are the ones I feel the closest too.
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