The stories behind killers shots of Lauren Ruth Ward, Hal Blaine & Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, with photographer Michelle Shiers
Photographer: Michelle Shiers
From: Los Angeles, CA
Where you can find me:
The shots and the stories:
I absolutely love spending time with musicians in recording studios, trying as much to be a fly on the wall as possible. One of the most incredible studio photography experiences I had was taking a handful of photos of Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. While Hal Blaine isn’t exactly a household name among the general public he is a legend in the music scene. He played on many of the Beach Boys’ tracks as well as for Nancy Sinatra, Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel. You name it. At the time, Hal was being interviewed at United Recording Studios in Hollywood and during the session, we also organized a surprise meeting with Hal and Brian Wilson, who was in the next room. They hadn’t seen one another in decades. Getting to spend time with and watch such an influential drummer was humbling to say the least. It gave me a little piece of history that most people don’t know about, and the opportunity to photograph a living legend who may not be drumming for much longer.
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB:
One of the most rewarding things about being a music photographer is getting the opportunities to photograph the band’s you love. When I was 16 sitting in my bedroom nodding along to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, I never expected that one day I’d be able to photograph them professionally. Hell, at the time I never thought I’d be a photographer. The first time I ever got to shoot Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it was at the Observatory in Santa Ana, CA. I was so nervous about being able to capture them in the right way and once their lighting kicked in, or lack thereof, I was in a tough spot. So much for my job is finding ways to compensate for the ways lighting can let a band down. Sometimes what looks cool to the eye, or maybe looks good from the soundboard, doesn’t exactly translate well to the camera. We get strobes in our eyes, extreme contrast-less solid color washes and smoke to contend with. That’s what makes a photograph like this so special. I love this picture of Robert Been because not only is he holding his bass up like a rifle, something I’ve always loved watching him do, but it is very simple. One faceless guy. One spotlight. Classic. Even with all my struggles catching light or capturing fast motion, I love getting something dark and moody and this remains one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.
LAUREN RUTH WARD:
As a music photographer you see a lot of bands. A lot. Over time, they all start to blend together and while many of the artists you see have talent and charisma, I think we eventually get a bit spoiled with talent and charisma. It takes something really unique and otherworldly to shake us out of the monotony of shooting on autopilot. The first time I went to see Lauren Ruth Ward perform I was stunned. The high of finding a new artist whose music and live show you want to sink your teeth into is what we all strive for as music enthusiasts. I have photographed Lauren several times over the last couple years and each time I get more out of it as she is a photographer’s dream. I feel the surge of emotion from the crowd… each time with more new hangers-on. Her energy, attitude, style, and her showmanship are all palpable. I often leave her shows feeling like I’ve been personally sling-shotted by her growing trajectory — by watching her make this voice for herself. But better than all of that is the plain fact that Lauren respects and likes photographers. She sings to us. She kneels down in front of us, belting out her biting lyrics, allowing us to capture a forceful but intimate moments of rabid closeness like this one.
* All photos were taken with a Canon 5D Mark iii ,Canon 50mm 1.2
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Produced by/in collaboration with: Jeff Gorra