There’s a small but important footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history for the classic band press shot; sent out with the first taster of a band’s music to journalists, radio pluggers and other tastemakers.
I’ve spent more than 20 years in and out of music journalism; the dream of working at the NME is what brought me from New Zealand to London in the mid-90s. So I’ve spent a lot of time digging through envelopes (and later emails) for pics of the bands being covered. Often it’s just a variation on the theme of the last gang in town; four or five stoic figures arranged in gritty or grimy surroundings.
Since becoming such a photography enthusiast I’ve had a few opportunities to shoot press photographs for bands; one of my favourite sessions was with London-based singer-songwriter Joker’s Daughter.
Joker’s Daughter (real name, Helena Costas) is signed to the record label run by Danger Mouse, the producer behind responsible for Gnarls Barkely who’s also created the band Broken Bells and produced records for Norah Jones, The Black Keys and Beck. An old friend of mine who works for Danger Mouse’s management let me know they needed press photographs for her forthcoming record back in 2008.
Helena’s music is ethereal and intriguing; there have been plenty of reviews describing her as a more folky Bjork. She wanted pictures that suggested the mood; so for a location we headed to London’s Richmond Park. It’s the second-biggest park in London; 3.69 square miles or 2,360 acres, and home to hundreds of deer. This being the tail end of summer, the evenings were still long and there was more than enough light for several hours shooting, though the best of the shoot came later as the sun started dipping towards the horizon, picking Helena out in rich reddish light. No flash, not even a reflector. This was as simple as portrait sessions get.
I shot these pics on a pair of Ukrainian Kiev 60s; big, heavy 6×6 medium format cameras that use the same lens mount as the old East German Pentacon 6. Though the quality control at the old Arsenal factory in Kiev often left something to be desired, a Kiev 60 that’s been properly aligned and adjusted is a camera capable of fantastic results at a fraction of the cost of buying high-end medium format cameras such as the Rolleiflex or the Hasselblad. I’ve not used them for a few years – as the summer turns into autumn I’ve promised myself some more portrait sessions; time to dust off the Kievs.
For more Joker’s Daughter pics, see below or check out my Flickr set.
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