Josh Rouse is one of the most criminally under-rated songwriters around. His 1998 debut album Dressed Up Like Nebraska is filled with a beautiful sense of loss and longing, while 2003’s 1972 is a time capsule pastiche, taking the listener back to the year of his birth, alive with the sounds of Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Carole King.
I first met Josh Rouse on a trip to Nashville in 2000 to interview Lambchop‘s Kurt Wagner for the Independent on Sunday; years later, I met him again around the time of his album Nashville, a love letter to his adopted home city shortly before he moved to Spain.
Having already begun my soundcheck photography project, I then shot Josh and band several times over the next few years whenever he was in London – and ended up doing the publicity shots for his next album, 2006’s Subtitulo. The shot you see here is my favourite from the session.
There are photographers who can do amazing things with a complicated rig of flashes and fill-in lights; I’m not one of them. My approach to shooting portraits is to use available light – either from a window or lights. The set up when I shot these pictures at a London studio was pretty simple. One lamp, and a Kiev 60 medium format camera loaded with Fuji Reala print film. The Reala has really picked out the warm tungsten tones, and that red light looks more like its coming from a fire than an electric light.
The Kiev 60 is a beast of a camera; based on the old East German Pentacon Six via the interim Kiev 6c it’s built like an SLR camera on steroids, weighing a good couple of kilogrammes with its bulky TTL prism attached. The Kiev 60 might not have had the quality control of its Japanese, Swedish or German rivals, but its array of lenses included some of the best to come out of the USSR. Several companies rebuilt Kiev 60s to iron out some of its more niggling qualities, including Arax, which is still selling factory-fresh bodies and lenses from the old Kiev factory in the Ukraine, nearly 50 years after Kiev started making the 6C.
The prolific Mr Rouse, meanwhile, is still making records; he’s recently been in Nashville putting down tracks for his latest. I’m looking forward to hearing it –and snapping him again – soon.