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Steven Severin [Apr. 22nd, 2013|07:40 am]
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A few months ago I gave a giant lecture at Franklin & Marshall College on photography and storytelling and what makes us human and all the little interconnected bits that go with that, and it was marvelous fun. And recently they called me back to see if I'd be interested in doing a short, fast, little project on Rock Star Photography -- since I seem to do a lot of that, it would just be a few students and the goal would be to photograph a musician in the manner in which I've become accustomed -- which is to say, in five minutes or less. I thought it was a great idea and happily agreed. Especially when I found out that the Rock Star would be Steven Severin, who many of you probably know as the bass player & one of the principle songwriters of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and whom others of you may know as one half of The Glove with ex-Banshee and current Cure frontman Robert Smith, but who also has an incredible career doing beautiful soundtracks for forgotten silent films.

We'll go backwards. Here's how it all ended up.


Steven Severin, Musician.


You may clickenzee to embiggen.



Rule #1 of Kyle Cassidy's Guide to Rock Star Photography is "Never go in without a plan." Your plan is Plan B -- it's the backup plan, it's your goto if nothing awesome pops up when you get there. Because you only have five minutes to do your thing, you need to be In Charge. Stephanie, Erika, Rebecca, and I worked out something kind of dramatic which was a close, tight light on the face from high above (on the left) but what do you do with that? It's just a floating head. We decided to throw some dramatic light onto the background as well (right) that adds a little more depth and dimension to the portrait. We practiced all this an hour before we were to meet Steven until we were pretty confident about all the camera settings and light placements. This is something I do all the time so that I'm not the guy wandering around the room going "Let me think for a moment," while people tap their toes, look at their watches, and, inevitably, wander off to do something more interesting.




Our initial test setup.
You may clickenzee to embiggen.



When we got to the location, I sent Steph and Becca and Erika out to find "something" (that was the extent of my suggestion) -- an object we could shoot light through and that would create shadows, and I scoped out spaces. There was a big hallway with a blank wooden wall which looks like every ordinary, less than interesting hallway on Earth, but had plenty of room to move about in. This was the place. Our job then became to make it look like a fancy studio.

Becca, Erika and Steph returned with a milk crate, which was perfect. We set up one light with a grid, from high above (left) and the second light we put under the milk crate and aimed at the wall. This gives us all those angular shadows in the final image. We practiced for about 60 seconds to make sure all our settings were right & then we scoped out some other options to see if we could find anything more interesting. There was a window and we thought perhaps we could have Steven looking out through the window with some dramatic light from underneath, so we tried it with ourselves as models and couldn't make it look better than our initial plan.

Steven arrived soon enough and we set to work.




Behind the scenes photos by Kostis.
You may clickenzee to embiggen.



Steven was awesome. Very kind. He's been doing a live soundtrack for Carl Dreyer's 1932 horror film The Vampyr which you can listen to here. It turned out we have friends in common (of course). We talked about how electronics are shrinking the sizes of the kits that we both have to carry around -- he's making music now on a box the size of a briefcase and I'm endeavoring to fit my entire setup, lights, cameras & action, into a smaller and smaller backpack. We noted that if you could tour, musically or photographically, with equipment you can carry by yourself things get so much easier. A lovely time was had by all.

That's kind of what you get taking a class with me.

If you're someone who has done this sort of thing with me, let us know your experience in the comments. What did you learn? What did you do with what you learned later? How's it impacted your work? What kind of things do you want to do next?

Thanks to Stephanie Lifshutz, Erika Herrera, Rebecca Frantz & Kostis Kourelis.




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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ms_violet
2013-04-22 06:17 pm (UTC)

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Based on the one workshop I took with you, I really like watching how you improvise, gather data from existing resources (for example, I think using a milk crate is a lovely idea), try things, and don't get hung up on whether they work or not- if they work, great! if they don't, you move on.

For what it's worth, I wrote a voice activated light reflector stand into the current WIP, based on the time you had me be the volunteer from the audience to do that.
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-04-22 06:19 pm (UTC)

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thats awesome!
[User Picture]From: kambriel
2013-04-22 06:46 pm (UTC)

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I love Steve. I used to specifically mention him as a reference/ideal when I'd take out ads for musicians way back in the day. His music has such depth & he's always struck me as an incredibly genuine, intelligent, clever soul. It's wonderful that this opportunity for you to do a portrait of him came along.
[User Picture]From: girfan
2013-04-22 10:11 pm (UTC)

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Lovely photo of him!
[User Picture]From: solstice_lilac
2013-04-23 04:17 am (UTC)

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Great to hear about your class and to catch up with what Steven Severin has been doing too. Thank you for all you do, Kyle!!
[User Picture]From: tniassaint
2013-04-23 01:54 pm (UTC)

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great read! FANTASTIC subject!I am a big fan of ultra-portable light sets - (Love the milk crate idea - I use all sort of improvised light adjusters).

I also note that the 5 minute shoot takes an hour to get together - Something that has always annoyed the hell out of me. I get impatient. I also don't usually have assistants - another thing I should get over.

Very impressive job and story.

You do get to meet some of the best folk.
[User Picture]From: damiana_swan
2013-04-24 05:37 am (UTC)

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Wow. Gorgeous, gorgeous photo, and I really love reading about how you prepared for it.

And how did that workshop, back about 5 years ago, impact me?

Well, I find myself almost constantly seeing things (especially people) as potential photos, and I have a tendency to drag people over into pretty pools of light and say "look over here" and get wonderfully dramatic photos out of it.

And I have a book cover, with several more on the way (which use my photos and which I'm actually designing myself!), and an article that is illustrated with my photos which is coming out Any Day Now, and illustrations in several game books (also coming out Real Soon Now, I Promise), plus a planned book on fire-spinning. And I have people asking if they can pay me to take photos of them.

Probably most dramatic of all, at least for me--I had to admit to myself that I'm an artist, for real. And I'm actually pretty good at it... for which you, sir, bear at least some of the blame! :-)