kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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louYou Got Me Singing - The Album Cover Photo: Behind the Scenes

So ... a few months ago Amanda Palmer texted me & asked if I could do the album cover for a new album of covers she was doing with her dad, Jack. She wanted it (for complex reasons) to look like this Bob Dylan album cover:

And, (for complex reasons) we had access to the actual set from that photo shoot. Including a lot of the props. I spent a lot of time in the days before studying the original photo and trying to deconstruct how it was done. But when we got there, Neil had done a lot of research already about the type of camera and the light effects and had compiled stories from many of the people who were there on the set. It really was remarkable. I had initially thought that the blurry circle was added as a second exposure, something that Neil agreed with but in an interview the photographer denied. After spending a lot of time with it, I think it actually was a single, long exposure with the camera rotated during it. Camera starts at 10:00, shutter opens, camera rotation begins, when camera gets to 10:30 flash is fired, camera keeps rotating until it's at the 11:00 position and the shutter closes. Most of my evidence from this is from the lit candle in the upper left and the lamp shade right under it.

In any event. I did mine in two exposures because it was easier that way.

You Got Me Singing album cover. Bob Dylan was once right in this spot.
You may clickenzee to EmPalmerize

It's a bit maddening how difficult it is to get all the right angles and placement when you have the original right there in front of you. trillian_stars doubted my placement of the chaise lounge and in retrospect she was correct.

I lit it with one light behind an umbrella off to the side.

It took about 30 minutes of shooting to redo the cover photo and after that we did some publicity shots and played with the baby. (Trillian played with the baby, I just waved at him mostly. He smiled. Ash is a happy baby.) (Here's one of the publicity shots in a video for one of the songs.)

Outtake from publicity photos. I think this one got nixed for being "too arty".
But you may Clickenzee to EmArten.

Amanda, Trillian, Jack and Me. Jack is actually a stupendously charming guy. He's one of those people you meet and you're like instant friend. I hadn't met him before, though over the past 15 years or whatnot I've met Amanda's sister and her mother. Amanda spent about 40 minutes explaining her family tree, which is convoluted and I'm still not sure how anyone is related to one another, but Jack is a great guy and during some of the publicity photo shoots he sang and played guitar and I got goosebumps. So, there's that.

Setting up the scene you can see my high tech lighting system here -- on small shoot thru umbrella with a voice activated light stand. It was pretty simple. I used a 28mm lens and a Leica M9, triggered with Pocket Wizards. I'm trying to do everything with the Leica now because it's just so much smaller than the Nikon and I find myself thinking "what on earth am I going to do with a 36 megapixel file?" You can see that pile of things on the chez that Amanda picked out as being important. They range from magazines to influential records to a dalek. (Is dalek capitalized? You would't capitalize "lion" but you would "Parisian"... Ellen Datlow would know.) The 28mm was just barely wide enough to get the shot that I needed, and I ran out of room, I had to press the camera on the back wall -- I couldn't look through the viewfinder or put it on a tripod. I was actually facing the wall, holding the camera up against it, trying not to get my shoulder in the shot (it was in a bunch of them) while Neil helped to make Ash smile -- not that he's not always smiling. So we banged away at it for a while and it was done and we opened a bottle of wine. Like you do.

If you know me at all, you know that my favorite band ever was the 80's Goth Rock juggernaut The Fields of the Nephilim -- a few months before their guitar player, Peter Yates had posted a blog about how their record company had screwed them out of their profits. I sent it to Amanda, she reposted it because she knows that Sh!t is Real and Amanda & Peter met because of it and ... hopefully they're working on a collaboration now -- this might be my greatest contribution to the history of humanity. Here are Amanda & I talking about musicians, record companies, and how you stay relevant (along with a copy of Elizium, which is my favorite FOTN album. (You can buy a copy of it here.))

I discovered the Fields of the Nephilim while working in a bookstore and flipping through a book called "1000 record reviews". And the author gave the FOTN album an F- with the review "This album is only good in a black world where David Bowie is God." And I made a puzzled face thinking well ... he is, isn't he? & bought the album & never looked back. Finding good music isn't just looking for music that the right people like, it's also sometimes finding music that the wrong people hate.

Before we left Neil helped me out with a Top Sekrit Projekt, here at this restaurant. I'm continually amazed at what a nice person he is. Even with walls of deadlines, he'll lend his voice and his talent and his sphere of influence when he really doesn't need to but he does it because he's a genuinely kind person. If I'm ever about to post something snarky on the Internet I try and take step back, breathe for a second and ask myself "Would Neil Gaiman post this?" -- most of the time the answer is "no" and I delete whatever stinging criticism I had penned.

The Top Sekrit Projket thing becomes un-top-sekrit in January or February, something like that. I'll let you know when the world is supposed to know.

Trillian Stars returning from breakfast with a wandering writer who
was always lurking about the place committing acts of kindness.
You may clickenzee to Emawesome.

So we finished the album cover, we finished the publicity shots, we finished the Top Sekrit Projekt, I met the baby that I'd known as a bump, created from two people I'd watched meet and fall in love and get married, I met the singer without whom none of this would happen, I saw gigantic wild turkeys walking around like lazy squirrels, I went for a run along roads that Bob Dylan had driven his motorcycle, I deconstructed a photograph, learned about history ... I took a long ride on a train with Trillian Stars, I slept in a tiny room made by elves from a hollowed out tree, I ran in the forest, I searched for Drow ... I tried out a steam shower which is a truly terrifying thing, it's like a shower, but you're also blind at the same time.

And on the train on the way home I got what might be the most surreal, weird & wonderful text message of my life.

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