Photoshoots are fun. Sort of. Dressing up in your finest, going out to a good location and then posing like a bit of twat is not exactly hard work, although like anything else that you’re not getting paid for it’s a bugger to get everybody together at the same time, and obviously this gets exponentially worse depending on how many people are in your band…
Likewise, the more people in the band, the harder it is to get a decent shot with everyone looking acceptably acceptable. And as you’ve decided to get a boyfriend/girlfriend/mate to take the photos instead of an actual professional photographer (this is absolutely what has happened, there is no way you’ve paid for an actual professional), the chances of getting a really good shot are reduced further by virtue of the fact that they don’t know what they’re doing and their equipment is sub-standard.
Even if they have decent equipment they probably don’t know how to work it properly. This is mitigated a little with digital technology, as you can now easily manipulate a pretty average photo into something just about usable. It’s only when you compare your work to the stuff done by the real professionals that you realise the quantum leap in quality betwixt the two.
Personally I’d always try and find a rather private secluded setting. I’ve done a couple of shoots in some very public spots, and there are few things as likely to adversely affect the shot than a bunch of curious strangers watching on and shouting abuse and/or “hilarious” “witticisms”.
A common theme for the band photoshoot, and generally suitably secluded, is the backdrop of industrial decay. I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s the large number of such sites, easily found in any town or city. Perhaps it’s because these places are the antithesis of glamour, an appealing notion for bands that wish to distance themselves from anything glamorous, or for bands that wish to offset their own shiny colourfulness against something that is quite the opposite.
Either way, it’s a popular trope. One of my bands was based in a town with a long-abandoned soft drinks factory. The place was huge, fairly accessible and looked great. I can’t speak for the female of the species, but I can say that pretty much every young male’s spirit of adventure is awoken with the possibility of exploring these sort of places – who knows what cool stuff you’ll find, what cool stuff you’ll get to destroy? Dead bodies, suitcases full of unmarked bills, large stashes of long-abandoned drugs… the possibilities are exciting, albeit distant. But at the very least you can get some decent photos.
So off we went, three young men dressed for a photoshoot (which is categorically not the same as being dressed for exploring an industrial wasteland) along with my girlfriend and her camera. There was a large metal gate to climb over, topped off with barbed wire, but once that obstacle was traversed we were in. The site must have been at least ten acres in size, so there was plenty of ground to cover. We wandered around looking for the best spot for some photos, but in the end we just kept taking photos all the way around, as pretty much every spot was a good one. Many other people had been here in the preceding years, and I don’t think there was a single wall left untouched by graffiti, a single windowpane left unbroken or indeed anything that hadn’t been either partly or completely trashed. Perfect really.
After a while we noticed that a handful of kids had been watching us. We ignored them initially, but they grew keener for attention as the afternoon wore on, and we politely told them to fuck off. When this didn’t work, we tried telling them to fuck off in a slightly less polite manner. Now, these kids were all of about ten years old. And we were all in our early twenties. And we knew, from being ten years old at some point ourselves in the not too distant past, that when a bunch of grown men tell you to fuck off, fuck off is exactly what you do. And indeed they did. Or so we thought.
We got on with some more photos. However, what the kids had actually done was go and get a bunch more mates. As we stood outside taking the last of the pictures, the kids reappeared around the corner. Except that instead of it being three or four ten-year olds, it was now about twenty kids, many in their teens, and all of them carrying bricks, metal poles or lumps of timber.
Which put us in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand this is a bunch of kids and you’re a bunch of adults. On the other, they’re all armed and marching towards you. Even if you stand your ground, you’re going to get physically hurt, and on balance this was a worse option than getting your pride hurt. I mean pride is all well and good, but it doesn’t bleed. And in small town England, kids like this are generally little bastards that won’t hesitate to cause serious injury and that will bloody well love the opportunity to tell their mates that they beat up a bunch of adults, especially a bunch of poseurs like us.
Deciding very quickly that we had more than enough photos now thank you very much, we headed back to the gate. Slowly at first, but as they smelt the fear they got more confident and started yelling that we were going to be killed. And as we neared the gate, they realised that we were in danger of getting away, so they charged. There was no wait-until-you-see-the-whites-of-their-eyes-lads-stand-your-ground moment from us. Cowardice was overwhelmingly the sensible option, so we legged it to the gate, tore our clothes to pieces as we clambered over the barbed wire, leapt into the car and raced off. The gate was our saviour in the end, as half these kids were too small to get over it any time soon, and it was very much an all-or-nothing style attack. We escaped with our lives, which was all that mattered, but our egos were decidedly battered, and we agreed to never speak of the incident again. Oops, sorry chaps. Got some good photos though.