Photographs :: Art Directors Series

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In the summer of 1980 I decided that it was time for me to start shooting Album Covers.  I had been shooting advertising for CBS Records for awhile, thanks to the great designer, Hillary Vermont but it was time to step up to covers.

The traditional approaches - put a portfolio together and then schlep it around to the various Art Directors who work on covers. Mostly you just dropped off the portfolio and if lucky they would look at it. Not much personal interaction here. Let’s be honest there are so many great photographers and most of us can do a good job on any given assignment so is this approach the best? Will it really set you so far apart that the phone will begin to ring?

So the first phone calls were to Art Direction Magazine and Communication Arts Magazine about their interest in publishing a story on The Most Important Art Directors in The Music Industry Today, they were interested. Next step call the major players at all the record companies and design firms; Hi this  DMK I am doing an editorial spread on The MOST IMPORTANT Art Directors in The Music Industry Today and I would like to include you in the article (I’ve always been good at putting worms on my hook).

Over the next month I had every major Art Director/Designer of Album Covers in NYC heading down to my studio to have their portrait made. Talk about personal interaction. They got to work with me, see my studio, experience my crew and the easy way we worked together. My studio was funky, west coast, lots of redwood, earthy stuff and laid-back vibes. The elevator opened directly into my loft, then you went down a long hallway that served as a gallery with my framed portraits on the walls. The hallway opened into a large room that served as a dinning room and hang out area. A large black table with super comfortable leather chairs centered the room and on that table was their favorite things to eat, drink, whatever (we did our homework before each shoot). So before you got to the studio business end of this experience you felt at home with your favorite things.

After munchies and a bit of talk we got down to shooting their portrait. Didn’t shoot more than about 4 rolls of 120 film (square of course) on each session and everyone had a lot of fun with it. The whole idea when doing portraits is to make it quick, easy and fun. Most of them stayed, after we finished shooting, and hung out before heading back to the craziness of NYC.

A few days latter they received a signed 7x7 inch Toned Silver Gelatin Print matted in an 11x14 mat via messenger. I think I nailed them all and within a few weeks I was shooting album covers. The covers became the main work me until I left NYC in 1986.

What did this accomplish?

They got to see my space and work with my crew and me. The studio was homey but at the time professional in everyway.

They were able to experience what it was like to do a shoot with me from the subjects point of view:  I made it fun and made you feel welcome, important and at home.  One of my favorite things to tell them before we started shooting was that the most important thing here is that we have fun.  If we make great photographs but have a lousy time we can never get that time back but if we have fun and make lousy photographs we can always reshoot.  So lets have some fun. 

I cared about the folks I was photographing and saw to their every need. 

I did great work.

Ps: The article never got published and it became a running joke with all the Art Directors I became friends with and worked with for those last six years. My heartfelt thanks to all of them for trusting me and allowing me to be a part of their Vision and the Creative Process. It was truly the highlight of my time in NYC.