Archive: Feb 2011
If you were alive in the nineties then it would have been quite difficult to avoid the work of this man. Although his mother had him pegged as Andre Romelle Young, to the rest of us he was but one thing – The Motherfucking D-R-E.
Shot this in his studio somewhere in the 818 of Los Angeles. Can’t really remember anything else, other than how big he was. His shirt could have been torn apart and used to make hammocks for a legion of mermaids.
Go forth. Preach.
Here it is, my first Magcloud effort. This 46 page magazine is something I put together after finding the pictures in a box last year, having long forgotten about their existence. They were taken in late 2001 on a roadtrip across America with my then girlfriend. Looking at them with 10 years behind me, I immediately realised that compiled in the right way they might serve as an elegy for something that might have been and never quite was. That 10 year distance had marinated them into something that I would never have recognised at the time.
I’m proud of it and I hope it’s received with the warmth and tenderness with which it’s intended.
Hit the red button above to purchase a copy.
I’ve been a photographer for nearly 20 years. I’ve forgotten more pictures than I’ve remembered. Sometimes you forget a really good one. This I stumbled on today while I was rummaging around in the corner of an old hard drive. Wong Kar-wai is a film maker. Sometimes a truly great one. This is a great picture of him. It crystalises lots of what he is about in one pose. Look at him, the way he stands, the way he’s dressed, the way he holds his cigarette. It was taken on a beach in Cannes in 2008. I think that in Wong’s mind he’s Cary Grant, it’s 1956 and I am Grace Kelly.
I’ll be honest. I’m not big on Harry Potter. Or all that stuff full of people from New Zeland. Nor am I all that keen on Heavy Metal. When I was at school I loved Madness. Everybody else was obsessed with Iron Maiden. It’s no surprise to tell you then, that when I got a call from the Wall Street Journal to photograph Ben Hibon I had to back peddle quite some way to learn about him and what he does.
“When I was (more) geeky I was much more familiar with animation/digital creative, his stuff for Playstation for example. But honestly, the Deathly Hallows shadow puppet sequence is probably the most beautiful piece of animation I’ve ever seen. I went to the cinema three times for it and it’s 5 minutes of the whole bloody movie. It’s a shame you can’t see it before Wednesday. It makes sense as a standalone from Harry Potter……the perfect reminder to me of how beautifully dark story telling can be.”
So, in case you didn’t get that, the director of Harry Potter gave him carte blanche to create a 5 minute animated sequence that explains the backstory of the legend of the three brothers in HP & the Legend of the Deathly Hallows. Poppy’s email led me to spend a bit more time researching his work. I put a call in to my friend Gez who knows about stuff like this. Gez spends all day with his dog in the park and just, sort of, knowing about stuff like this.
“Oh totally. He made a video for Slayer. Greatest thing ever”
I said to Gez, as a joke: “He’s like a kind of Picasso of the digital age”
And Gez said: “Totally, dude.”
Hmmm….Picasso Picasso Picasso Picasso. Animation animation animation.
Which is how the pictures here came about.
In the back of my head was a memory of some incredible photographs of Picasso from Life Magazine taken in the late 1940′s by a photographer called Gjon Mili. Mili had shown Picasso some pictures he’d taken of ice skaters with tiny lights attached to their skates jumping in the dark. This set Pablo off and together, him and Mili, made some beautiful images of Picasso drawing with a torch in the dark.
I emailed Ben before we met to see if he’d be interested in doing an homage to Mili’s pictures and he said he would be, as long as it wasn’t going to take hours. No, no, no, no….we’ll be able to knock this off in 90 minutes.
After one false start, Ben calling to bale on me the day before our original appointment, Gez and I pitched up at his flat in Blackheath, south east London on Friday 21st January. It was a small and packed, but tidy, affair in a 1930′s council style block. Weird to think that someone who can create the worlds that he has created inside a computer lives in a suburban British high street above a dry cleaners and a florist.
Gez was, again, my secret weapon here. Knowing that he keeps his fingers in the Metal pie enabled me to deploy him to gas on endlessly to Ben about Slayer and the awesomeness they both felt after the appearance together of something called “The Big Four” at the Sonisphere Festival last summer. Always learning, always curious is the motto I try to live by and in this case what I learned was that ‘The Big Four’, in Metal terms, are Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax & Megadeath. I still love Madness.
This chat distracted Ben for long enough to allow me to roll out reams and reams of cinefoil, a kind of thicker, black version of kitchen foil, which I used to completely black out his living room. I put up one single flash unit on a boom arm above his head and had an LED bicycle light to act as our light pen but, after a couple of test frames, it turned out to have too big a circumference so we covered that with cinefoil too, before making a hole the size of a 5p coin in it. About the only thing in the room not covered in cinefoil was Ben himself. Gez’s white t-shirt was causing light to reflect and bounce around so I had to make him put his coat on.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not big on technical bleurgh. Technique is something that should be learned and quickly forgotten, so as to allow one to be fully creative and engaged with the subject, rather than hunched over an instruction manual. Thorough technique is freedom but bad technique is a prison. However, so many people have asked me how I did this and it’s so simple to do that I felt I should put it on here for anyone who’s interested. This is the photographic equivalent of one of Jamie Oliver’s 3o minute meals. Invite your friends round and you will blow them away with this simple yet totally tasty nosh. Sweet as.
So this is how we did it. The room is totally blacked out now. The only light in it is from the bicycle light, which Ben is pointing towards the camera and not illuminating him in any way.
The shutter is set on the camera to open for 16 seconds. The entire time it’s open it will record every move the bike light makes but because there is no light on Ben we will never see him at all. To capture him in the picture frozen, in mid action, not blurry, is what the flash unit above his head is for. That light fires for 1/1000 second which freezes him. It also has cinefoil around the outside, to stop the light from it leaking all over the place and lighting the room up. I just want the light from that to only illuminate Ben’s face and body.
The first few times we did it, I was firing the flash at the start of the 16 seconds but quickly realised that we were capturing him before he had begun to draw, so we changed it to have me open the shutter without firing the flash and watch him in the dark before firing remotely at some point in the middle of the exposure while he was in full flow with his drawing. This made the picture more dynamic and gave it an injection of energy, as did his choice of subject matter, the head of the Death character from his Harry Potter piece.
To see Ben’s work click here.