To correct myself: Not every editorial of mine gets the name of a song or of some lyrics. But many of them do and I’ll explain to you, why. But first let me tell you about the editorials that I give independent names to.
Sometimes while I shoot, I already have a certain feeling coming up, that a special word or sentence is the right description for. They just pop up in my head. That’s when I realise, that I’ve already found the perfect name for the series, without even having searched for one already. The perfect example is, when I worked with Celso Da Costa Hamelink for the first time and he had already organized everything for the shooting. Model Stephen Thompson should be shown in very classy styles, looking like a rich business boy on his way to work. It was very much “GQ style”, though the editorial got published on The fashionisto, which I think was perfect for it, too.
Anyway, when we were about to take the third picture, I just thought by myself: This looks so snobby, I should just call it “SNOB” to make it over-evident. And so I did. In the picture Stephen was standing in front of a hotel with neatly trimmed hedges and a security camera on the wall which I left in the upper corner of the picture, because it was perfectly angled towards him. He was wearing pants by Dolce & Gabbana, a shirt by Jill Sander and a pullover by Maison Martin Margiela lying over his shoulders and knotted in front. Next to him, there was an expensive car (I don’t remember the label anymore) which of course should look like his own. The only thing missing would have been a set of golf clubs or a sign saying “Snob City” to complete the image. I love this picture. Here it is:
Who wouldn’t have thought of a snob here? But to get back on-topic: I honestly wouldn’t know what would be the best song to be played with this editorial. It might be a piece of classical music. I used to listen to Tschaikowski sometimes, but his music sounds too cute for this, at least the part that I know from him, e.g. The Nutcracker Suite etc. Anyhow, there wouldn’t be any lyrics to quote from classical music. All the other artists I know and love wouldn’t go with these pictures.
So it seems like sometimes my head doesn’t want to connect my favorite music to a certain kind of picture, because it simply isn’t my own lifestyle I show. And neither will you ever find a rap or R&B song name or lyric on top of my pictures. The reason is, that there are more emotions surfacing from bands like MUSE, Lonely the Brave, Mando Diao, Moderat, etc. when I listen to them. I grew up with them and during some special periods of my life they have played a big role and been the soundtrack to my life. All those lyrics and harmonies shed their layers over the years and grew more and more meaningful with my own experiences connected to them. Just as the pictures do, when I plan, then shoot, then sort out, then retouch and then share them with the rest of the world – they also get a greater signification after every step of working on them. Sometimes the idea for the name gets born during the process of editing, and sometimes even before the shooting, when I already have such a clear image in my mind. Other times the working title defines the subject even better than a mood picture, especially when it really is a piece of lyric with a special meaning to me. So connecting music and pictures by their names means giving the pictures and the music an extra meaning. Or to explain it the other way around: you can experience both with more than one sense. The most beautiful thing is that those words and pixels won’t ever trigger the exact same feelings in two people, because everyone associates differently with what he or she sees and hears. Most people won’t even know the song titles or the lyrics that I use for my editorials, but they most certainly get an own feeling when they hear those words.
Let me give you some examples. The first time that I chose a song’s name for an editorial was, when I shot a young male model in my first year as a fashion photographer. It was the first time working with my long-time stylist Samir Abou-Suede and I told him to look for cheeky, rocking and cool-looking stuff so we could combine them with funky items and show a teen idol-ish young man. So he did and our model looked quite handsome. While retouching I was in a good mood and still thought this was very funky, so it reminded me of the latest album of Kasabian back then in 2014: 48:13. And I especially had the feeling that I already knew a weird song on the album that could be just right for my editorial: Eez-Eh (you read it like “easy”). When I pressed play, I immediately knew it. And from that day on I loved the idea of connecting my pictures to music that I enjoy or have a history with. Samir’s reaction helped, too. And so did the Magazine’s. When the stylist heard about the name of the editorial, his reaction was: “Sounds interesting & cool”. HUF Magazine, who published the story later, wanted to absolutely show the following passage next to the editorial, which I had quoted in my submission:
“I ain’t easy
And I make you mad
Least I ain’t sleazy
I’m just trying to put the world to right
If you want to, I’ll take you out
And I got the feeling that I’m gonna
Keep you up all night”
Some months later I planned on an outdoor shooting at night which was my first time doing so and a really crazy thing to do during late autumn time. The actual plan was to move from location to location capturing the model with different statues in Munich’s centre. Soon we decided to stay at the second stop, which provided enough possibilities of backgrounds and perspectives. Also, at the first stop there was too much traffic, so we just moved on and were lucky to find the second place very quiet.
The equipment, which I had brought from university, was quite old and the batteries were losing power very fast, which I already knew before and therefore I had organised some extra equipment from the studio owner where I used to work. But it wouldn’t work for some reason and it also started to drizzle and get really cold outside. I had no time to loose, because the model was freezing. So I just had a couple of shots before the battery from my university equipment would run out of power. I was quite nervous and at the end of the story I had a bad conscience, when the shooting was over. I also almost broke one of the flash lights when I carried away the battery but didn’t unplug it before. And last but not least the model was really confused about the picture’s style, because she was used to very classy and glamorous shots and liked herself neat and beautiful, while I had the idea of her acting some evil, dangerous creature which was hiding in the night’s shades.
So generally speaking I had some troubles during the shooting. But I was totally satisfied with the result later. At that time a bar keeper friend of mine used to always call me “troublemaker”, which I loved and thought was really funny, so the idea was coming to my mind very fast and easy to just call the story “TROUBLE”. I didn’t even have to search for a song called like that, because I had already listened to Coldplay’s “Trouble” countless times. I guess I wasn’t only a troublemaker at the time, but also a little melancholic for several reasons, so it appeared very proper to me calling it like that, besides the funny part of doing so. “Trouble” is a heartbreaking, beautiful song, everyone should know. At the time I worked on editorial “TROUBLE” and down to the present day it sounds much happier to me than when I discovered it many years ago. That’s how imagery and music (and memories) unify, resulting in something even more beautiful.
My latest editorial named after a song is “OCHRASY”. I was shooting Alexander Weber, again with stylist Celso, wearing Dolce & Gabbana, YSL, Jacob Cohen, Burlington, Melvin & Hamilton, Ermenegildo Segne, Kiomi, etc. in a beautiful dandy-ish hotel suite in Berlin. I told him to be very relaxed and move in a bored, unimpressed way, looking slightly arrogant and a little bit feminine. The editorial got quite perfect in my opinion, which of course results from the great team and location, but also from the camera: This was my first shooting with a Phase One DSLR. I’m still very in love with the series and when I was done with editing, I spent a whole evening examining my iTunes for a proper name. It had to be something very special and I sure had a few ideas, but I needed to warm to one of them or find another, even better one. Well I just couldn’t decide at first. As you could already see, I chose “OCHRASY” at the end. And here is why:
Mando Diao released album “Ode to Ochrasy” in 2006 with the last song “Ochrasy” on it. It’s a ballad on a fantasy land created by the band referring to some special time between a show or party and sunrise, when everything seems right and possible. As well the real world with all its cruelty and injustice seems to be very far away. I felt, that “I feel dizzy all laid back and I’m too blind to see – What’s going on outside my lonely window” was incredibly fitting the mood of the hotel room story, as well as all the references to dreaming. Also the story looked so perfect to me, it’s kind of my own little Ochrasy, where there is no struggling. Here’s the chorus lyrics:
And I’m dreaming ’bout times, times that are gone
Times when I lived alone in my own land called ochrasy
That place was everything to me
The world I made it up you see
It’s all there in my fantasy
And I believe it
I’m planning on naming my fashion editorials after song titles or lyrics much more often than before. Even though sometimes a title just seems perfect, because a word appears in my mind or around me while shooting – connecting the visual sense and the sense of hearing is adding emotional value (even though it might stay a figurative connection to many viewers, if they never heard the song). Also music makes you pause and take your time to listen. They are capturing a period of time, not just one single moment, that’s – in some way – magical. Pictures are getting scrolled through or browsed very fast, which is completely unproportional to the work behind it. Choosing a song as a title for my pictures makes me pause too. It helps me gain more clarity about my own work. And it might help you prompt feelings when seeing my pictures or rediscover some old ones which were lost in an old soundtrack of your life.
If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or the other, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!
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