Career Changing Sessions
There are 3 sessions that I can easily call “career changers”. If I wasn’t blessed enough to get these 3 sessions, my body of work would tell a bit of a different story. I’m often asked, “How were you chosen to shoot celebrities?”, or “How much time do you get?” The most obvious question I get is, “What were they like?”
For me, and I think for most photographers, the real question is, “What happened after?” What was the result of having that session in your book?
I began shooting for the Globe & Mail in 1993, way back when it was a black and white newspaper. Pre-Internet, pre-Digital. I went in wanting to shoot fashion features for them, which I eventually did, but found myself shooting portrait assignments more so than fashion features. Some of these early sessions included shooting black hair styles during Caribana, rising star science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer, and eventually the man himself, Roger Moore.
However, one day, I got a call from the assignment desk to shoot AM superstar, Phil Collins. I would call this career changer #1. It’s not that Phil Collins at the time was what we could call “in”. However, he did have worldwide fame, a positive impression for his time with Genesis, and a successful solo career. This gave my session with Phil power. I was to meet him at a hotel, which was pretty standard. I came prepared with an assistant, my black velvet backround and lights. I quickly built a set in the assigned hotel room and waited for my time with Phil. When he arrived, he was the star I had imagined, the biggest presence in the room. I had about 10 minutes with him, shot 3 rolls of film and off he went. The image below was chosen for the cover of the Arts section on the Saturday Globe & Mail. This image was seen by over 2 million people, and circulated in my book. It was the beginning of a wave, that at the time, I couldn’t have predicted.
During the 5 years, between 1993-1998, I shot a tonne of stuff for the Globe & Mail. In 1997, while dropping an assignment off at the photo desk, the Art Director, picked up a fax, looked up at me and said, “Hey Steve, have you ever heard of Radiohead?” I felt that bang in my chest. I said, “Sure I have”. She said, “I need you to shoot them. Tomorrow. They are releasing a new album and we are putting them on the cover of the Arts Section.” This would be considered career change #2. The next day, there I was in a hotel room with Thom Yorke, listening to him tell stories while he sat crosslegged on the couch, drinking tea. The rest of the band wasn’t feeling up for press, so it was just Thom. I came prepared to shoot a hotel room, but when I met Thom, he said “I don’t want to look like a wanker in a hotel room, can we go outside”? The next minute we were in the elevator, and outside the hotel. He was a gent. So present, so involved in what I was trying to get from him. After the session, he even kept one of my polaroids.
The image chosen for the Globe & Mail was a rare frame of him smiling. I’ve heard this is one of the only editorial images out there showing that side of him. This session became my most memorable. It was the beginning of my camera and my personality on set with superstars began to penetrate. Not only did I shoot the hottest rock star of the time, but I captured a rare, never before seen moment. This session opened doors for me.
I shot my first Rap record in 1993, back when Hip Hop was Rap and still underground. Fast forward to 2001 and I’m shooting for a local urban magazine called Peace. Career changer #3. I got the call to shoot a young superstar producer, Pharrell Williams. I came up with the idea of meeting him and the team at a skate shop. I prearranged access to skateboards and BMX bikes incase he felt like doing some tricks during our session. The reason for this, his video “Lapdance” for his band, N.E.R.D. had just been released and it was full of BMX tricks from him and his crew. He opted for shooting with the gold lowrider, which he owned, and the 20″ BMX. We shot 2 looks, and it looked great in the magazine. Where this session really had legs is in my portfolio, and online, where it has been licensed numerous times though ContourPhotos. My image of Pharrell on the Lowrider was chosen for Hip Hop Immortals, the largest exhibit of Hip Hop Photography in the world. I was chosen in 2007 to be in Carte Blanche, a coffee table book celebrating the best in Canadian Contemporary Photography. This session had some legs.
If I put my mind to it I know that there are quite a few more than the 3 I have highlighted here. I don’t spend too much time wondering what if. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, and I try not to be too star struck by the ones that are in front of my lens. Everyone is a star. Every session is a career changer. See my archives at SteveCarty.com