Feels good to finally be able to share some work I shot back in the summer. In June, I had the opportunity to work with my very talented friend and New Jersey-based rapper, James McNamara, better known as Dirty Mac. He had been working on his sophomore album, Service With A Style, and decided to reach out to me to do some photo work for the album. It would be the first time we really got to work together since I shot some behind the scenes photos for a music video for his song “Ill Scalpel” back in 2010, so getting the call to help out was a welcome surprise.
Leading up to the shoot James and I had exchanged some e-mails about the shoot and what ideas he had. We toyed around with a few concepts that would have been fun but seemed lacking. After just a little back and forth, we opted to go with the waiter shoot pictured in this post. He had worked serving jobs as he made his way through college at Rutgers University, and it felt in line with the work he had put into making the album over the past few years, so it was a perfect fit.
James worked to find a venue, as well as some pretty sweet old-fashioned waiter attire for the shoot, and on the day of the shoot, everything just clicked. We worked in the restaurant well before opening and shot for about 2 hours before calling it quits. The interior lighting and light from the windows of the restaurant actually worked really well for providing a great feel and I really didn’t need to worry about setting up or using my own lights, or flashes. It was also the first time I was really getting to put the Sony RX1 through its paces on a project, so it was a great day for some testing.
Over everything else, it was James’ personality, attitude, and charisma which made this shoot so much fun and successful. I never really had to give him direction. He assumed his role perfectly. The facial expressions, the body language, the poses, everything was just on point. During the shoot I realized, or maybe I was reminded, that James, no, Dirty Mac, is “character” through and through.
Think about your favorite television shows or films. We are constantly celebrating actors and actresses who transcend who they are as a person and completely immerse themselves in a role. We want to see themselves lost in the character that they are portraying when we see them on the big or little screen. We get chills when we see these people in a light that we could have never imagined them in, or when we can’t recognize them at all, or when we have to think differently about most of their career because of the character they became.
Photography is no different. When I think about photography, it is basically filmmaking in still form. Models or subjects are our actors and we want to see them get lost in the role that they are playing, even if it is only for a single frame.
Characters keep things fun and interesting. They surprise us. They keep us on our toes and guessing what they will do next. Working with great characters is probably the thing that I love most about photography. Work may not even be a good word to describe it with. I never feel like I am working when shooting with a great character. It is like a creative communion where instinct and passion between the character and myself crystallize and become something greater. This connection is something that I am sure other photographers feel when they shoot great characters, and I’d wager that this is what keeps so many of us shooting.
So tell me, have you had the experience of working with great characters? What stood out about the experience? Do you actively look to shoot with characters?
And a Quick Plug For My Good Friend…
A little before the release of the album, I asked James to let me do an interview with him to do a little exploration into what went into creating the album, the trials, and tribulations of the process, what Service with a Style is all about, and some insight on his favorite tracks. Give it a watch, and if you are picking up what he is putting down, you can grab the album on iTunes(Contains Explicit Lyrics).
All photos shot with the Sony DSC-RX1 and edited in Adobe Lightroom 5.
Video shot with the Canon 7D and edited in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.