My Alice Cooper and Nita Strauss cover is out! This shoot took place at the Tropicana in Atlantic City before their show. While I was en route, I was informed the venue manager would not allow the shoot to take place in the venue. Thankfully one of the crew members offered up their hotel room for the shoot. This jam came very close to being shot on a tour bus. Close call!
Professionally, I think i’m happiest when I get to travel to New Orleans for work. There's no place like it. The haunted streets are filled with music. And the food… and the food! Then I get to do what I love to do.
Ironically back in 2012, I was stuck in NOLA for a few days while the east coast was blasted by Hurricane Sandy. So I roamed the streets for a few days until I could get a flight home.
I love these shots from a recent shoot with Alice In Chains.
I only had a total of about 90 minutes with them, so I'm extra proud of the results.
The breakdown: Shoot for three separate features for two magazines; 40 minutes for portraits on location at the Ludlow Hotel, Manhattan; 20 minutes backstage before the show; 15 minutes of the live show.
Not bad for a rush job.
Side note: I need to uplevel my hat game.
Behind the scenes photos by Smitty
Heres a few bands that I shot in the worlds most infamous bathroom.
I was sitting at my desk a few years ago—wasting time on Facebook—when I was nearly knocked out of my desk chair by some wild dude blasting away on a baritone sax in the NYC subway.
I was infected by the viral video. I played it over and over.
Fast forward a few years, and I'm delighted to see that these busking dudes morphed into a successful touring band.
And the icing? I just shot their new publicity photos.
BTS photos by Smitty / Nighcap
I would always keep a super 8 camera with me. I wish I did it more often, every once and a while I would roll out a few feet.
I still have an undeveloped roll that might have some Chris Cornell footage on it.
As much as I absolutely love timeless, beautiful portraits, I must admit that I get SUPER excited when a shoot calls for a special FX artist.
I mean—who doesn't want to play with a bucket of blood?
The first time I worked with Trivium, I shot them in the bathroom of whatever club they were playing. At the time, a few of them were definitely still teenager
It felt uncomfortable to be recognized.
I didn't want to be on a stage.
But when you're asked to be part of something as big and as historic as the "Who Shot Rock" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, you don't protest. You just do it.
"Who Shot Rock" and the companion book of the same name featured legends like Annie Leibovitz, Bob Gruen, Jim Marshall, Richard Avedon, Danny Clinch, Henry Diltz, Anoton Corijn, and nearly every other person who has ever held a camera and mattered in the industry.
Looking through some personal snapshots of the exhibit's opening night, I said, to my wife, "Holy shit, it's like I've aged ten years since then. Oh wait, it's been that long."
Almost a decade has passed (2009) since I sat on a panel with Bob Gruen, one of my photography idols, to answer questions from Gail Buckland, the curator of the exhibit. It felt otherworldly then, and it still feels a little like a dream.
But I'm so glad I said yes to the opportunity. It will always feel like an honor having been part of it.
I’m always thrilled whenever I get to work with living legends. One of my big goals is to have a body of work that’s historically significant.
That’s why I was amped to get a call from Guitar Aficionado, asking me to shoot Steve Earle.
I texted his son, Justin Townes Earle, an old friend of mine and someone I've shot a number of times, to let him know I'd be shooting his dad.
It's no secret that Steve has quite the outlaw/bad boy reputation, so Justin did me a solid and sent his dad a “be NICE” text on my behalf... too bad he sent it 45 minutes after we’d wrapped the shoot.
Just as I could have predicted, Steve was a tough cookie. But it didn’t matter. The shoot was fantastic, and I added a country legend to my archives.
Steve's son, Justin Townes Earle. Crown Heights Brooklyn 2009.
I've worked with Thursday a lot over the past 16 years—an opportunity I enjoy every single time.
I’ve toured with them, documented their recording process, and shot more band photos than I can count, even photographing their families and moments of their personal lives.
I consider each member to be a friend.
I was excited to hear the band reunited for a tour and even more amped when they called me up to do a tintype photo shoot in Philadelphia. It has been many years since I've been with all these guys together at the same time.
It was so refreshing to see their dynamic has not changed since they were kids.
As usual, It was good times with the Thurs Dudes.
Scroll down to see a small sampling of my Thursday archive.
Tour 2002, With Thursday and Sparta
Here's just a hand full of my portrait sessions with Thursday.
Tour 2003, With Thursday, Thrice and Cohered & Cambria.
I was given the assignment to shoot Slam Magazine's All-American 2017 Selection, which would be my first time working with basketball players.
My photography career started with me shooting no-name bands in local dive clubs on Staten Island—I'm drawn to the up-and-coming, the "almost famous"—so I knew this would be a personally gratifying shoot.
But it didn't come without challenges.
I was tasked with creating one group shot and then five unique individual portraits in not much more than one hour’s time. (Something else I'm used to... "Make magic. You have five minutes. Go.") Luckily, because DUMBO has a great variety of textures and colors, it was the perfect location for taking dynamic photos in close proximity.
These five high school seniors were chosen to come in and play the Michael Jordan Classic A-Game at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. (I’m a big guy, but I still had to hold my camera over my head to show them the photos.) Check out some behind-the-scenes shots and the finished product below. .
Having worked with Chris Cornell a few times, I was incredibly saddened by the unexpected news of his recent passing.
As soon as I heard, I went through my archives and found some of the beautiful portraits I shot in 2009 and 2012 that had never been printed.
Everyone always talked about what a kind and sweet man Chris was, and it was absolutely true. The first time we got together, my wife Rebekah and my stepson Calvin were both on the set with us. We talked a lot about family, music, and about how he couldn’t wait to take his daughters to see the stage production of Dora the Explorer later on that day.
When we had our second shoot, it was with Soundgarden at the historic Moore Theater in Seattle. We didn’t have a lot of time, so I was in a bit of a rush to complete the shoot. The guys were gracious and friendly enough to invite me out for dinner afterward.
I turned them down because I had to return my rental equipment and I really regret that now – I should have just left everything there and gone anyway, but how can you know it’s your last chance?
I’m just glad I got to work with such a talented and kind musician.
Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, Queens, NY
When it comes to photography, to me it’s always been about passion. In my case it’s passion for life and for music. I have been so blessed over the years to be able to document so much of the music industry. However, before I ever became a music photographer, I wanted to be an artist.
I had visions of traveling around and photographing street life. Several years ago I discovered a hand-crafted photography process called Wet Plate Collodion – the technique dates back to the 19th century and the entire concept gripped me and brought a new level of excitement to an art form I already loved. I am obsessed with it and it brought me back to the days of being a teenager in the dark room for the first time all over again.
Through this process I am not just a photographer, I am an artist. I still love my commercial and editorial work of course, but working with Wet Plate has opened up a whole new world of creativity for me and it makes me eager to see what I can learn next.
In this particular shoot, I met a couple of guys on the street named Singh and Eddie. Despite the fact that Singh spoke very little English and I couldn’t follow most of what Eddie was yammering on about, we bonded over the images we created together that day. Art really does transcend language.
Behind the scenes photos by Smitty from Nightcap Studios.
A Time & Place
Photo by Smitty
It's hard to make to make these images in the field without a second set of hands.
I'm actively collecting images from assistants and passersby for a special project... stay tuned for that.
One of the coolest things I can experience as a photographer is being welcomed into the homes of legendary musicians. RollingStone.com gave me the chance to do just that with Tommy Stinson. You might have heard of him—he played with The Replacements and a little band called Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Tommy’s home was filled with rock ‘n’ roll treasures, including a great deal of The Replacements memorabilia that he had recently gathered for a charity auction. It was like my own personal sneak peek of the auction.
Another sneak peek was when I got to hear him rehearsing a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Angie” that he was working on for a performance later that evening. Getting to enjoy a private at-home preview was definitely a huge highlight for me and it was an honor to work with him.
You know it’s going to be an interesting day when you pick up the phone on a conference call and the first thing you hear is Ice-T yelling, “I wanna murder motherfuckers!” at you.
That was the pre-cursor to heading to Brooklyn to shoot the cover and publicity shots for the 2014 album for Ice-T’s band Body Count. Considering the album was called “Manslaughter” his request makes sense.
I had worked with Ice-T before and he is extremely passionate about his band and their music. After he had laid out his “I wanna murder motherfuckers” concept, I told him we should give it a good ol’ grindhouse treatment to really fit what he was looking for. A little of his idea, a little of my idea, but we were clearly on the same creative page. I created a mock-up, and the art director did an amazing job bringing it to life – check out the before and after:
Fun Fact: several of the actors who appeared on the album cover have also appeared on “Law & Order: SVU” with Ice-T too. Looks like good things happen around Ice – even if he IS “murdering motherfuckers.”
Back in February of this year, I hopped over to Atlanta to grab some shots of Mastodon in their fantastic new rehearsal space, Ember City.
Brent Hinds has the best prankster sense of humor so it wasn’t much of a shock when he walked in with his pit bull, a green “fez” hat, glasses that would have made Elton John envious, and tons of heavy gold chains à la Mr. T. It was absolutely amazing but since it wasn’t quite the look Metal Hammer magazine had in mind for a cover shoot, I did gently talk him into changing.
Once the official shoot was wrapped I got to indulge in one of the best parts of my job – I kept snapping while the band started jamming out on one of their brand new songs. It’s always such an honor to witness artists in the process of creating.
I’m sure a lot of Atlanta bands will really enjoy the opportunity to rent out the rehearsal space too.