portraiture

Pip Blom: Whelans Upstairs by Aaron Corr

I first caught Pip Blom earlier in the year supporting The Breeders earlier in the year in Vicar Street, and thought they were a deadly band. 8Radio championed them after that point so they kept in my mind, and I kept up to speed with what they were up to and awaited another Irish show. This finally came with one of the final dates of their own European tour.

Shrug Life

Shrug Life

Support on the night came from Shrug Life. Normally a three piece, this time Danny Carroll performing solo, and then a portion of the set with backing vocals by Naoise Roo.

Initially it looked like it would be a case of loud band playing to quiet crowd but people soon relaxed and got really into it. There may not have been moshing, but there was dancing by some, and enthusiasm with the whole room.

The lights were the same throughout, and were the usual pain in the arse to try and calm in the editing. After the show I hung around to try get a portrait with the band after they sold some merch. They were lovely and gracious in doing so. I took the portrait in the hallway between the room and backstage, using the ambient light. In shooting gigs I don’t bring flash with me, so you make do with what you got.

Click here for full gallery.

Vulpynes: Plec Picks 2018 by Aaron Corr

Vulpynes were the first band I shot for GoldenPlec's Plec Picks for 2018.  Maeve & Kaz hit upon the idea of using the Light House cinema in Smithfield as an interior for some of the shoot.  It was December, it was freezing and the options can be tricky.  We got the go ahead from the manager, and a time for when it wouldn’t be too busy in the halls while screenings were in progress.  The trick to this part of the shoot was balancing the ambient light with the strobe.  I wanted to get these wide shots, but the strobe sometimes would overpower the fairy lights.  While there was no one breathing down our necks to hurry it up, I knew we had to keep things ticking along and not take the piss, so I got to a point where the lighting felt like a happy medium.   

I took some solo snaps of each of the girls, leaving the strobe alone for these shots since being this close to the fairy lights wasn't working to balance the two.

We ventured out to the cold and had a look towards a pub that we hoped to use.  It was busy for a Monday so we nixed that idea.  We moved up towards the Old Woolen Mills area to see what the square there was like.  We shot a few portraits on staircase, I used my portable soft-box for this part of the shoot.

We moved on to a location I'd long had in mind to use.  It was just around the corner from where I live in Dublin 7 and was a corner of a traffic junction, previously a wall with posters on it, and now it's a section of a rustic garden.  I like finding places in the city centre that look like you are somewhere completely different.  I set up the strobe on a tripod with the soft-box and we took within five minutes to take some photos as traffic passed us by.  Maeve and Kaz were great to hang out with and I'm grateful for them to participate in some of the colder shots on the night.  

Click to read the feature, and here for my gallery.

Erica Cody: Plec Picks 2018 by Aaron Corr

Erica Cody was the second shoot I did for this year’s Plec Picks for GoldenPlec.  We met up one Saturday afternoon in December to do our shoot around the city centre.  We began in Smithfield with a graffiti’d wall that Erica had in mind for the shoot.  The sun shone very bright down the alley way, which took away any need to set up a flash.  Erica’s boyfriend was there to give a hand holding a reflector, to bounce back some light to the right side of her face in the above photo.    After a few shots and poses we moved on towards the Tivoli Car Park to make use of it.

I used to worry that taking photo around the Tivoli car park would seem cliché but it’s such a deadly place to use.  I’m glad I held off until now as Erica is a great personality to photograph against its backdrop.  We started with a few shots of her sitting on a wall of the car park.  The shot above makes it appear like the graffiti lightning is coming from her fingers which was a fun touch. 

We moved over towards the back wall and shot a variety of poses, this time with the flash/soft-box set up.  The final round of shots took place over by the smoking area of the Tivoli Theatre, where there are a load of picnic tables set up.  The same flash set up was used again.  I read this week that the Tivoli complex is to be knocked down, including all the graffiti except that it had to be preserved in photographic form.  I'm now glad I didn't leave shooting here pass me by, because very soon it will be gone.  It will be missed.

Click to read the Plec Picks feature, and click here for gallery.

Laoise: 18 for '18 Photoshoot by Aaron Corr

This December and January have been the busiest for running portrait shoots for GoldenPlec and The Thin Air so far.  I added Laoise to my list of shoots to do for The Thin Air's 18 for '18 features.  We were to meet up on a Saturday evening in Dublin city centre, and try get a neon look for the shoot, inspired by her recent video for her recent single, Rich.  I got to thinking about where had good neon lights or that colourful vibe at least.  I took a stroll around the city trying to get ideas, with the focus being on a particular restaurant that has a very cool neon interior based on all the pictures I’d seen online, but I’d yet to visit it.  They called me back late in the day, it turned out they wanted a hefty fee for us to do the shoot, so that was out of the question.  

This setback left me wrecking my head in the last hour before we were to meet.  We'd reluctantly agreed to meet at Grand Canal Dock to see about using the giant, red light poles that decorate the front area of Bord Gais Theatre.  It was a chilly night, and I don’t like to use obvious locations if I can avoid it so it wasn’t ideal.  Twenty minutes before I left my apartment a friend messaged me with a pic of a new enough bar on the quays, Riot.  They had this neon sign that said ‘fuck what people think’.  Laoise loved it.  I stopped in to inquire on the way to meet her, and the guys had no problem to let us use the premises for the shoot.  As luck would have it, the neon sign was downstairs, which wasn’t yet open for customers at that yime of the night, which gave us more privacy to work without being distracted.

All was going well, and then my Canon 430 EX-II decided it didn't want to participate.  It wouldn’t turn off or let me adjust the settings.  I used my Yongnuo 565 backup flash with a blue gel and shot it through my trusted softbox.  I turned the lights of the room off to get the full effect of the neon glow.  At times this made it difficult to focus on Laoise as she was completely in the dark.  I'd focus at times by using the flashlight on my phone.  Her friend helped out by holding a reflector so the blue flash would bounce back and light up the left side of her face that was getting cast in shadow. 

I loved how these shots turned out.  When we finished using the neon sign we tried a handful of snaps in a dimly lit corner room with a leather couch, and a lamp.  I tried using a pink gel on the flash this time to mix things up.  The writing on the wall was a bit too garish and the tight space in which to shoot wasn't as ideal as it looked from first impression, so we moved on.  

We took a few more shots on the stage that was opposite the neon sign, where more neon-ish lights light the roof and changed colours every few seconds.  I stood Laoise under a light in the ceiling, and put the bare flash with pink gel behind her for some rim light.  Her eyes were cast in shadow so I had the reflector fill in some light to her face to overcome this.  Thankfully, despite initial frustrations in getting the ideal location, it turned into a really cool shoot.

Click here to read the feature, and here for my photo gallery.

Dowry: 18 for '18 Photoshoot by Aaron Corr

In December The Thin Air  set me up to do an 18 for '18 feature with Dowry, aka Éna Brennan.  Éna was great at collaborating on picking a location for the shoot, and organised for us to take photos in her chosen location.  This gave us a lot to work with in terms of rooms, hallways, and stairways that gave a variety of looks from run down, abandoned and class.  Even though only one photo was required for the piece we took advantage of the opportunity to shoot a few set ups around the building.  

Read the feature here, and my gallery here.

Body & Soul Festival 2017 by Aaron Corr

This festival marked two firsts for me.  My first overnight festival where I'm doing photo coverage, and my first Body & Soul.  I've always wanted to go but it's right in the middle of a holiday blackout with my day job and I hated the idea of ruining the fun by leaving the festival early.  What I've found is I've wasted a few trips there and it's time to make up for it.

GoldenPlec sent me with resident reviewer Bernard and we roadtripped to Ballinlough Castle Estate to be greeted with a quick entry through secutiry and in to the Us & You Eco campsite.  My tent was set up in no time and I was amazed to discover all the relevent bits were still there since I last used it at Electric Picnic and couldn't remember what state it was in.  From there it was straight in to watch some bands, starting with Jafaris in the forest on the Pagoda stage.  I followed up with Talos on the main stage and pretty much kept there for the day, covering Anna Meredith and true headliners of the night, Metronomy.

It's now just over a year since I took some portraits of frontman Joseph Mount, and the release of their fourth album.  At the time he said he wouldn't be touring the album and I was a bit heartbroken.  A year later and a handful of gigs lead into festival season and the band make their return to Ireland.  I can sacrifice a headline show in Dublin to see them again at a festival.  I've only ever caught the band at festivals, since they've rarely played their own shows in Ireland, so this wasn't a bad thing.

They were in flying form and had amazing lights to shoot them on stage.  They segue their first three songs together, the same opening three songs from Summer 08, and as I go to leave I get the nod from our photographer liaison that we have one more tune to shoot.  A cool mistake and one I wasn't going to debate.   This was far better shoot than at Longitude 2015, when they were on a higher stage and where wide angle options were not great.  The Body & Soul stage is a cool one to shoot on, but the little raised bit in the centre does get in the way of a good few wide angle band shots from the weekend.  That gripe aside, it was a great start to a weekend's shooting.

After waiting around for final act of the night, Parcels, the festival organiser came onstage to announce that the band was here but their equipment stuck in Berlin.  They were replaced by Le Cool.  This was disapointing as I was really looking forward to seeing what Parcels were like.  I just stayed for one song as it was time to unburden myself of the camera bag and go enjoy the festival's sights at night.

Saturday began with photographing Loah.  I've seen her twice live since I did some portraits with her for Plec Picks 2015 but never shot either of those shows.  It was great to capture her, bright and colourful on stage on a sunny day.  Next up was Icelandic band Mammút.  I didn't hang around to watch their show, they didn't really do much for me.  I went to explore the festival and get some people shots around the walled garden.

I returned to the main stage again to photograph Lambchop.  There was nothing interesting to shooting them so I moved on during the second song and didn't stay.  The day was redeemed by La Femme, a French new wave band whose only song I knew was the one featured in the Renault adverts recently.  They put on a great show, swapping instruments, vocals, dancing around the stage, smoking cigarettes and looking quintessentially French.  

The day was further improved by Sleaford Mods arrival. This was the first time I've caught them live and they were cool to photograph, primarily vocalist Jason Williamson's passion in delivering the words on stage.  I always have a laugh at Andrew Fearn just standing around the back smoking, drinking and pressing play on the laptop.  

Bonobo were my last act to shoot on the main stage.  At first I thought it would just be smoke and silhouettes until their vocalist came onstage during the second song and saved the day and the photos.  She was beutifully lit and greatly improved upon what I was getting from the camera beforehand.  The night finished with King Kong Company in the Midnight Circus Tent.  I tried to shoot in this tent earlier but it was just DJs, low lighting and heavy on red lights.  Not helped was the extra addition to the stage at the front which made for a tight squeeze in the centre of the pit, and made it a no go area for photographers according to security.  Shots were limited for movement as a result, and the lighting didn't get a whole lot better, with dry ice and heavy yellows and purples washing everything out on stage.

Sunday was a better day, starting with Æ MAK.  This is my second time photographing them, after their support of Warpaint recently.  I nearly didn't make the set as I packed my tent to drop to the car, leaving my camera gear in Bernard's tent and locked with my coded lock.  When we returned the combination wouldn't work suddenly and we were stuck.  I managed to squeeze my hand in what little could be zipped open, reached his bag and he pulled out his swiss army knife from the front of it.  A zip was removed and we were in.  All was well again.  

Ailbhe Reddy followed Æ MAK's performance and later on I returned for Sinkane.  The big clash of the day came in the form of the two bands I wanted to see most that day.  Austra and The Moonlandingz. Due to band cancellations, the Midnight Circus timetable was given a reshuffle and hence the clash.  I had fifteen minutes between Austra beginning and Moonlandingz taking to their stage.  I was not missing them for the world.  I stayed for half a song for Austra, hence how limited options I had from their set.  I took a few shots and ran.

The Moonlandingz were so good they deserved a set all to themselves when I submitted them to GoldenPlec.  Lias, aka Johnny Rocket arrived on stage cling film wrapped to his mother, walking backwards to his microphone.  From there she escaped and he took off, launching to the front of the stage, stalking the crowd, dribbling beer and pulling all sorts of shapes an poses.  They are such a good band to shoot live, and I love the music and attitude.  Like Fat White Family, they are a different beast live to on record.  Unfortunately Rebecca Lucy Taylor was absent for backing vocals and her duet on The Strangle of Anna, opting to stay at Glastonbury it seems.  

The second to last band I shot that weekend was Hundred Waters.  This was another band that just didn't stir me at all.  I found the singer to seem a little shy, sometimes seeing the cameras and turning around.  It could have been coincidence but to me and a fellow tog is had an air of unconfidence.  Maybe we were wrong.  

The last act of the festival, Birdy Nam Nam, cancelled and the headline slot was given to Mykki Blanco, upgraded from the Midnight Circus tent.  This was of much benefit given that stage's set up.  We were advised that we could shoot the whole show as he loves photographers.  I chose to stick with the usual three songs as it was cold, late and I wanted to get home to bed as I had work in the morning.  Unfortunately bed was to wait as he had a DJ play for half an hour before he came on stage.  When he did arrive he was like whirlwind, boucing around the red light soaked stage, picking up props and roaming the stage.  I left my zoom lens in the bag and kept to my 24-70mm for the whole set.  By the third song he jumped into the crowd and got them to form a circle pit.  This was the best part of the shoot and a great way to end the weekend.

So I've talked about the bands a bit, now it's time to show off the people, the festival goers and music lovers.  It's a great festival for people to dress up and not give a damn.  I didn't realise there was so much going on around the site to encourage this, secret parties, raves, masked balls and wine parties.  I didn't see the half of it.  Maybe next year.

January In Photos by Aaron Corr

What a busy month this turned out to be.  The first act I was asked to shoot was Super Silly, the first of three shoots for GoldenPlec's Plec Picks 2017 I would cover.  I had all my camera & lighting gear packed, and ready to meet the guys in Temple Bar and take it from there.  When they arrived I started to get the lighting gear ready and frustratingly found that my Yongnuo flash wouldn't turn on.  It turned out a battery leaked and corroded some of the parts.  We had to do without and use what limited daylight we had.  

Time was of the essence, it was after 3:30pm in early January and it would be dark from 5pm.  We took some shots where we met, then in an alley nearby that they were interested in using and onward to three other quick locations that I wanted to use to create more variety.  My favourite is the red & white walls of Sin É on the quays.  I'd walk past the columns that front the pub from time to time and think from a certain angle they could make for a great photo with a band/solo artist.  It was tougher with four people to get the perspective exactly right so a little Photoshop was needed to fill in.  The shot of the guys from the chest up was inspired by a Anton Corbijn photo of New Order I had seen in a book of his work.

This whole shoot was done in an hour.  The band were great and willing to take more time on the shoot but any longer would have meant struggling to make a well lit portrait.  My flash being broken inadvertently led to more set ups, all of which resulted in pictures I love.

My second shoot was with up & coming urban singer/songwriter Soulé.  Her debut single on Spotify alone amassed over 178,000 listens by the time the article was posted.  The arrangement was to meet in the same area as Super Silly, but I had also seen that she had recently done a photo shoot in that area for another Irish music site, so after a little discussion I was offered to shoot the portraits in Diffusion Lab, the recording studio she would be working in that day.  

By this stage I had got my Yongnuo flash cleaned and back in action, and I had found my primary flash which I accidentally left in my work bag after Christmas.  I was primed and ready to do some strobist portraits using the studio.  There was some cool stickers/drawings on the window which I decided to try and incorporate in the first few shots.  I followed that up with some shots using a backdrop, provided by her producer.  I lit up the blank backdrop with a purple gel over the flash.  A further two set ups had Soulé pose in the vocal booth, and then by a couch with a large print behind it.  I was delighted again with the results, and to have been out of the cold for this shoot.

The first gig shoot of the year was one I couldn't wait for, Cage the Elephant with support from Declan McKenna.  I've been a fan of Declan's since seeing him on Jools Holland.  He was listed to be on at 8pm but came on at 7:45pm.  I'm glad i got there early to try meet friends, otherwise I'd have missed shooting his set, which opened with the awesome Isombard.  He played a solid 40-45 minute set which is impressive for a new act in a support slot.  I'm looking forward to his album and whenever he has time in his busy schedule to eventually come back and do a headline show.

The only I caught Cage the Elephant live was when they supported Foals in the Olympia.  Foals wanted the last three songs snapped by photographers so I had to leave after shooting three songs of Cage and wait in the lobby until the end of Foals set.  I didn't know them well at the time but I was dying to stay.  On this night in the Academy they were superb.  I can't say anyone was going home with a bad word to say about the show, they were on fire.  Matthew Shultz is a fantastic front man and possibly the best front man I've shot so far.  He gives you some great opportunities for a great shot.  I felt bad for the rest of the band as he leaves you mesmerized and not wanting to miss another moment of action from him.

The rest of the show was a great example of missing out by not being able to take pictures later at a gig.  There was crowd surfing, standing and signing on the shoulders of the crowd, jumping from the drums and falling to the stage while still singing.  It was one hell of a show and it is the one that has to be beaten this year.  They've just been announced for NOS Alive in Lisbon so I'll be seeing them again this Summer.

My next shoot was of the band Beach for The Thin Air's 17 for '17.  I had a day off work for an appointment with the dentist that morning and I got dosed with plenty of anaesthetic for the procedure.   The shoot had to happen around one of the lads lunch break from work.  The pressure of limited time, coupled with my face feeling numb, and like it was swollen was not a cool buzz to do a shoot with.  I was genuinely struggling to think of where to use for a central location that wouldn't be too busy with people, given it was lunch time in a lively part of the city.  My head was not with it.  

We strolled over behind Whelans to see what it'd be like to shoot in the little, walled off garden area behind it.  We tried a few things, I wasn't crazy about the results, the band thought it looked a bit too boy band for the first few shots.  We meandered around some more and then went into The Camden Exchange and asked to use their closed smoking area.  The band joked around with the flowers and watering can, and this was what we liked the most when reviewing the photos after we were done.  They wanted the photo for the piece to show they weren't super serious all the time. 

The same night as having been to the dentist and doing the Beach shoot, I went to cover the Martha Wainwright gig in Vicar St.  My face was no longer numb and I felt better, and far less pressure than the earlier shoot.  It was a fully seated gig so I wandered around the crowd taking shots from afar, trying not to disturb or get the way of paying punters.  The most memorable part of the shoot was Martha forgetting how one of her new songs went and stopping the band in their tracks as she tried to remember how it went.

Pleasure Beach supported Bell X1 in the Olympia.  It was a case of low lights, red lights and uninspiring results.  They arrived on stage in the dark and the singer immediately went to the front of the stage to greet the crowd, guitar held in the air, not a light in sight.  It would have made a nice shot.  

Bell X1 was a similarly frustrating affair.  Lots of annoying blues, a light under singer, Paul Noonan, that cast a shadow on the microphone up his face for many shots that managed to focus properly.  The surrounding band members were very much in the shadows so it was definitely a case of the Paul Noonan show, as it was barely worth trying to snap the other band members.  

My final Plec Picks shoot was with Fangclub.  It was to be done on a weeknight and the weather wasn't looking good for the chosen night during the planning stage, so I paniced to find an indoor location I could use that would suit.  It was tough.  I settled on reserving the downstairs in one of my local pubs, The Black Sheep.  I was told it would be empty but when we all arrived there was a bunch of people dotted around the place, getting away from the busy upstairs bar.  The walls were plastered with craft beer logos which wouldn't have been a good look so I opted to use the blank walls by the stairwell.  As the feature interview took place I set up my strobist gear, starting with a gelled flash to light up the backdrop.

The corner of the stairwell was the darkest part of that area and worked the best, so I got Kevin, Dara and Steven to squeeze in and pose.  With the interview over I asked Bernard, from team GP, to hold the flash & softbox overhead as I snapped as it was easier than using the tripod, and keeping it stable on the step.  I tried a red gel for some additional shots before moving the guys out on to the street since the rain had stayed away.  I switched to the telephoto lens in order to try get a bokeh effect with the lights at the end of Capel St.    

During the final set up the cold was beginning to get to us so we finished up after a few shots there.  The biggest obstacle in post processing was editing the corner of the wall that was behind the guys.  Making the colour blend was the frustrating part.  It seemed like it would be an easy job at the time of shooting but it was a bit time consuming and headache inducing.  Overall it was another shoot I was satisfied with and brought to a close a busy January.

August Photos by Aaron Corr

Steve Davis

Steve Davis

I began August with a random, last minute Friday request to shoot legendary snooker player turned DJ Steve Davis for The Thin Air.  My parents were visiting and staying in my apartment that weekend and were arriving off the train around the same time as I was needed for the shoot but I figured I could squeeze this in ahead of getting them.  Steve was in Dublin to play a DJ set that weekend and began with a short set in All City in Temple Bar.  There was free beer to be had but I had to miss out on that given my rush to get away.  After his DJ set he went outside for a breather and an interview with Hotpress.  In between being grabbed by other photographers and people looking to say hello I pulled him aside for the quickest of quick portrait shots in front of the store.  The other photographers had him pose by a wall, or by the barber pole that can be seen above so at least I wasn't getting the same shot as everyone else.  While I snapped this my dad was calling me on my phone.  He's a big sports fan and would have been delighted to meet him.

Windings

Windings

The first gig of August was catching the return of Grandaddy in Vicar Street, shot for GoldenPlec.  I first caught their reunion show at Electric Picnic in 2012, surprisingly this is only their fourth show since then.  They had support from Limerick's Windings.  Given my ties to Limerick I made sure to get there early to catch them in action.

Grandaddy

Grandaddy

Although it wasn't a completely sold out show, Grandaddy had a very enthusiastic crowd.  I wasn't expecting the buzz that was there that night and though I'm a fan of the band, it elevated my excitement for their performance as their set went on.  Shooting the show was ok, the pit was busy and tight to get around the other photographers.  Jason Lytle's face was always half cast in shadow from his hat, and his synths and keyboards around him made it that bit extra awkward to try get great shots of him.  Lighting was okay, not the best or worst and nothing that caused a huge amount of headaches.  I knew the band wouldn't be lively or jumping around for me to get cool action shots, they're just not that type of band, so I was happy enough with the results.

Hilary Woods

Hilary Woods

The next gig of the month was the brilliant Warpaint, supported by Hilary Woods (ex jj72 bassist) in the National Concert Hall for The Thin Air.  This was my first time visiting the NCH and I was amazed by the size and acoustics.  I need to see more concerts there.  Hilary was completely solo, with backing track and video backdrop creating a suitably ambient vibe to go with her music.  I was very impressed with her performance.  

In terms of shooting in the venue photographers are relegated to the sides and back of the hall since the front row seats leave no room for what would be usually the photo pit.  I pretty much kept my 70-200mm lens on for the full night.  The lights never changed so once I landed on my setting for the evening I never really had to modify it much.

Warpaint

Warpaint

I last saw Warpaint at Electric Picnic early into them touring their second album.  The show was riddled with issues with their new additions of synths to the live mix.  It looked like a frustrating show for them.  This was a breeze in comparison.  The band were a little thrown by the fully seated audience so by the third song got them all standing.  They were great to shoot, the only pity was not having a photo pit to capture them the same way one can capture them the way other venues would allow.  This was a small grievance since I wasn't exactly a 3Arena soundboard shoot distance away from the band.  Until next time.

Click any image to see full gallery.