portraiture photography

Growing Up Kurt Cobain: Press Launch by Aaron Corr

Nirvana changed my life.  I was 10 years old when they exploded, yet I missed that because we didn’t have MTV growing up.  It was Come As You Are that got on my radar, followed by hearing Nevermind on a trip with my cousins to the Aran islands.  It blew my mind.  By the time I got a copy of it I could remember every tune, there wasn’t a single dud on that record.  In two years’ time Kurt Cobain was dead.  His death still lingers and his influence on me remains.  Nirvana completely changed my mind set, especially for the music I was listening to. 

The combination of Newbridge Silverware hosting items of Kurt’s a year ago jarred me.  Then again I had no idea that they had a Museum of Style Icons.  It began to make a little more sense.  It was funny seeing clothes of Kurt’s nearby to Princess Diana’s dresses, Marilyn Monroe’s clothes and the like.  When the news broke that his mother, sister and daughter were all going to come to Ireland to open a new exhibition, Growing Up Kurt Cobain, I leaped at the chance to cover it for The Thin Air.  I never in a million years thought I would get this close to Kurt.  A few years ago I met Chad Channing and I thought that was my lot.  To meet photograph Kurt’s daughter, Frances Bean, mother Wendy O’Connor, and sister, Kim was a true privilege. 

I photographed the second day of press, which was for Irish media.  The previous day saw the family do interviews with news media, this day they conducted the interview with Dave Fanning for press to take their soundbites from.  I was initially told I could shoot without flash, and that I would get time to take photos of the family after the q&a.  This didn’t get to transpire in the end, and my non-flash photos had to rival press who used flash throughout.  I can’t complain, I have photos that I’m happy with, though a portrait of the family would have been the icing on the cake. 

At the same time I got to listen to them discuss Kurt, his growing up, the effect he had on them and people they meet.  It was very interesting to hear and not something I ever thought to hear his family talk about in person, and then meet them!  Amazing day for me personally, and a great exhibition for Nirvana fans.  I’ll be passing through it again before it’s gone.

Click to see the full gallery for The Thin Air.

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.

Conor McGregor Portrait by Aaron Corr

Conor McGregor

A huge surprise landed my way near the end of October when I got asked to do a photo shoot with Conor McGregor for Virgin Media Ireland for their Play magazine.  He would be doing press for his documentary film Notorious.  I immediately felt a sense of pressure, a good pressure.  You know the type, the one you get when you're about to photograph probably the most famous sports star in the world right now.  The biggest question I asked myself was "How much time will I have with him?"  As the days neared I set the expectation that maybe five minutes could be my maximum time since it was a press junket.

The shoot took place on Halloween during the day in the Merrion hotel.  As I waited in the press room Conor popped the head in to say a quick hello to those of us waiting before returning to his room for more interviews.  My designated time was to follow TV3’s Lisa Cannon's interview with him for Box Office and the Play mag.  As I waited I learned that I didn’t have a set number of minutes, as soon as I got the picture I'd be done.  No pressure.  I had all my equipment with me, tripod, softbox and flash triggers.  I quickly set up my mini softbox that is more portable, but more tricky when holding it with my left hand while taking photos with the right.  

Conor McGregor

When the interview wrapped I was allowed in.  People leaving took selfies as they were saying goodbye to Conor and I surveyed the darkened room, lit mainly by the large studio lights for recording the interview.  In that moment I made the decision to abandon my impromptu flash set up and take advantage of the lights already set up.  Before I had time to think any further Conor was introduced to me, and he asked where I wanted him standing.  A standing position would have been ideal, but my decision meant I had to ask him to sit for the portrait since the lights set up at a lower level.  I took a test image, updated my settings and took the portrait you can see above of him smiling.  I asked him for a ‘power pose’.  He raised his fists and I took three more snaps.  He motioned to get up from his seat and I knew that in his mind I was to just there to get a picture  There were many people in the room, and not wanting to cause any delays I knew to wrap things up.  Lisa requested a quick photo with him while I was there.  A big part of me wanted to get a selfie myself, but the way I looked at it was that if I could afford the time to take a selfie, then I should have used that time to get another portrait as option. 

Conor was a gent to deal with for the short space of time I had.  I must have had a total of one minute, resulting in four photos.  I was reminded of the photography episode of Abstract on Netflix, when Platon notes at one point how he was under restriction to take just one portrait of a particular world leader.  So, I guess I didn't have it that bad by comparison.

Conor McGregor