As many of you know, aside from working with clients, I also work a lot with my kids. In fact, the kids and I have embarked on a year long portrait project, which has us taking roughly ten minutes a day to take their portraits so that, at years end, we’ve documented ‘a day in the life’ moments for an entire year. It’s been a really rewarding and enlightening project, despite how overwhelming it is in concept at times. To make things even more fun (or stressful, however you want to put it) we have at times added a little extra intent to their portraits. In celebration at crossing over the half year mark, we wanted to do just that; create something special. So, we picked a theme, which happened to be music, and we just went for it. We created a series of pictures drawn from the lyrics from some of our favorite songs of the year. To up the ante a bit, I decided to test my Photoshop skill by enhancing all of the portraits in this series. We had the best time conceptualizing and creating these pictures, and I hope you enjoy looking at them.
Before we begin, I’d like to give special attention to the songs that almost made the cut, and most certainly would have had I the time or energy to devote to making this a list of ten and not seven. Aisha Badru’s beautifully heartbreaking ‘Happy Pretending’ was a sad omission, as was Jack River’s ‘Stardust and Rust’, which simply came out too late (I had already started compiling images for this project when she released her album and I didn’t have the time to add her in). Speaking of songs coming out too late, Tash Sultana’s entrancing ‘Harvest Love’ would have definitely made a series of ten. But alas, there are only seven; and here they are!
Sky Full of Song / Florence + The Machine
I’ve been a huge fan of Florence Welch for years. She just has such a controlled sense of melodrama and it fits so perfectly into her musical agenda. I’ve been anticipating her latest album all year, and it didn’t disappoint (even though it isn’t my favorite of her offerings). The album’s first single, Sky Full of Song, is not only one of our favorites on the album, but it was just too perfect for this project not to use it. The inspiration for these images was pretty obvious, but I wanted to give some individuality to each image, so I bled music notes into the clouds to add cohesion and then took slightly different approaches to each of the portraits to evoke different emotions.
2002 / Anne-Marie
This song is just so much fun. Just as catchy and nostalgic as all the pop songs that inspired it, Anne-Marie’s 2002 is kind of an instant classic. No song this year has made me smile so much, and the fact that the kids adore it only makes it all the more irresistible. For me, the whole point behind these pictures was to create that joy, while pulling visuals from the song’s very visual lyrics. So we poured lemonade into plastic cups and smeared face paint on faces and danced on the roof of the car (well, they did that…I stayed on the ground and took pictures). I wanted to add in a layer of nostalgia, because of how the song makes me feel, and so I turned their portraits into Polaroids using some nifty Photoshop tools.
Cool People / Chloe x Halle
Easily, my favorite album of the year so far is Chloe x Halle’s incredible studio debut. So many layers and so much creativity, from start to finish it is a true musical wonder. So, that made choosing a song for this project difficult because I love so many of them. It came down to Cool People and Galaxy, and Cool People won out for one very special lyric that I wanted so badly to capture. “When you hold my hand it just reminds me how there’s still cool people in the world.” Such a simple yet profound statement of love. Add to that, “Darlin’ when you smile it’s like the rain dries out,” and you have a pretty cool visual lyric to wrap a series of pictures around. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to contrast rain and clear skies, and using a plastic see through umbrella was perfect because it allowed me to do a subtle overlay of pictures so as to keep the integrity of the transparent umbrella.
Just Thought You Should Know / Betty Who
Betty Who just oozes style, and so this series of pictures had to be more about just the lyrics, they had to be about her style. Her music has such an 80’s throwback pop style, like if Madonna were still relevant, and so the kids and I decided to turn their pictures into pulp comics, playing with the vibrancy of a vintage hot pink phone we borrowed from a friend and using the lyrics to overlay in a way that made them feel like they were in a cartoon. I kept thinking ‘What if The Brady Bunch were a noir’, which I know makes no sense and yet this is what was produced (thanks to Photoshop’s plethora of filters and some very informative YouTube videos). I like to think these would make Betty Who smile.
so sad so sexy / Lykke Li
My kids hate this song. Lol, they sing it all the time, especially my son, but the kids just find it silly. “How is she sad and sexy? I don’t get it!” But, honestly, this song instantly gave me a visual and I totally got it. All I could see were the screen sirens of the 30’s and 40’s, the Marlene Deitrichs and Gretta Garbos of the world, bathed in black light as they stared out a window, longing for the love they lost, tears streaming delicately down their faces and the lyric makes complete sense. So we used monochrome conversions and Photoshop tools to cut out all texture and color so that the focus was very simple; emotion. And before anyone raises Cain about the fact that I used a song with ‘sexy’ in the title, listen to it. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking song that is not in the lease bit offensive, and I would much rather have my kids singing this song than anything released by Britney Spears.
Half Love / Elohim
If Chloe x Halle released my favorite album of the year, Elohim is a very close second. Her debut album is pretty incredible, and so diverse. You just can’t peg her down, for every track has a very unique and commanding identity. Half Love is just such a fun and lavish song, with bouncing beats that explode in the chorus and then bring in those jazz horns that set it apart as a real music treat. For these pictures, we were very influenced by the song’s music video, which featured Elohim dancing in a room of mirrors that shattered as the song progressed. This shattered glass visual made me think of the cracks in love, or maybe even in our perception of what that is, and so I conceptualized a series of images that are supposed to represent the lyrics being read as wedding vows. It also gave my daughter’s an excuse to wear my wife’s wedding dress, which gave me heart palpitations. Again, thank you YouTube videos, in particular Phlearn, for teaching me how to take a picture of broken glass and literally wrap it around my daughter’s face so that it looked like it was part of her skin. Now, that’s something I never thought I’d say.
Miracle / CHVRCHES
I’ve been high on this song for a while now, and the more I listen to it the more I’m so completely moved by it. I wanted to go out with a bang with this series and so I immediately thought, ‘SMOKE BOMBS’, but the day we decided to actually shoot these pictures, we had a hard time finding a location (no graffiti walls for us), but thankfully my dad has some great property (because you can’t set these off in a public place) and so we used his backyard to create some really cool, moody shots. I almost let them alone, because they could speak for themselves, and yet I was up late playing with them and started playing with the idea of mirrored images, almost like warring wants and needs that are so tied to each other they are practically the same, and these just kind of happened.
This was such a fun experience to have with my kids. We had a blast working on these, and the fact that we talked about and conceptualized with each other just gave these extra meaning. They also pushed me to try things I wouldn’t have otherwise and made me love what I do even more.
Now I just need some clients who want to experiment like this!