Exercise 5.2 – Listen to the band

The picture I have selected is probably the best-known of Astrid Kirchherr’s early photographs of The Beatles, taken in Hamburg in October or November 1960 while they were still a pub-and-club rock band and before the iconic line-up coalesced.

This image works equally well as a group portrait or a set of individual portraits of late-teens lads showing some attitude. George, Pete and Stu are looking at the camera; John and Paul slightly away from it. We know they are musicians because they are all carrying their instruments (or part of the drumset). They are wearing a sort of uniform, or at least the standard youth costume of leather jacket and jeans. Posing is directed in principle but not choreographed; each band member strikes his own pose.

The group are posed on a road trailer in an industrial setting, suggesting their own working class origin and that of their target audience. This is a monochrome image, typical of its age, and high-contrast giving a gritty, rock’n’roll feel. This is a rock band on the eve of ‘discovery’ (and the success of three of them is the stuff of modern legend)

Apart from the historic interest, I am attracted to the image by its simplicity and directness. It shows us a band and tells us something about the type of music they play and the kind of people likely to enjoy it.

I recently found myself taking photographs of a couple of local ‘pub gig’ bands, and one of them asked me to take some publicity photographs for their website and Facebook pages. I wanted to emulate Kirchherr’s semi-posed style and use of a vehicle as background and support.

The circumstances are different from the early Beatles, so that affects the way the photograph is set up. Ocean Blue are a cover band playing 1950s to 1990s music, mainly  blues and ska, whose target audience is weddings and corporate functions. Their corporate look is ‘Blues Brothers’. We did not have an industrial background available (and it would not have been appropriate anyway) but one band member had a neighbour with a classic American car (1964 Packard Clipper), which was ideal for our purposes.

Following Kirchherr, I wanted the band posing with their instruments. As a bit of fun, we also filled the boot of the car with instrument cases to ‘tell a story’ that they just arrived at a venue and were unpacking. I used the car as background (Clive and Dawn also used it as a seat), roughly arranged the subjects and left posing and expression to them. This image is a pick from a dozen similar ones of this arrangement.

Post-processing in Lightroom, partly desaturated and increased the contrast of the image for a modern ‘cool’ look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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