Deadlines & Decisions...Shooting to a brief

During the Summer of 2015 I was approached by a professional musician (Justin Swadling) who was working on a new project. We'd been friends for many years after meeting through my musical work life, and he'd been following my photographic journey with interest. This new project was an album release to be made on vinyl featuring his own new compositions, and he was looking for me to provide images for the vinyl cover.

Upon discussing this further it became clear to me that Justin had invested much of his own resources into the project already and not only from a time or money point of view but also from a heart and soul perspective. With the music being of his own creation he had a strong attachment to it and thus the creative process behind matching an image with the mood, feel, spirit and direction of the music was in need of the same care and attention.

Over the course of a couple of meetings I was able to listen to some of the early rehearsals and sections of the music, this was key to understanding the nature of the project. After all you can throw adjectives around to try and describe these feelings but nothing beats the real thing. Armed with a good picture of what mood was needed I attempted to 'shoot' for the project.

Despite having done some previous commercial photography work this was the first time I was commissioned to provide images from nature that were to match a musical concept and mood. It's not quite the same as taking a picture of a product or event, it requires a deeper connection to the project and an understanding of how that can affect your own image making process.

There were some criteria that had to be met, for example the images needed to be square to suit the Vinyl cover, the title of the work was 'A Place To Be' and the idea was to present an image that asked as many questions as it answered about location, mood and spirit. There needed to be an element of intrigue, simplicity and yet be eye catching enough to make the cover stand out in a retail environment where commonly buyers are browsing through many records.

The final back (left) and front (right) covers...I can't wait to get my hands on the vinyl!

At first my attempts to capture this 'feeling' felt a little too staged, I was forcing the issue by overthinking the brief and concentrating too much on the type of location geographically rather than the mood. In theory the framework of what was required was there to help but I found it was becoming a weight as I overthought the whole process.

In the end I tried to just revert back to my normal shooting procedures and mindset, after all it was my previous work using these methods that had triggered the contact and request. It was clear that certain conditions would be more suited to fit the bill, for example I'm not sure bright sunny days with blue skies were what was needed, also the images needed the simplicity of elements to keep the intrigue.

The final images were captured by Ullswater in the Lake District during November. Early one Sunday morning as the mist and cloud rolled around the area the shoreline was irresistibly peaceful and beguiling...it was then just down to making the composition reflect that.

All in all it was an interesting experience to be working to a deadline on a project that had guidelines but also required a large element of my own inspiration to connect the image with the music. I came away pleased with the final result but with a glimmer of understanding of the pressure felt by commercial photographers who maybe have one or two weekends to capture the spirit and feel of a location, this is when you truly have to start praying to the weather gods to be kind and help you with the creative process!

If you're interested in checking out the album (I can highly recommend it as an original and innovative piece of work) please keep an eye on Justins facebook page for more details.