Monday, August 24, 2009

The right song at the right time

Music makes all the difference. In all my infrequent internet ramblings, I don't think I've stopped to talk about the importance of music. I think we all know that exposing music to children at a young age helps to develop their infant brains but that's not what I'm hear (ha!) to talk about.

You're in the car...there's a stretch of open road in front of you despite the fact that you just got off work and its 5pm. Everyone is out, and so is the sun. Its Thursday and the excitement of knowing that tomorrow is Friday has you pretty amped (its the little things in life right?). Naturally your music playing device of choice is on random, cause, well why not on a nice afternoon like this? As the gap in traffic appears just before your favorite stretch of the drive home (the one with the sweeping corners and nowhere for "the man" to hide) THE BEST song comes on. It could be any song, but its your favorite song of the moment, or perhaps an old favorite that the "random man" inside your mp3 player dusted off. Suddenly, your perfect afternoon has just become somehow, more perfect. Oh the power of music, how it compels us. Without it, surely there would be no air guitar, and certainly no air drums. I'm pretty sure that back in the day, there was something called the "air harpsichord (not very rock and roll I admit)." Without music, how else could we embarrass ourselves? I digress... we're in such a good mood now that the odd look from the aging blond (look past the gray roots; she's a so-cal wannabe version of Cruella DeVille) in her Mercedes (its a bit too old, she's just pretending to have money) only makes us feel happier to be in this moment with this song....carry on with the air drums, shift gears, switch to air guitar as appropriate.

So whats the point here? Music keeps us young. What song, or album for that matter, doesn't in some way define a period of our life or perhaps a fleeting moment? Our favorite songs then in some ways, are like familiar smells, drawing out a full buffet of memories and emotions.

For me its hard to imagine not having music with me, especially when I'm out with my camera, or on the computer editing photos or, writing this entry for that matter. From where I sit, music is a critical part of the creative process. Queuing up the right album or favorite internet radio station, can set the mood and be a launch pad for great things.

Recently I did a shoot with a friend of mine who at the time, I hardly knew...friend of a friend of a friend situation. We got on well in social gatherings but never had a one on one. We found ourselves on a hot summer afternoon in the studio sorting out a loose ended shoot to get her started modeling again. We were making our way reasonably well, picking through a suitcase of clothes and discussing friends, the weather...nothing substantial.


She changed as I finished setting up the lights and we began to make our way through the first few shots. I could tell something was missing; something to make her feel more comfortable, more at home. I really wanted her personality to show through and I needed to connect a bit more with who she was and understand her person a bit differently. So I began to ask about music, and suggested we try a different station on Pandora. Queue my Old Skool Hip hop station and BAM! (think Emeril) things began to come alive. You can't not get excited when you hear Rapper's Delight; I'm talking the full version here, not the radio edit. Her eyes lit up and we were on our way, taking turns reciting each verse.


Music levels the playing field and allows people to open up a bit more and be themselves, which is exactly what you want if you're trying to draw out the emotion and personality.

The same goes for when I'm shooting alone or editing photos. With my headphones on, I can zone out and focus on looking at things from a different perspective and absorb the reality that is around me. Focus on the details that perhaps I've not noticed before...sit and stare at my subject and digest what is appealing about it to me and how I want to capture it. What else is around? How is it affecting the subject? Where is the light? Whats the STORY? All these things blend with the music to make the moment and define it through my lens.

So if you don't already, take your music with you when you shoot, and when you're working with people and its appropriate, get the right music going. It makes all the difference in helping to set the mood and the tone while you're shooting.

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