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ANDREW BOYLE: I grew up in Australia and was always passionate about visual media and sound. When I was a kid I worked at my Grandfather’s jazz record store on weekends for some pocket money. It opened my ears to the jazz greats and cinematic sound, and he led me to explore Hollywood classics. The bookstore across the way sold early Mad Magazines from the 60s and 70s for about $1, and I immersed myself in these incredible ensemble images by Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres, all some the greatest American illustrators of the 20th Century. It shaped my eye for characters, personalities and assembling images. I was also obsessed with music and music videos, and would consume them via an all night music video program ‘Rage’. I was aspiring to be a cartoonist, but the richly textured music photography of Anton Corbijn was the last ingredient that pushed my hand towards a camera when photography became available to study in high school.
TFP: Your editorial work is more than impressive! Working for MILK, you’ve had the chance to shoot Nicola Formichetti, A$AP Rocky, Drake, The Blonds, Whoopi Goldberg, and also Miley Cyrus and Jeremy Scott for Nylon, Tracy Morgan for Inpress, and so many others. How demanding is shooting such celebrities? Would you say it is harder than your more creative work?
AB: Each shoot is a challenge, big or small. Some subjects I have a lot of time with, some I have to attempt to find a connection and get something in a ridiculously short period of time. All I want is something special, because it’s unplanned moments that make memorable images. I’ve been fortunate that the people I have worked with have been generous, and sometimes it’s just the right place at the right time. The Miley / Jeremy Scott picture was hustled out backstage at Made Fashion week. I was the only photographer allowed back there to shoot them. They were playful despite the utter chaos and media frenzy breaking out behind the wall we shot on. I really enjoy shooting people who are in the midst of doing exciting things. A$AP Rocky’s session was shot three hours before his new album was released and he was buzzing. I find him a really fascinating individual. Talent to spare and just living to take his music and himself in multiple directions. On the other hand, Tracy Morgan was a slow burn. He sat and talked with me for 45 mins about what he was vibing on. I wasn’t sure if he actually liked me, but then he stopped, slapped me on the knee and said “I like you! We’re on the same wavelength! Let’s go take some pictures!”. All shoots are different, but the creativity with celebrity editorials and covers have to be set within certain parameters and schedules. It’s like being creative with a time limit.
TFP: That being said, who would you love to shoot with that you haven’t already?
AB: I love the culture of movie and entrainment legends, the people that shaped our collective impressions of film, music, literature. There are so many greats I want to shoot; Stan Lee, David Lynch, Mick Jagger, Ice Cube, all these people who innovated their respective industries or genres. As things begin to take off for me I hope the chance comes. There are so many image maker out there, you have to earn the privilege to be trusted to capture these people. I get bummed when I read that an icon I loved passed away because I wished my career had hurried up so I could have spent some time with them. Case in point was Christopher Lee who just passed away. He is such a formidable human being and I would have given my right arm to photograph him. But there’s so many new up and comers too, because it could be that portrait in fifty years that represents a moment of impact for the person.
TFP: Your portraits are very up close and personal. They speak to us in a way that transmits the subjects’ personality. Do you have certain techniques that help you get the best out of each person?
AB: I’ve always just encouraged people to relax. Usually just have a chat, be as clear as I can as to what I want. Sometimes that can get in the way, and you just have to let them be themselves, especially in an environmental portrait situation. If it’s an off the cuff portrait of someone I’ve bumped into while on the rounds at fashion week, I always try to give them a pose to work from. I never allow a subject to hit that instinctive fashion blog pose (slightly bent knee, cocked head, hand on hip). I want them to stand there, not pose, relax and let themselves come through, even if they feel like they are doing nothing. I always have the work of Richard Avedon in the back of my head with portraits. Just up front, honest, using the subject as a form of composition.
TFP: Music photography is also one of your (major) fortes. The way you capture the emotion and essence of the artist on stage is simply breathtaking. How do you achieve such impactful results while being in a loud and shaking crowd?
AB: I wait. There’s this instinct to follow the artists back and forth across the stage, but I’ll often stay where I am (it’s usually the opposite end from where the other photographers are) and 9 times out of ten I’ll get a great moment, or the artist wanders over and I’ve got this great wide shot above me while everyone scrambles to chase the singer. I’ll also suss out the artist on YouTube. Does the singer jump into the crowd? Lurch around for solos? I’ll try to pick a good spot based on that. But, to be honest, it’s just getting a feel for the performance and nailing it in the frightfully limited time you have. First three songs and then you’re out of the pit. With punk groups, that means you have about three minutes!
TFP: What’s playing on your tracklist right now?
AB: A$AP Rocky ‘A.L.L.A’, Jon Hopkins ‘Immunity’, E.M.A ‘Past Life Martyred Saints ‘ early releases from Nine Inch Nails and Orbital. The classic ‘Power Fuerza’ by Ghetto Brothers (they were one of the original Bronx-based NYC gangs that turned to music) is always on rotation. Also been listening to a lot of Perfume Genius, Nick Cave and the new releases from Marina & The Diamonds, Halfbluud and Royal Blood.
TFP: Do you have certain hobbies that influence your work?
AB: I collect a lot of physical media like comic books, photo and illustration books, records and movies. I like the idea of being able to hold and own things. Although I use things like Spotify, Netflix, HBO, etc, I like to have my own physical collections. An album isn’t just a bunch of tracks streaming off your phone. It’s the cover art, the liner notes, the images, that make up the whole package.
TFP: What’s coming up in the next year for you – any exciting projects you’d like to share with our readers?
AB: I am diving into portraits of people associated with fashion and creativity, whether they are established or found fame via social media, the way these people have created their image and shared it. When I’m out shooting I meet all these people who are well known in the downtown NY circles. The internet obsessed ravers, the people that are featured on V Files, the Afropunk movement, the people that haunt the Ladyfag parties. AlI I want is to get portraits of these people. There is this notion that individuality in NYC is dead, but it’s still there. It’s just not where you’d often think to look. LA is also inspiring me at the moment. So many creatives have moved there to join the wealth of talent on the west coast. I’m about to make a big push into shooting more editorials, be it fashion and portraiture, as well as a printed book of portraits focusing on the downtown NYC personalities. Milk Studios is helping me out with that. I want to create images that age well.
Pictures are a courtesy of Andrew Boyle.