Local singer/producer and all-around talented guy Matthew Carefully has a new album out, “Community Ballon”. I invite you to check his work, it will bring a smile to your face and raise your karma. Contributing to this adventure with my photographer buddy Bennett “Valerie” Campbell was a great pleasure, and honest fun. I do not believe in creating contents in a vacuum; while I have the chance to share my photos on this blog, there are only a few opportunities when a group of artists can cooperate on the same project. The proverbial whole, once again, ended up greater than the sum of its parts. Here is how it all happened.
It all started a while ago when Matthew decided to involve members of his newsletter in his creative process: let ideas, samples and snippets flow, and you shall receive. From these heterogeneous contributions of sounds, feelings and lyrics he assembled and nourished quite a fine collection of songs, a feat he effortlessly reproduced a few months later on All Over Albany. This is a fascinating talent and you will soon be able to read more about how “Community Balloon” came to fruition on the album’s new swanky blog communityballoon.com.
He didn’t stop there, mind you; after cranking a whole new album he asked a few more people to contribute to his vision, come up with some visuals for this project. With a strange dream in mind, he approached his old roommate Bennett about producing the album art. The BNut, in turn, asked me to be his lovely assistant. I said “oui” of course, Bennett has given me a hand on a few projects in the past, he can hold a light reflector with style and I value his input as much as his perfect hairdo: time to return the favor. Fast forward a few weeks later and our happy bunch met in Lincoln Park, Albany, where we found Matt already struggling to get a dozen balloons out of the Mattmobile.
I liked the idea. You know who didn’t like the idea? The goddamn wind.
He and B had discussed the concept already, and I gathered that our small army of volunteers would hold the balloons in the air while we capture the scene, eventually leaving the balloons out of the camera frame to get this feeling of being “tethered to the sky”. I liked the idea. You know who didn’t like the idea? The goddamn wind. It turned out quite the challenge to get a few shots of this tangled mess. I took a few photos myself, in case Bennett would miss an opportunity (he didn’t), carried some of his equipment along, and gave my obviously nervous friend supporting nods and dubious directions. He delivered like a champ. You can read his account of the whole experience on his blog. I can’t compete with that much eloquence, my French accent doesn’t work in writing.
Photo tips. We interrupt this episode for a quick advice: “better know what your final product is, for no amount of Photoshopping will save a bad composition”. I knew we were working on a CD cover, therefore a 1×1 (square) aspect ratio photo, but I was unaware Matt was gunning for a seamless front-to-back cover, a 2×1 rectangle stretching both sides of the CD case. Basic geometry, really, but a whole different beast altogether: in such situation you would probably want to put your main character(s) in the right half of the picture (front cover), leave the left half (back cover) fairly unobstructed to provide room for the track list, and plan enough space vertically to crop the camera’s 12×8 original into a 2×1 cropped rectangle. I dead-centered instead, and only a few of my shots ended useful enough to backup Bennett’s. Lesson learned, young padawan, now back to our regular programming.
We moved around the park for a good hour, positioning people left and right, up and down, and found an inviting hill where Bennett ended up taking the sweet photo that adorns the cover of the CD. Most people enjoy digital photography from the convenience of their Point&Shoot cameras: a click and you are done, your JPEG file at the ready. Step into more serious amateur photography and the whole process becomes actually closer to good old film photography: I call it digital developing. We take photos in RAW format indeed, though this is only half our story: we spend an inordinate amount of time developing and tweaking this soup of pixels into glorious tones and smooth gradients. Turns out I started shooting RAW about a year before B, and I’ve extensive experience Photoshopping people’s head on monkeys. I offered my mad post-processing skillz and gave Bennett’s picture a bit more oomph. It isn’t very far from my photo below but the composition and wind direction makes it.
Say what? Yes, 90 degrees clockwise.
Matthew ended up using some of my shots for postcards and merch, and for that I’m grateful. You can find them in the limited edition “Community Bundle” (click on the small thumbnails), and if we were on Facebook right now, I would “Like” it a few times. We wrapped our adventure with candid shots of the man himself. I had an ace in my sleeve though, a long, shiny one that is: my trusty Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I’ll marry that lens one day, on a beach, riding a unicorn. I took some close-ups and sent a few decent ones to Matt days later. He liked one very much and elected to use it in a poster… after rotating it 90 degrees clockwise. Say what? Yes, 90 degrees clockwise. See, that’s the difference between a creative guy like him and myself: he thinks outside the box. Rotate that photo below, and here is what you get: back to people tethered to the sky. Ingenious.
I can’t thank Matt and B enough for the opportunity to collaborate on this project. The CD sounds great and I’m proud my name is attached to it. I love local arts and I try to support my community by documenting what’s going on in and around Albany. “Community Balloon” fit right in and I hope this little story will inspire you to give the CD a shot, and get involved.
More photos below, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow, or click on any of the thumbnails below to open a larger view.