Category Archives: Music

BETH ORTON REVISITED

Beth Orton’s timeless classic Central Reservation has been re-released by 3Loop Music with a bonus disc of demos, B sides and other rarities, including previously unseen photographs from the sessions we did together.

Central Reservation shot in San Diego 1998 ©Sam Harris

The album cover for Central Reservation – Photo © Sam Harris

I can’t believe it’s 15 years since I worked with Beth taking photos for the album. Released in 1999, Central Reservation received a Mercury Music Prize nomination and helped Beth earn a BRIT Award in 2000 for Best British Female. Central Reservation spent 56 weeks in the album charts, selling over 500,000 copies.

A few months back I received an email from Beth, asking if I had any photos that hadn’t seen the light of day from the sessions we did together… Digging through the boxes of photographs that represent my print archive brought back many memories from that time. I love going over old photographs, not only for the nostalgia but also for the fresh discoveries. Time changes the way we view our photographs. Gone are the preconceived ideas of what a session should be and also the attachment to certain photos from within the session. It’s almost as if viewing the work as an outsider for the first time.

So, with fresh eyes I poured over contact sheets and work prints I hadn’t seen for many years. I remember that time so vividly. I joined Beth for a short West coast USA acoustic tour. We had a good connection and I was photographing her at every opportunity along the way; Car parks, hotel rooms, airports, thrift stores, cafés, sound checks, back stage… Most of our sessions were very short, just grabbing a quick moment on the fly, which is how we wanted it… more of a natural documentary approach.

Working with artists that inspire me was always my aim and working with Beth was great. The energy in the recording studio where I was fortunate to hang a few times and at the gigs was palpable. Sometimes you just know when something special is being created. It was an exciting time.

Beth Orton - Photo © Sam Harris

Beth Orton – Photo © Sam Harris

Beth Orton - Photo © Sam Harris

Beth Orton – Photo © Sam Harris

Beth Orton - Photo © Sam Harris

Beth Orton – Photo © Sam Harris

Beth Orton - Photo © Sam Harris

Beth Orton – Photo © Sam Harris

 

STRANGELOVE REVISITED

Patrick (Paddy) Duff - Strangelove © Sam Harris 1993

Patrick (Paddy) Duff – Strangelove © Sam Harris 1993

20 years ago, back in February 1993 i directed my first ever video clip for the band Strangelove. I’d just returned to London after living in L.A. for a year and back then i was still very much experimenting with my creative direction.  Hollywood is full of movie people and culture so perhaps it was only natural that i wanted to  get into directing, and with my love of music, video clips…

Stranglelove were a new band that i’d just photographed for Food records. I liked the band, their energy and attitude. Paddy the lead singer was a great performer who reminded me of a sort of Dickensian cross between Johnny Lydon and Morrissey. So when the band’s manager Cerne asked me if i wanted to have a go at making a video clip, albeit on a shoestring budget… i jumped at the chance!

Hysteria Unknown was shot on Super 8 film (camera Susie Hug) at Rockfield recording studios, Wales over one night with additional material shot on the way home, along the Old Kent Road and at Kings Cross, London. I edited the footage with the help of my friend, film director Gareth Roberts.

We were all pretty happy with the result and MTV played it on rotation on the show Alternative Nation.

I enjoyed the process and the result and went on to make a few more music videos, but eventually made the decision to dedicate myself to documentary photography and my diary.

Below you can check  out my 1993 directorial début

Strangelove – Hysteria Unknown 1993

Full Circle…

Over the past week or so i’ve been pulling many boxes out the cupboard and digging through my archive… looking at old prints and contact sheets, some of which i haven’t seen for many years. Lots of memories and a few surprises too.

It’s all in preparation for my upcoming talk ‘ Transition – from London to the Bush’ at the Head On seminar weekend. It’s been an enjoyable experience rediscovering old work. It’s seems a shame that so many years work, so many prints must live hidden away in darkness and isolation… Maybe one day i’ll do an exhibition of everything, just thumb tacked to the walls…

The image below is one of my earliest and still a favourite. Uma asked me if i did it on Photoshop… none of that! This was in the 80’s… way before my first Mac. Darkroom days & nights,  chemicals,  experimentation, mistakes…  It taught me early on the magic of the ‘happy accident’, which for me is at the core of what makes photography so special.

Will, shot on Polaroid Type 55 plus some darkroom shenanigans… London 1989 © Sam Harris

Another blast from the past was pulling out a box of my first session with Beth Orton. I worked with Beth several times, always good fun and inspirational… During my talk i’ll be dedicating some time to showing lots of images from our various sessions in London and the US…

Beth Orton – in her London flat  1997        © Sam Harris

Both my talks are on Saturday 14th May at Sydney’s National Art School, Darlinghurst. At 11 am i’ll be joining photographers Tony Mott (who’s toured with the Stones, Dylan and McCartney to name just a few),  Sophie Howarth (she’s been covering The Big Day Out since it started) and the gallerist Tali Udovich for a panel discussion…Should be fun! I’m looking forward to meeting them all and hearing some of their stories…  My ‘Transition’ talk will be at 2pm…