This photograph is a little different from the usual fare. My band, Large Mound, are putting out an album this year by releasing one song on the 25th day of every month. The whole project is called Another Year Of Rock and this month’s song comes out today and is entitled Rotund Iberian. The photograph above is one that I took during a video shoot for the song a few weeks ago and we are using it for the cover art for the track as well.
The concept for the video and accompanying photograph goes back quite a while. In 2002, before I was in the band, Large Mound put out their debut album, which was called Raised On Rock. The cover art (reproduced below) consisted of an unusual drawing by an American artist called Dave Ford. What was unusual about it was not the style (it’s looks like a fairly conventional piece of abstract expressionism) but rather how it was created, as the drawing was in fact made by a truck. The process Ford uses is to suspend pencils in bottles over sheets of paper inside a truck. He then takes the truck on a road trip, so the resulting picture is, in some sense, a drawing made by the truck.
A few years ago we decided to do a gig in Dublin where we played the Raised On Rock album from start to finish. Our intention was partly to satirise the growing trend for famous bands to perform gigs where they played their supposed “classic” album in its entirety. By having a relatively unknown band like ourselves doing one of these gigs, we were pointing out how ridiculous this practice had become, and how these bands (or their managers or promoters) seemed to be using it to declare particular works of theirs to be part of the rock music canon. Mostly though we just wanted to put on a gig and thought this would be a cheeky and fun concept to hang it on. I think some people got the joke, lots of others probably just thought we were getting ideas way above our station.
In the weeks running up to the gig we spent some time batting around ideas about how we could somehow reproduce a version of the album cover art on the night. We wanted to figure out how to rig up something so that the actual gig would produce a painting, in the same way that Dave Ford’s truck journey produced a drawing. We thought of hanging a huge sheet at the back of the stage and attaching spray paint guns to the instruments. We thought of trying to turn the floor of the venue into a giant canvas and make a picture by means of the audience walking in the paint. We thought of all sorts of things but in the end couldn’t think of anything that was feasible, and wouldn’t result in us being barred from the venue forever.
What we didn’t think of though was making the picture using light, rather than using paint or pencils. This only occurred to me long afterwards when I started doing this long exposure gig photography project. I realised that these pictures have a lot in common with Dave Ford’s truck drawings. In both cases the image is created by an automatic process which takes place over a defined stretch of time (a song in my case, a road trip in Ford’s). In both cases there is no intervention in this process while it is going on, beyond setting up the initial conditions for it to happen. And in both cases, the actual content of the image is created by means of some sort of movement that is taking place that normally does not result in the production of an image (the band moving in my case, the truck bouncing around in Ford’s).
So, in a sense the photograph above is a belated attempt to finally do what we wanted to do for the Raised On Rock gig, except it’s a photograph of a video shoot rather than a gig. We started by attaching cheap lights to the instruments, mainly to the head-stocks and bodies of the guitars. We then set the video cameras rolling and played through the song. At the same time I had the large format 4×5 camera set up at the end of the room and we opened the shutter at the start and closed it at the end. The light trails that you can see in the photograph are effectively painted on to the film by the guitars and the large ‘8’ was painted by me, using a torch, after we finished playing (this song is the 8th one in our Another Year Of Rock project). You can see this happening at the end of the video, which is below.
The photograph and video were shot in a place that became known as the Fruiter. This was the upstairs part of a Fruit & Veg wholesalers warehouse in Smithfield in Dublin. A friend of ours has been operating the space as a semi-official band rehearsal room for a number of years now. Sadly though, the Fruit & Veg business has gone under, and so the Fruiter will soon be no more. Big thanks to Marko and D for all the practice nights and good chat. Hopefully something similar will get up and running before long.