I have been waiting over a year to share the album cover shoot for London based electro-pop band Polsky. Back in February 2015 I was asked by Dave Bailey – Creative and Art director on the album if I would shoot the cover to which I said yes.
Dave is not only an amazing designer of some clout, having worked with Designers Republic before setting up his own company Kiosk, he is also currently head of the BBC’s GEL initiative to coordinate brand and design co-cohesion in the company. phew.. mind boggling stuff.
This was one of Dave’s Kiosk projects and I was definitely happy to be a part of it.
You can see all of Kiosk’s work at : www.letskiosk.com
Dave had worked with Polsky before and had already had talks with Chris from the band regarding the idea for the album and concept of the artwork. Chris Warren is lead singer, writer and CEO of the fictitious “Polsky Corp” under which the band preside.
In an interview with Fame Magazine Chris described the idea of polsky as :
a ‘musical corporate entity for the modern day’…
It’s partly a reaction to the “pay to play” culture that still exists for bands. We also saw it as a satirical position in reclaiming the bandwidth occupied by the onslaught of the corporate world – both politically and musically. In effect we saw the phrase as an attempt to fight fire with fire!
Founder and CEO Chris Warren (voice), senior synth architect Ben Warn (keyboards), rhythm logistics engineer Alex Robertson (drums) and low frequency systems analyst Chris Norman (bass) – embrace their manifesto. Live their ethos. Dance their dance. All applications considered…
Brain storm, Plan and Strategic implementation
With this premise of the corporation in place the album “My Own Company” started to take shape musically whilst artwork wise Dave and I talked about making the photography feature an over enthusiastic, “up it’s arse” yet soulless corporate “office” style theme with grey blinds, white boards, nonsensical diagrams, plants, fans and stationary… We also wanted to include a few other references and possible in jokes – but also things for the viewer to ponder. The Milk, The Banana, The Offering..
We arranged the shoot at an office in Electric Works, Sheffield and Chris travelled up from London. Dave wanted to feature Chris in a number of poses to give the idea of members of a company and their statuses within it. The boss, the underling etc..
I shot with one light – the old favourite of Alien Bee and a white beauty dish. I wanted quite a stark lighting to emulate a harsh bright office light but also bring enough detail out in Chris’s trademark bowler hat and black attire.
We shot against the office grey vertical blinds, keeping the light in the same position. Dave explained each position and we shot about 10 different poses in all ready to composite in post production.
The Office Additional
When shooting an album concept for a band I will always shoot additional images for use in the completed artwork. These shots could be out-takes or different angles of the main image, items within or closeups of the location, even relevant textures. These images need to tie in to the main image and concept of the shoot however, they also need to be removed enough to support the main image without over powering it as the cover. These are useful for adding to the back cover, inner sleeves, the disk print itself… They allow space for text such as a track listing etc.
We shot many different additional shots for the Polsky release as there was a lot of additional material that these would be used for from posters, facebook pages, cover shots and promotion as well as the artwork for the album itself.
Post Production : Building the cover
We had a great mornings shooting and we all adjourned the “shoot” meeting to sip a well deserved coffee at Tamper Coffee around the corner in Sheffield and await Chris’ train back down to the big smoke.
Back at BoneShaker HQ I used my usual post production download ritual to take over – importing the images as raw files into Adobe Lightroom. I could then “star” the shots I wanted to work with before adjusting any exposure tweaks and colouring I wanted to add to the images. I heightened the blacks and de saturated the shots to give them an even colder feel. Normally my process would be to switch each shot from Lightroom into photoshop to edit any skin retouches or blemishes, loose hairs etc before returning to Lightroom for a last tweak, dodge and burn then export however, as this was to be one large composite I exported 5 separate images as uncompressed PSD files and opened them in photoshop as their own documents.
In Photoshop I used a blank image of the blinds I had taken and then composited the 4 images of Chris into the background by cutting him from the background and importing them into the blind image. I cropped the entire image square (I love the fact that album covers are square – so nostalgic) I could then adjust the positioning of each “chris” to create the composition I wanted. For instance, the “BOSS -CEO” figure needed to be tallest in the shot. The “Milk Offering” needed to feel submissive so was lower in the composition. This left the “thinker / ditherer / yes man” and the “Documenter / Ideas man” to fill the spaces. (These names are just what I have come to know them. I don’t know if Dave has different names or concepts for their roles in the fictitious company…. )
Once I was happy with the layering of the figures I created over layered shadows on each layer to add a sense of reality to the shot – not just stuck on. For example – If you look where the “Documentor / ideas man’s” head is you will notice a shadow falling onto the “CEO” behind. I also had to sometimes lighten the figure behind to add some contrast to the black shirts. By dodging areas such as the “Ditherers” shirt where it falls behind the “Milk Offerers” arms it creates a separation between to two figures.
I also added a slight shine and lens flare to the rim of the offered milk glass. Just to add a touch of “treasure and reward’ to it.
Once the composition was complete I created several different versions of the final file as hi res tiffs before sending them to Dave to complete the artwork. The final image is everything we wanted to say about “my own company” itself, a phrase that can be read two different ways – as an individual and together as a group of people. I love album covers that you can sit and look at for hours and try and understand the meaning in them… or not and I think we have achieved this. I loved this project and look forward to working with the band again at some point in the future.
If you are in a band or solo artist and want to talk about concept shoots with me – feel free to drop me an email on the contact page.
A few months after this shoot I was called by Chris to see if I wanted to go down and shoot some additional publicity shots for the band for release prior to the “My Own Company” Album. But that… is a whole other shoot story!