I’ve met Joe McCorriston once before, at Katy Pickles’s album launch party back in 2013. I’d been peripherally aware of him since then, so when I found out that he was playing in Manchester, it seemed like the ideal time for a shoot together.
We had maybe an hour between my arriving at Apotheca, the venue where he was playing that night to him having to get ready to go on stage (or move a car; I can’t remember which). With that short an amount of time, I decided that the first thing that we’d do is take advantage of what little light there was left in the day. We set up in the window of the bar, and I let the light from the window wrap around him (image above).
Then, because it’s always worth trying something different, I threw a flash on him through a shoot-through umbrella. Same set-up, different light, different result. I only wish there hadn’t been that distracting blue thing in the background — maybe black and white would have worked better.
Next up, I wanted to use one of the booths in the bar. I noticed that Joe had an interesting tattoo on his left forearm — “We find our own reasons to sing” — and so I positioned him with that facing the camera. Telling Joe to think about a song he was writing, or someone he was missing, and giving him an added prop of a drink (stolen from his support act for the tour) I shot a few frames, knowing I’d go black-and-white. Couldn’t use a light here because of space restrictions, so this is lit by what was available in the bar.
Next, we moved to the downstairs bar. The dark red of the walls, coupled with the warm tungsten light from the wall fittings, made an ideal environment for playing around with gelled flash. I threw a couple of CTOs on a speed light and shot it through a shoot-through umbrella, then warmed up the white balance to give a nice orangey backlight and make the skin-tones closer to white than blue.
For our final setup, I found an interesting corner (outside the bar’s toilets, but we tried not to be there too long) and put Joe in it. I was thinking of Irving Penn’s work a bit, but the corner wasn’t really tight enough for me to try emulating that, so I settled for firing a speed light through a Honl grid to give a hard burst of light. One frame came out intense and direct, and another came out slightly contemplative and almost messianic.
And with that, we wrapped. An hour or less from start to finish, and everyone was happy. I didn’t get to see the gig, but I enjoyed every second of the shoot, and I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot Joe again.