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Interesting interview with John McMurtrie

An interesting chat with John McMurtrie, to discover the wonderful world of photography behind the scene (by Michela and Cinzia @Heartagram Italy)

(Click to read more...)

1) Which was the spark that made you realise that you want to pursue a career in photography?

At Art School I soon realised there was a lot of illustrators and painters that were much better than me.  I began using the medium of photography for most of my exercises and soon realised you can do anything you want with a camera!  After that I knew what I would do with my life.

2) You are emotionally affected by the subject of your pictures?

Yes I am.  When I am taking a portrait I want to make sure I get that persons character or message across.  If I fail I am not doing my job properly.  Photography is such a great tool for communication. 

3) Are there projects that make you stay awake at night?

Ha Ha!!!  Ville!!!  Building up to the 'Tears on Tape' release I had many sleepless nights thinking of concepts.  I originally intended to do an ice shoot with a Heartagram carved in ice with a half skull mask made from ice.  At the last minute plans changed and I was given a set brief.  I often wake up with ideas for shoots.  The power of the unconscious mind whilst dreaming has given me most of my shoot ideas

4) Do you consider yourself a "storyteller" or a "historic" and stop moments in time?

I am just a photographer.  I do often look back on pictures I have taken and smile because you remember that particular crazy moment.  I think for Iron Maiden the photography will have a lot of historic importance.  That is why I did the book 'On Board Flight 666'.  Bruce and Iron Maiden have definitely made their place in rock history.  Not many bands have a singer that is an airline pilot who tours around the world on board their own private Boeing 757! I also think Ville has established his place in Rock history.

 

5) The photograph is like a time machine, each shot is an instant that will never be repeated again. What are you trying to steal in every shooting session? What have you tried to enclose in your work all these years?

My shooting ethic is very simple really. Get the shot!  When I say 'the shot' I mean the frame that is exactly right and the picture you set out to create.  Most of my portraits I have already shot in my head.  I can see the picture clearly. I just have to set up the lights, location and persuade the person I am photographing to trust me. The contrast to that is documentary photography which is all about anticipating the next moment, which I also love doing!

6) What does it mean to be an award-winning music photographer?

It was fantastic to get the Professional Photographer of the year award. To be recognised for what you do and be applauded for it was great.  Especially as the bands and people I shoot are not glamourous and within the 'popular' arena.

7) What advice would you give to young artists who want to make a career in this field?

Go for it and don't give up. Self belief goes a long way but you have to be self critical of everything you do.  I waited before approaching magazines and record labels until I had a portfolio I was so proud of I knew I could show my work with complete confidence that it was good.  If you want to work in photography you should be shooting virtually every day.  Shoot everything!

8) When a band is in front of you , what inspires you most? Their music, the personality of each member, or something else?

Often some of the most extreme bands are completely the opposite off stage so a lot of my time is spent trying to get a band to come alive. I have to visualise how a picture is going to work on an album artwork or editorial.  Obviously you can't help but be impressed by some artist's but often you are in camera world.  Lighting the subject and getting the subjects posture,  right takes most of your head space. 

9) If you could take a picture of every member from the band HIM in a portrait on his own, how and where would you represent each of them? What kind of setting and photographic cut would you choose? If you can , please mention one of these situations for each of them.

Well it was great to hang out in Helsinki at the beginning of the year with the whole band.  I am normally just shooting Ville and I enjoyed shooting all the guys. I really want to shoot more live pictures of the rest of the band. 

10) Do you have a preference about the camera / lens to use during your "portraits"?

I use Nikon because they don't ever let you down.  The lens changes per job but I do favour shooting between 70mm and 110.

11) Besides HIM you're the official photographer of many other bands, for example you traveled with Iron Maiden during their fantastic tour aboard their Boeing 757, music and 360 ° around the world, how was it?

Being Iron Maiden's photographer has taken me all over the world and allowed me to photograph some incredible people and places.  It is a real honour to work for them and I love it.  When we took off on the first round the world tour in 2008 it was an incredibly exhilarating and exciting experience.  Every day is different and never dull.  We have done 3 round the world tours now and each trip is better than the last.

12) I've noticed that very often in your photos there are references to films (or at least this is my personal interpretation), in the shots made with Rob Zombie for the release of his movie "The Lords of Salem" I saw a lot of old Dario Argento, in images and setting. How important is the cinema in your work?

Yes I am very much inspired by movies new and old.  The movie poster has to communicate an entire film in one picture which is exactly what I have to do with rock bands.  I have to tell a story and give the viewer a sense of who they are and what to expect from their music.

13) Among people of the last century, from entertainment or music world, unfortunately not here anymore, whom would you have liked to immortalise with your camera?

I would of loved to have photographed the actress Louise Brooks from the 1920's.  She was the 'IT' girl of the time.  She smoked, cut her hair short, reportedly slept around. She didn't behave in the expected way of that time and the establishment were shocked by her behaviour.  I like characters, people who do what that feel is right.

14) Out of curiosity : you are the official photographer of Metal Hammer, you take pictures mainly of rock artists (in the largest sense of the word ), but what kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to a lot of music these days but I love Heavy Metal, Prog, Rock and Jazz!

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