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Behind the Cover: Picked to Click Photographer Colin Michael Simmons

Allan Kingdom's cover shoot with photographer Colin Michael Simmons and City Pages art director Emily Utne

Allan Kingdom's cover shoot with photographer Colin Michael Simmons and City Pages art director Emily Utne

The now-ubiquitous cover shot of our Picked to Click 2014 winner Allan Kingdom is the work of now-local photographer Colin Michael Simmons. The well-traveled shooter spent time working in New York, both capturing the flair and fashion of the streets, and putting in some long days working on the imagery of Saturday Night Live.

As he sets up shots, he's talking steadily and creating an atmosphere of collaborative thought. It's deceptively casual, but the finished results show he's taking in every detail. Gimme Noise spoke to him a bit about working on our cover, and the process he brings to his creations.

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Gimme Noise: Why do you like portrait photography and what does it bring out in you?

Colin Michael Simmons: I am interested in people. The challenge of making a connection with someone new interests me on a base social level, but then working to capture moments where the people I photograph convey honest emotion and let their guard down for the camera for even just a split second is a lovely challenge. Most of the time, though, it comes easy for both parties... when it doesn't, it doesn't and you just have to do your best and make it work.

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When you found out about this assignment with Allan, what did you do to prepare?

I checked out Allan's music to get a feel for where he's at artistically, and also researched what sort of other imagery there was of him already in existence so that I could attempt to create something new. I am definitely happy with the results. I had a great time working with him and also with City Pages' art director Emily Utne who brought a lot of great ideas to the table. A true collaborative effort.

How can a musician help a photographer get the best pictures of them?

No idea... just be honest, I guess. Everyone is different, so just be open to what unfolds -- the good and the bad.

I hear you used to work for Saturday Night Live. What's the craziest day you had there?

Yes, this is true. I worked as a photographer there. I guess I kind of made every day as crazy as I could if I was in the mood. When you have a 9-5 (or in this case 11 a.m.-2 a.m.) job some days you want to break up the boredom with random acts of whatever and other days you just want to sit and look at nerdy stuff online... and on Saturdays the show is going to air and the whole place just comes alive and there is lots of work to be done etc.

I guess the whole experience was just crazy... to be a part of something so historic. I had my own office, which was directly across the hall from the writers room where all of the writers and cast have their offices and they convene every week and do script readings, throw around sketch ideas, etc. That was crazy having Jay Pharaoh and Bobby Moynihan randomly drop in and kick it and test out jokes. Befriending Kevin Macdonald of The Kids in the Hall fame while he was guest writing one week for SNL was a highlight for sure... super nice guy. Now that I think of it, the number one craziest thing was simply getting the job. I never even applied or expressed interest to NBC or Saturday Night Live. They reached out to me and all of a sudden I had an interview there and then a gig. So bizarre, this journey called life.

Why do you use a mix of different cameras -- point-and-shoot as well as fancier gear -- and what do the results turn out like?

Just a personal preference. I like the polished look of a digital camera for refined portraits and a more classic/timeless feel. Then I have my point-and-shoot because I love the spontaneity and freedom of not worrying about focus and exposure and just putting all of my attention toward capturing the emotion/energy of the moment. I enjoy the juxtaposition when the two types of imagery are put together to tell a story.

What else have you been working on, and where can people check out your work?

I'm working on getting some more clients to build with, fleshing out some ideas for upcoming personal projects like a new limited edition book, continuing to work on an ongoing series I call The Black Lights of Unconsciousness, which explores the idea of the everyday as an odyssey. I would love to put together a gallery show in the near future. Aside from photography, I've also got a few music projects on the horizon that I'm excited to start getting into action and always enjoy spending time with my family. People can check out my work online at CadillacGypsy.com.

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