Best Twin Cities music photographers 2014 finalist: Cameron Wittig
All photos by Cameron Wittig
Gimme Noise has selected 20 finalists in our Twin Cities music photographers 2014 showcase. Read all of the profiles here.
Cameron Wittig's photographs of musicians are sharp and evocative. Among the many acts who've put their trust in Wittig are Poliça, Dark Dark Dark, Haley Bonar, the Cloak Ox, Andrew Bird, and others.
Name: Cameron Wittig
How and when did you get involved with taking music photography?
In the mid-'90s I worked at a photo lab on 9th and Hennepin delivering film and prints to commercial photo studios in downtown Minneapolis. Eventually I started photo assisting on commercial shoots and I worked regularly for a few photographers who specialized in portraiture. I learned how professionals use studio lighting and how they work with their subjects. At the same time, I was going to see a lot of music and meeting people who made music, so the two things eventually crossed over. I work full time as a photographer now, with a focus on portraiture.
The first album cover I shot was for Casino Royale's Hank Mobley's Sound Of Love in 1995. We shot the cover with the band in front of the sculpture that looked like a big Frito at the old Central Library in Downtown Minneapolis. I've done probably a dozen or so record covers since then.
What are some highlight moments of your professional photography experience?
A lot of different things stand out, but my favorite moments are the ones I feel a personal connection to. It's really fun to be part of something meaningful to artists I respect, and to see my work become part of the identity of their music.
One anecdote would be doing press photos for Tapes 'n Tapes right around the time they were launched into the limelight. We shot in my apartment on E 25th Street in Minneapolis. A few months later I was in London for the first time ever - the first time I'd ever left the country actually - and I'm walking down the street and I notice there are huge posters of Tapes 'n Tapes in a record store window. And the posters are of the band in my apartment living room. It was a completely weird and existential moment. I saw them play King's College the next night and they brought the house down. They later had a tour bus with a top-to-bottom wrap of one of press photos we did -- the promoter didn't tell them about it beforehand so they had to ride around in that for a while.
Poliça's Give You The Ghost cover is my bedroom in South Minneapolis. The cover for the recent Blind Boys Of Alabama LP I'll Find A Way was a photo I took on a trip to the Boundary Waters with some friends. And having NPR select S. Carey's All We Grow as one of the best album covers of 2010 really helped my mom understand what I do for a living.
Where can people find your work (exhibits, album covers, publications, etc.)?
Aside from Google or my website, my music photos are in bins at records stores, tour posters, articles about the artists or record releases and other promotional material. I've done cover work for Poliça, Dark Dark Dark, Haley Bonar, the Cloak Ox, Andrew Bird and others. I'll have new music work coming out with releases by Alpha Consumer, Kill the Vultures, S.Carey, and Lizzo. I just wrapped up a two day shoot with Lizzo -- holy smokes. There are a couple of things in the works that I can't talk about yet, but I'm really excited for what's going to happen next with the Minneapolis music scene.
What is your favorite part of doing music photography?
Being able to work directly with the artists is a highlight for me every time. I get to hear what certain songs mean, what ideas are being tossed around. I try and bounce that back in terms of how an idea can work within the framework of a still image. I enjoy developing relationships and trust with people that I've worked with more than once. I've made quite a few friendships and that is probably the most rewarding thing to me.
What dos/don'ts do you have for young photographers who would like to pursue this type of work?
Learn how to light a scene. Don't impose your own ideas on artists if they aren't feeling it, and don't try to execute a concept that won't work photographically. Find the middle ground. The best photographers are also the best editors. Cut out what doesn't belong and get to the point.
Only that the Twin Cities music scene is the best in the country. The best people, the best music. And everyone gets along and supports each other.
Kasey Jean Noll
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