behind the lenz

konrad lenz spirits of the dead singer, artist, director and photographer speaks with i.t.a. about his latest SZN fashion shoot, the tools of the trade and nineteen thirties jazz.

check the SZN fashion shoot

firstly, how did you find yourself behind the camera at the SZN shoot?

Well, Suzan Dlouhy who runs SZN is in my band, The Spirits of the Dead, and she needed photographs and she knew from having seen my gig photography that I'm a good photographer so she asked me. I admire her skills as a designer so I was happy to help out.

you mention you do gig photography. is this your usual subject matter?

Yes, my main subject matter is music, so gigs, rehearsals, portraits of musicians. With gigs I find that I get the best shots right before or after the actual gig, so while the musicians are setting up, doing a sound check and so on or after when they are winding down, talking with the audience, packing up. There's more freedom for me as a photographer to move around the stage or on the stage even. It's a freedom you don't have when there is an audience present. Also the performers are in a different headspace. I find the audience and the sound technicians, lighting crew etc just as interesting as the band to photograph. They are all part of a gig. I think being a performer myself gives me a different angle on photographing gigs and similar events.

so when you are working what are your chosen tools of the trade?

I use a Canon EOS 550D with an Asahi wide angle lens on it. The lens is about 30 to 40 years old. I get odd comments from other photographers about the lens but it works fine for me. On the Canon the lens isn't as wide angled as it would be on a 35mm camera as the 550D doesn't have a full frame sensor. I also always carry an iPhone that a friend of mine gave me. I don't use it as a phone, just as an extra camera. I wouldn't recommend an iPhone to anyone, they are not good cameras but it was free and it fits in my pocket.

who would you say are your influences photographically ?

My friend Jon Lewis is probably an influence, he's a really great photographer. There's a whole lot of photographers whose work I admire - Edward S. Curtis, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Frank, Carol Jerrems, people like that. I imagine their work has influenced me in some way though I haven't consciously tried to emulate anyone. Probably more of an influence on my still photography is the work of film makers like Fritz Lang, Jean- Luc Godard and Stanley Kubrick. They always had really striking images in their films, a strong sense of design and great use of lighting.

did you have to approach the SZN shoot differently from your usual work? what were you trying to capture?

I pretty much approached it the same way that I would approach a photo shoot of musicians. The main thing I'm always trying to do is to give the people in the photo enough space to relax, not order them around too much. Even though it's posed I'll keep it fairly informal so that their personalities can come across in the work. The other thing you're thinking of when you're making photographs or any other kind of visual art is composition, texture, lighting. Look around the place you're in, see where the light is nice, see where the background plays well off the faces, compose the image well in the viewfinder. The trick to it all is to play it loose and work fast, not have a definite plan from the outset that must be adhered to because if you keep aware of your surroundings you'll find things along the way that are really interesting. For instance, the dress that Gina wore in the shots looks sort of futuristic retro and the keg room in the Phoenix has all these great coloured tubes and things that make it have a 1950s science fiction look so it made sense to do some of the photographs in there. It wasn't something I'd planned for. I'd never seen that room before. While we were doing the shoot in the Phoenix Pub, Kieron Clohessy who owns the place, suggested we take a look in the keg room and it was perfect, a great idea, so I ran with it and the results were good.

yeah i agree the results were good... so what's on the agenda next for you? any up and coming projects?

Yes, I have a few things in the works. The main one I'll be working on is a short film about Renfield, the mad character from Dracula. I always felt he was the most compelling figure in the book. I've completed a rough script plus shot some test footage and a dream sequence already. I've cast a few of the roles including the title character. Other projects include completing my album of covers of 1930s and 40s jazz, blues and calypso. That's already recorded and I've almost finished mixing it. I love all of that old stuff. Some of those old songs have an edginess that has been lost to popular music these days. That's what attracted me to doing a whole album of it. Then there are several CD art and design jobs for various musicians that I'm working on as well. So, I've got a pretty busy few months lined up.

the current issue of powder is 'i want a little sugar in my bowl'. what does this mean to you?

Well, I want a little something sweet out of this life that is real, not artificial sweet like saccharin.

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