To borrow a line from their hit single “Thrift Shop,” the above headline is what was going through my head while shooting the world tour poster for the hip-hop collaboration Macklemore & Ryan Lewis two weeks ago on a dry lakebed 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Shooting a world-famous hip-hop group in the middle of nowhere with live animals, including a very large, and fortunately very well behaved, tiger. Just another Tuesday, right?
The image references their song lyrics as well as their recent music video for their song “Can’t Hold Us,” which includes shots of their trumpeter Owuor (sounds like “No War”), riding a camel. It was conceived by Macklemore and Ryan and I was stoked when they called on me to execute it. The image is currently being used to promote their upcoming world tour on the heels of the release of their new album, The Heist.
Making the shoot happen was no easy task, and owes a lot to the group’s producers, Nic and Honna, who managed to arrange for the musicians, a live camel, tiger and flamingos, a variety of props including a rare 1980′s Cadillac they found in San Diego, me, my assistant and all of the lighting and grip gear I requested, to be assembled out in the middle of nowhere. Once together, my role was as much photographer as it was director, not only composing and lighting the shot, but communicating with the talent and the numerous animal wranglers (from Hollywood Animals and Gentle Jungle), who were fantastic when it came to getting the animals in the right place at the right time. And if things weren’t already interesting, we had to contend with 30 mph winds that knocked over props, knocked hair out of place and turned the 8-foot octabox on my key light into a giant power kite that at times required the strength of my assistant, two producers and four sandbags to keep it from flying away. Also, as you can imagine, the tiger could not be in the same shot as the camel or flamingos, lest she become a little…hungry. She was, as I said, well behaved, but not so much that she wouldn’t be interested in some tasty pink snacks. So we had to shoot plates of the tiger and flamingoes separately, that were later combined in post.
The group was fun, but was all about business, which made working with them a great experience. What I like best about them is their insistence on going it alone despite offers to join the ranks of numerous labels. (Hard to blame the labels for wanting them considering the “Thrift Shop” video now tops 250 million You Tube views, as well as their recent appearances on SNL, Conan and the MTV Movie Awards.) This means they have creative control over everything they do, which I’m sure is a dream for many creatives with their level of success.
Word is they’ll be in Europe most of the spring and summer and will be returning to tour the U.S. in the fall. You can find out more at www.macklemore.com
And in case you doubt that the tiger was real…