Design Director: Fred Woodward
Director of Photography: Krista Prestek
Photographer: Christian Weber
What music were you playing on set?
Generally I’ll play whatever I’m in the mood for unless someone has a special request, my go-to is Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. On the GQ Jazz Giants shoot none of the artists had any requests. I do remember we played Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda while we shot Pharoah Sanders. Pharoah is a mysterious guy, very quiet and calm. The music fit perfectly with what we were doing.
What was your approach for this body of work? and why did you choose that style/color of lighting?
I wanted to create a body of work that paid tribute to these giants of jazz. Powerful images that were both modern and timeless. I am greatly influenced by the work of Irving Penn and Arnold Newman, there is an elegance to their portraits that I wanted to bring to life in this series. As for the lighting it is similar to work I have been creating lately in film, there is a hyper-real dimension to the mixed sources that I wanted to use to create a modernization in these portraits.
Did you prep by re-listening to each artist before you shot them?
I did. Once we were offered the project we created a playlist of one album from each artist we photographed. Charles Lloyd’s Manhattan Stories was a favorite.
How did you determine the approach for each one, did they always play for you?
I usually didn’t make any concrete decisions until I met the artist. Then I’d decide that we’re going to choose this set or that and which colors to play with on the spot. It was all mostly from the gut.
Not all of them played. At their age, if they didn’t feel like playing it wasn’t going to happen. But sometimes we were surprised. Cecil Taylor is known for his avant-garde piano yet he wouldn’t touch the thing. Instead he surprised us all by doing a crazy spoken word performance from his wheelchair.
How long did you spend with each artist?
It varied. I never knew how much time they would give me until we were together. Roy Haynes is pushing 92 and he could have gone all night, he has the energy of a teenager. Nearly all were incredibly generous with their time. We had several different sets going so we could keep the pace up and energy level high. Sometimes we got a half hour. Sometimes we got two. We photographed Roy Ayers until nearly midnight.
In a few words, what was the creative take away from photographing these legends?
I know it sounds cliche, but age is just a number. These guys prove that. I felt like they’re still as sharp, funny, stylish and talented as they probably were 50 years ago.