Archival Pigment Print
Signed and numbered by the artist
Edition of 50
11x14", 16x20" or 20x24"
I take pictures for a living, and most of the time I am tasked with coming up with the ideas, presenting them to the subject and/or client, and trying to make something lasting, or at least interesting. And in this day and age, with so much photographic saturation in the world, it is often difficult to get the subject excited or enthusiastic about doing anything. So when a subject has an idea, or shows a willingness to collaborate, it is a breath of fresh air.
Take Dave Grohl. Here’s a guy that is asked to do a million things all the time. He makes records, has made a movie and a television series, tours the world, and produces and plays on many other projects outside of his own band, Foo Fighters. When the call came in from Rolling Stone to shoot Dave and the band, I figured they would show up, but I would have to do the rest. I found a location in Malibu, and set about creating some ideas for the shoot. Then I got a call from Dave. He explained that he had this cool Harley Davidson chopper, and would I by any chance want to do some pictures with it? Well, of course I said yes, and hung up the phone thinking how rare it is for a subject to suggest an idea that creates more work and more of a time commitment for them. You have to love Dave Grohl!
On the day of the shoot, Dave, as promised, showed up on a badass Harley, carrying a backpack with some extra clothes. There was no publicist, no manager, and no assistant. We did pictures with the band in several spots around this rustic location I had found, all the while paying close attention to the sun. This is a position I often find myself in: trying to time a photo shoot so that the best picture idea aligns with the best light of the day. It can be a tricky dance to schedule the perfect day, because there are so many factors. If you are too fast, you end up asking the subject to wait around for the good light, which never goes over well. If you were too ambitious with your set-ups, you might find that you never get to the picture that you really wanted to take, because you lost the light. I have learned that you have to be vigilant about the picture you really want, and be willing to give up on some other ideas if necessary. As I’ve gotten more experienced, it has become easier to find that moment. I have also learned how to manage the subject’s expectations by being really transparent with my plan for the day.
Dave rolled right along with the day, and made it abundantly clear to me that I had all the time I needed. We finished the band shots and let those guys go home just as the sun was starting to kiss the tops of the mountain range that runs above Encinal Canyon. Dave started his motorbike, and I suggested that we cruise along Mulholland and Encinal Canyon, roads that hopefully wouldn’t be too busy at 5pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I should note at this point that we didn’t have any police officers with us, nor had we closed the road. We didn’t even have an orange cone. In true editorial photographer fashion, we were going to “wing it.” I should also note that our two vehicles (or lives) couldn’t be more different if we had tried. Dave, helmetless in a jeans jacket and aviator sunglasses, was riding a low slung, monster of a chopper that sounded like a blown hemi dragster. I was dangling from the side door of my 2013 Honda Odyssey minivan, using my daughter’s car seat as an anchor for my arm, while my pal Matt (also an Odyssey owner) piloted the vehicle.
Matt tucked the minivan as close to the right shoulder of the road as possible, and Dave made several passes at about 60 mph as we drove into the setting sun. As for the traffic coming the other way? Well, to be honest, we just sort of hoped nothing bad would happen. In these types of circumstances I become very focused on making the picture and I don’t think too much about what is happening outside the viewfinder. I suppose, thinking back, that every time Dave made a pass on the minivan he was in the lane of oncoming traffic. I am also pretty sure, considering how winding those roads are, that some of those passes were made blind. So I guess with some bad luck we could have killed Dave Grohl that day.
But, we didn’t. And Dave was every bit as enthusiastic about the execution of the picture as I was. He actually wanted to go quite a bit faster than I needed him to go, and it seemed to me that he got an adolescent charge out of the whole affair—like he was getting away with something.
This image was my favorite because you can see that youthful enthusiasm mixed with a demonic glee all over Dave’s face. He may have a million things on his plate, commitments that fill up his year, and a wife and kids at home that need his attention, but for this moment, he is free, and living the life we all wish we had.
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