After some targeted—and persistent—marketing, Philadelphia-based music photographer Gene Smirnov finally got his first assignment for Red Flag Media. The local publisher produces three monthly magazines, two of which are music oriented. Gene knew he was a perfect match for their style; his first Red Flag assignment was to photograph Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, and has since worked with them on several subsequent shoots. Gene’s latest Red Flag gig was a cover shoot for their indie/alternative music magazine Magnet. The subject: James Mercer, the lead singer of noted indie rock band, The Shins.
Gene was pleased with both the assignment and the subject.
I’ve been pretty fortunate to photograph artists I personally like, and this wasn’t an exception. I’ve definitely listened to most of The Shins music. I feel very fortunate to be able to be a visual interpreter for that audience. Tell me five years ago that I would be doing this and I probably wouldn’t believe you.
For the shoot, Gene photographed James in what he says was “an amazing setting”—a gorgeous and stylized “speakeasy” like bar in lower Manhattan. The location added a lot of character to the photographs. Gene says the bar inspired him and he took the theme of the space and ran with it,
The shoot was surprisingly smooth considering we had just an hour with James. The environment of the bar was very relaxed with it’s dark wood and vintage furniture. I often draw my inspiration from space and how the environment makes me feel. I think photographing anyone in this space could work really well, but his unique personality was a perfect fit.
The magazine loved the final shots, and even James was excited about the photos. For Gene, one of his favorite shots of the day is of James speaking with his publicist and manager.
For an artist of this caliber, it’s a business after all, and it’s very interesting to witness what goes behind the scenes.