The Saint and The Talking Head
by Maria Luci
For the last three years, musicians Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, and David Byrne of Talking Heads have been creatively collaborating. The result is the album Love This Giant, a record Rolling Stone calls “A May-December one-off [by] two brainy kids speaking in tongues.” Being a fan of both their solo and collaborative works, New York-based photographer Chris Sembrot was excited when the opportunity arose to capture St. Vincent and David together. The assignment came from UK’s Guardian Guide, who found Chris on Wonderful Machine. Their photo editors knew his style would be a perfect fit for a St. Vincent and David Bryne cover shoot.
According to Chris, from the first email correspondence to the actual shoot day, he had only two days to prepare. They would be shooting at David’s Soho studio and Guardian wanted Chris to make the photographs feel “like New York, while also capturing the space.” This turned out to be simple since the studio had large windows, original hardwood floors and white brick—”it screamed New York loft,” says Chris. Originally, the Guardian photo editor had wanted Chris to photograph the duo in front of David’s impressive and elective tchotchke collection, but David’s studio manager insisted on shooting in a more open space, in front of the windows. This actually worked in Chris’ favor and the resulting images are both intriguing and minimal, with a true New York City feel.
The shoot went smoothly, with David and St. Vincent being easy to work with. “I love shooting artists, and these two are super talented. They were chatting about work the whole time,” adds Chris, “I had to keep reeling them in every few minutes.” This natural interaction lead to real and relaxed moments. Chris also only used natural light during the shoot, which added to the organic style of the photographs. He especially likes the shot of the two, head-to-head, laughing on the couch. “It’s such a genuine moment, and was fun to get them into position once I explained my vision.”
The day went so well in fact, that the only issue was moving David’s giant molecule chair, an art piece he had created which “seemed like 400 pounds.” But with his two assistants, Chris was able to get the chair in position and take some fun shots with it as well.
The client loved the images and thought Chris had “nailed their vision.” The photographs were then used on the cover as well as in a six page spread.
View more at chrissembrot.com.