The Moment: De La Soul, Eye Am Eye Be
DE LA SOUL
“Eye Am Eye Be”
Providence, RI 1993
De La Soul, Fall 1993
This was shot during my first real year of shooting musicians and submitting work to Thrasher Magazine’s music section.This was also when De La’s album Buhloone Mindstate had just been released. I got the promotional copy of the albums a few months prior and played it nonstop. It was a genius album and it took a while to really understand what all they were talking about on the album. Most critics did not like the album because it was not easily digestible.
I found out that De La was performing in Providence, RI, not too far from a friend of mine going to school at the time in Providence. I proposed, “If I could get us into the De La show, could I crash overnight at your house with a few friends that would drive me up there from Jersey?” It was okay with my friend so I reached out to the publicist at Tommy Boy Records to arrange an opportunity for me to shoot De La for in Providence for a possible piece in Thrasher.
Arrangements were made, and within a week my friends and I would drive three and a half hours from Jersey to Providence, RI to Rhode Island College.
We arrived at the college sometime around sound check and set up my equipment backstage in an unoccupied room. The other rooms were being used as dressing room for the performers.
This was my first real experience being backstage, and interacting with life behind the curtain. I had been to a few show where I had made my way backstage, but this was the first time I was intentionally backstage.
There is a certain amount of trust and professionalism expected behind the curtain, it’s direct access to performers, their personal stuff and personal space. If you can exist within it, without standing then, you belong in that space.
After getting set up and testing my lights: my lighting system consisted of two Sunpak flashes with colored gel filters taped over them mounted on tripods. I had peanut slaves connected to the flashes to make them fire in sync when the flash connected to my camera went off.
I did not have a light meter to tell me the proper f-stop to set my aperture, nor did I have polaroid back to see what things actually looked like. My camera was a Canon AE-1 Program, manual everything.
I would make the flashes pop every so often so I could see where and how the light fell, I did a few calculation to determine possible f-stops based on feet of the flash away from the subject, how much light I would lose because of the gel on the flash, it was the best I could do.
The other factor that made things interesting was shooting on slide film. With slide film you get what you shoot. There was no room for error to be corrected or enhanced in the darkroom.
Not sure why I used slide film looking back, especially given so many unknown factors. Once ready, one of my friends went to De La’s dressing room to let them know we were ready to shoot.
De La came into the room with their own energy and antics, this was their third album so by now they’ve had countless photo shoots by this point in their career. This was my first time photographing a group I really was into and liked. I didn’t direct them too much, they just played off each other as if they knew each other’s space within the frame of the camera, even to the point in a few frames where Dave (Dove) stayed within a shadow behind Maseo and only used hand gestures like peace to represent himself while Pos and Maseo were in the foreground.
The whole shoot may have lasted a half hour, one roll of film.
After shooting De La, Tribe and allowed us to photograph a few frames of them. We switched around the lighting colors to get a different feel from Tribe, they too were favorites of mine but I didn’t get the same playful nature of them but at least they gave me the opportunity to photograph them.