The Moment: Smif-N-Wessun, Sky High
New York, 1997
I photographed Smif-N-Wessun on the roof of their label’s building. The office was shared with Priority and Duck Down Records.
Priority Records didn’t have any New York acts, so this was one of their satellite offices, with only a few employees. For me, Priority’s office was a location I could stop at during the day to kill time in between shooting or meetings and regroup.
Not having an office or studio in the city, I needed locations where I could relax, store equipment, or host a meeting. Being a freelance photographer, survival was in being resourceful.
For more than a year Priority and Duck Down’s office gave me space and time when I needed it.
Being there so often, I became good friends with the guys on Duck Down Records because they were always at the office. I rarely took pictures while hanging out there, but one afternoon, the publicist from Priority Records asked me if I could take photos of the guys in Smif-N-Wessun, since their new album Dah Shinin’ was coming out and she wanted to see if I could push Thrasher Magazine into doing a story on them.
I said sure, but told her there were no guarantees.
The publicist gathered the guys in the group, Tek and Steel, and we all exchanged hellos. I suggested we go up to the roof. We had been up to the roof so many times in the past just to hangout, so going up there now with a camera was no different.
We shot on the incline edge of the roof, which gave an angular perspective that played along with their personalities.
Another interesting thing about the roof was how it was painted with a metallic silver that provided a unique up lighting.
When together, Tek and Steel vibe and bounce off each other’s energy. That’s why they work together well as a group. In front of a camera, they are the same way.
I used slide film to photograph them and had the film processed as color negative, which would cause a color shift and affect the grain of the film.
We only shot one roll, 36 frames, and I don't think we even used the whole roll. Midway through shooting, I knew I had the shot I needed.