• Dantobinsmith2
Photography

Dan Tobin Smith

Posted by Will Hudson,

London based photographer Dan Tobin Smith is at the forefront of still life photography. Whether it be shooting an ad campaign for likes of Coca-cola, Nike and Orange, or the latest interior for Wallpaper* Magazine, there’s something about Dan’s photography that sets it apart.

His latest project has seen him shoot one of the the most hotly tipped album releases of the year, The Blueprint 3 from Jay Z. With all eye’s on the album we caught up with the man behind the lens to find out more.

This is one of the most anticipated albums of the year, and the first album Jay Z hasn’t appeared on the cover, how did you get involved in the project and what was the reasoning behind a much more sculptural approach?

Greg Burke, the creative director on the project at Atlantic records had seen the Letter ‘E’ I had shot with the set designer Nicola Yeoman and I guess he had it in the back of his mind when he was thinking of ideas for Jay Z’s new artwork for Blueprint 3. I think Greg and Jay Z had lots of ideas about what the album meant and it seemed to be about taking it back to the source, in terms of the music itself and then subsequently the artwork. For the album and the idea was it was very much about the music and all the things that make music. The 3 is represented by 3 bars which is of course the old way of writing ‘3’ so that seemed to work really nicely with the idea behind the album and the set design that evolved. We all liked the idea that the installation was almost machine like, like all these things were interlinked. That’s why everything is packed and jumbled together. Like it had kind of grown out of this corner.

I think it was a brave approach for Jay Z as all his previous albums have had him on them. I love still life, and the way I shoot is quite old school. It took 3 days to shoot, was all shot on 10×8 inch film, so the quality in the whites is fantastic, so much subtle tone. We worked long and hard on the colour work on the post and even in a single page mag advert I can see that effort. You could blow the image up to the size of a building and it would still hold up. It seems the album is about that old school crafted production so its nice that that same method went into the shoot.

You’ve worked on big ad campaigns in the past and as a result the work has been seen by a large audience. However, it might not have been talked about as much as this, what’s the reaction been?

The reaction has been really good. Kanye put it on his blog which was nice. I’m sure some people want to see Jay Z on the cover but at least they will talk about it. I love the idea of this kind of still life photography being so looked at. When they see the rest of the shoot for the singles I think it will grow on some of the people who were maybe less enamoured with it. There has obviously been comparisons to the letter E, some people not realising it was me who shot it! It was great that we shot it and the whole experience was great, everybody worked together really well.

What were the seminal albums you grew up with and has it influenced your work?

My music taste is a little eclectic so I’m not sure I could name any particular album, although when I was 15 onwards and in the darkroom printing a lot I used to mainly listen to a guy called L. Shankar who was singed with ECM and an album called Who’s to Know. He played contemporary Indian classical. He plays a kind of self designed double electric violin. He is brilliant, technically so obviously but so much more than that. He made me realise a lot of great music is about timing and rhythm. I have listened to one of his pieces on the album probably thousands of times and still love it when I hear it again.

What are you listening to at the moment?

All sorts but quite a lot of Ennio Morricone soundtracks from spaghetti westerns, I think he’s really underrated and was actually very prolific, so fresh the way he makes music. Also listening to some klezmar, so lots of Naftule Brandwein. Tinarwen, John Fahey, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grapelli. R L Burnside. So all sorts really!

Wh-300

Posted by Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded. He is a regular guest on the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Music View Archive

  1. Main

    WARNING do not watch this if you are afraid of family members dying and then being messily devoured in front of your very eyes by OTHER members of your own family. Seriously, parts of this video were deemed unwatchable by most of the It’s Nice That editorial team, which I think is perhaps why I love it so much.

  2. Grimes-list

    Grimes’ latest single has already caused an enormous amount of controversy among some of her die-hard fans. Written in collaboration with Blood Diamonds, Go was originally intended to be sold to Rihanna. When she rejected it Grimes decided to perform it on her own, and the dubstep beat has got a lot of people riled. “How this could happen?” says one. “Don’t they have any friends to tell them honestly their opinion? This is generic boring kitsch guys, sorry. Where you lost your spirit?”. However you feel about the song (it’s actually really good) it’s impossible to deny the appeal of the video – also directed by Grimes – that involves a surreal day in the desert with a sword-wielding dark knight and some pretty bewitching club scenes that are riddled with masked mime artists. She’s back!

  3. List

    Every time a new music video by Us (AKA Chris Barrett and Luke Taylor) is sent round the studio I find myself stubbornly insisting that they can’t possibly have topped their previous efforts, and every single time the London-based directing duo seem to prove me wrong. Their latest creation for British singer-songwriter and producer Labrinth is potentially the finest yet in fact, combining what is becoming their trademark one-shot effect with a brilliantly simple storyline. The video follows Labrinth through the ups and downs of making a record, from TV interviews and squabbling record label execs to shooting videos in flash cars and performing onstage, exposing a side that usually remains concealed. It’s a natural fit for Us’ pared-back aesthetic, where cameras, ladders and extras are all included in the shot. Have they upped the stakes again? We reckon so.

  4. List

    “Can I email you back on Monday? I’m actually in the desert this weekend,” was the reply we got from Tom Gould when we got in touch to see what he was up to a couple of weeks back. It might sound like the filmmaker’s equivalent of the dog eating your homework, but in Tom’s case it’s a wholly credible excuse, and even more so now that we can see the fruits of his labour.

  5. Main

    How refreshing to see a music video that isn’t three minutes of slowly buffering and ultimately mind-bending CGI. The videos we cherish are always a combination of great idea plus low budget – which is what makes this new one for White Fence so perfect. Why has no one thought about putting a lead singer of a band in a prison for a music video before? I love the idea that no matter how much we worship bands and frontmen, if you threw them in the clanger for even an hour they wouldn’t last five minutes.

  6. Haim

    This is great! Haim have actually had a really great back catalogue of videos so far, proving to everyone that this medium is still mega-important as to how a band is seen (Metronomy also do this well). Now I may not recognise many (any) of the trendy music names that star in this video, but what I do know a lot about is chat shows. The whole video is a pastiche of ubiquitous telly fodder like Jerry Springer, Jeremy Kyle and Oprah – the gross chairs, beige set-design and on-screen graphics that remind you of Saved by the Bell that we all know and love.

  7. List

    You know how it is; you’re filming your latest music video, taking instructions from cue cards administered by an overbearing director when suddenly he’s distracted and is no longer showing you what to do. Do you stop what you’re doing and risk looking like a chump or just keep on dancing until the next cue card flashes up? This is the great existential debate at the heart of Ninian Doff’s latest video for Peace, which sees him taking this line of inquiry to extremes; crashing cars and terrorising families in the process. Fun times!

  8. Main8

    Is anyone else slightly unnerved by how happy Bill Callahan has been of late? His songs no longer deal with loneliness and somewhat terrifying obsession and now dwell on nicer, every day things such as driving in the car with your loved one as a snoozing pillion passenger. Yes I know it’s nicer to listen to songs about that sort of thing, but I kind of miss wigging out to some of his earlier classics where he would, for example, go into stark lyrical detail about arranging a woman’s lingerie into the shape of a little dolly on the bed while she’s out.

  9. Main8

    Pretty much anything created in the style of an old video game is fine by us. This partiuclar pixel art music video created by animator Mattis Davier is a thrilling, erotic voyage into creepy suburbia where we’re faced with a Twin Peaks style horror story and a lot of visuals that kind of remind me personally of the Are You Afraid of The Dark? intro.

  10. Pnlist

    It’s not jolly, but it’s pretty darn good. Daniel Wolfe’s short film for Paolo Nutini’s Iron Sky starts with what looks like grainy documentary footage accompanied by a low ringing sound. Don’t worry, you probably haven’t just developed tinnitus; I think he’s making a point about the unnerving, grating, inescapable difficulties faced by modern society. If this sounds poncey, listen to the lyrics – “in this harsh reality, mass confusion” – and watch the montage; a man beating an octopus against a concrete floor, an Orthodox priest breathing deeply, a young girl smoking, a man swinging incense, a power station, a man writhing in pain covering his ears. And drugs, lots of people taking drugs.

  11. List

    On 25 August 2014 XL Recordings launch Pay Close Attention, a one-off compilation album that spans the London label’s 25-year history. Over the years XL have worked with everyone who’s anyone in the industry, starting with underground electronic acts like The Prodigy (at one point they weren’t famous) and Hip Hop artists like House Of Pain, as well as Adele, Radiohead, Dizzee Rascal, The XX, Ratatat, Vampire Weekend and MIA. See why we’re getting excited?

  12. List

    We love an underdog over at It’s Nice That, and what better way to source one and plant them in front of your eyes than with a handy website designed for that express purpose? Forgotify takes songs which have never ever been listened to on the go-to music provider and puts them in the limelight for their moment of fame, whether it’s Young Person’s Guide to Rachmaninoff, the Mini All Stars with You’re My #1 or a banging tune by the Bopcats.

  13. List

    Lana Del Rey is something of an opinion splitter in the studio, so it’s with great relish that we’re posting her highly-anticipated new video for Ultraviolence. In a glorious twist from the super long epic Tropico that she released in December, it’s incredibly lo-fi and brings to mind that first video for Video Games. Directed to feel like a home video made by her husband on their wedding day, it focuses pretty heavily on Lana herself; putting her veil on, eating an orange and walking to the church. Whatever you think of it, it’ll likely make you long to whack out a Super 8 camera and start writhing around in a wedding dress. Which, let’s face it, we all want to do secretly.