I’m delighted to have one of my photographs used in the cover art for Aaron Paul’s new album, designed by Reginald Todd:
Here’s the story. It was a beautiful day out–bright sun, not too hot. I was going to the TV studio to take pictures of Ron B on the set of his show. Singer/songwriter Aaron Paul was going to appear, and showed up in a worn black leather vest with a bunch of colorful braids around his wrist. There was something just right about the look. The leather was faded just enough to be cool, the bands added a touch of color, and Aaron, being Aaron, had enough natural style to carry the whole thing off. Anybody else would have looked like they were trying too hard and seemed silly.
There have been some unusual guests on Ron’s show. One time a tall performer came in off the street wearing a white cape with antelope skulls attached to his shoulders. He was very nice and reminded us all of a slightly pale Elvis, but you don’t often see that look on the same block with John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Law enforcement folks don’t dress like that. Flashy to them is a big important-looking hat.
Back to Aaron and the vest. I thought it was a great look for him. We had done a shoot in July out in East Williamsburg and he had showed up looking like the epitome of an urban hipster. He had a cocky hat, horn-rimmed sunglasses, crisp shirt and vest. We started out on the train tracks that run across Morgan Avenue, then ventured out over the rickety (okay, in my mind it was rickety) bridge over the polluted waters of Newtown Creek. The bridge was see-through. It was made of crisscrossed metal grating, with a railing that seemed awfully open to me. Aaron wanted to go into the train yard and take a picture on the engine car, but they waved us off.
We survived. We didn’t get run over and we didn’t fall in. It was a fun shoot, and we got some great shots, but the pictures seemed a little clean. I thought Aaron had darker stuff in him, so while on break at the studio, we stepped out onto 59th Street and went up the block to a white wall that looked like a great open background.
We took some pictures there, then went up the block and grabbed some shots in front of an iron fence, then in front of a chain fence. The whole thing took about 15 minutes, but it had a good feel. Sometimes that happens. You put in long hours on a project, you sweat it, then you do something else twice as good in half the time. Maybe the first go was practice, sort of a dry run.
Later, as I was leaving the studio, I said, “don’t pick anything for the cover till I send you these.” I sent contacts the next day, and a shot was chosen. I wasn’t quite sure why they chose the one they did, but the designer had a vision for it and did a good job. Here is the image they used:
Can you trace the sequence? The performer, the look, the clothes, the photographer who remembered the fence and the sun on the wall–a chain of unexpected happy accidents on an ordinary day.
As Emerson said, chance favors the prepared mind…and the very well-dressed.
All photographs ©Catherine Kirkpatrick, Album cover art @Reginald Todd