Diecinueve was a Spanish pop rock band from Murcia that I got to know through the bassist, my dear friend Emilio Molina. At the time they had just recorded their first full length studio album and invited me to document the shooting of their first music video:
It was one of my first real assignments as a photographer. As it was their wish, I solely shot with analog equipment: my Pentax ES II with the standard 55mm lens, my Cannon EOS 500 with 35-80mm and 75-300mm lenses, as well as a Lomography Supersampler, intended for some fun pictures.
The setting was unreal, considering where the these photos were taken: in southern Spain, at the Calar Alto Observatory near Almería. While people were tanning in the sun on the beach down below, we drove up over 2100 m to stand up to our thighs in snow.
Although the actors had to freeze a bit, the location could not have been picked better. The theme of the video was that of a dystopian regime that would enslave its citizens and turn them into obedient military personnel. Clearly, the coldness of the surroundings added to the hopeless and depressing ending of the video.
Before we dive into the main protagonists – the band – lets have a look at the costumes of the extras that would have to march through the snow for hours on end
The Supersampler worked well in these shots and they amplify the amount of people on a single piece of analog film and the marching motion was captured just beautifully.
Many shots included them marching on a single spot. The director was very concerned with their facial expressions and some of them had a hard time keeping a straight face.
Of course, spectators that were not required in the current shot had their fun from the off...
The following shot shows just how small the group really was. The director let them march several times over with the same camera position just to overlay them in post processing and make it seem like an army is parading by
The setting in front of the scientific observatory together with the snow as if we have passed the atomic winter worked great of the depressing feeling – which stands in stark contrast to the rather joyous music!
Shots that are really my cup of tea are the overexposed, white and hazy ones that give the setting an uneasy and unclear feeling. Not only could it be the toxic atmosphere after an atomic war, but the analog film could have been greatly affected by the amount of radiation.
Next to marching, the film had many scenes of the minions aligning themselves in order to the head general, who also happens the be the singer and front man of the band.
The two main guards were played by the guitarist and drummer respectively.
To complete the cast, in the following shot we see the protagonist and main actor, the bassist, Emilio, the keyboarder and the second protagonist and main actress of the video.
Some great shots of the guards against the observatory with their toy weapons were taken. We see them both in attention during filming (standing in the background while the troupe marches past in the foreground) and bored during shots, having to stand far away from everyone else, not being able to move away much as the next shot could start any moment.
Some of the more detailed scenes where taken during the end of the day with little sunlight left. I did not have my tripod available during these scenes, but the blurriness the photos do capture the fake emotions of the brainwashing quite well.
Some of the characters in the movie make plans to escape the despotism and militarism of this system. They run around the empty landscape trying to find a way through the rocks and woods that could bring them to safety.
The keyboardist, first a fellow rebel, now a little snitch, tells the general about the other's plans to escape. Following this scene, the bassist is brainwashed and compliant to the regimes orders.
The protagonist hides in the trees. A shot, that unfortunately, due to the poor light conditions of the later day, turned out too blurry.
The guards were alert and on their tails. In the end, the two main protagonists are captured and 'corrected' to stand back in line with the rest of the lot.
More of the under- or overexposed images.
The solidarity and vividness of these images fascinates me. This goes beyond the current photo shoot presented here. Nevertheless, in this particular instance, the landscape becomes even more alien, as if the picture was not even shot on this planet anymore.
Going from under- to overexposed, we have a radical change in tone of the images. While we were on a dark and icy planet before, we now switch to an aggressive sun. You do not recognize the snow anymore; it might as well just be sand.
Everything seems as if it comes directly out of a scene, even though these pictures were mostly shot in-between, during relaxed moments.
One of my favorite shots of the session must be the following one of the four rebels while on the run. The sun seems to burn down on them, as one looks up in search of something. Their heads are down as they move towards the right lower edge of the image. They seem lost with nowhere to go.
Most likely the best image of the session is this shot of the bands singer, the general, against the walls of the observatory. The profile is just perfect and with the face paint and burns draws significant lines to the hat and background. The gradient of the shadows, since the telescope is round, pull the eye pleasantly into the direction view. You don't know what he is looking at, but his stern face alludes to nothing good.
I remembered to take one shot of the film crew as well. Unfortunately – but maybe fortunately – I forgot my exposure settings on the camera, keeping the crew in the same desolate planet as all the characters.
Of course, having a lot of something in one place always attracts a photographer. Exhibit A: boots. Worn by all actors in the film, regular sessions of feet warming were on the agenda
The logo of "los malos" (the bad guys) was a smiley face but with a crossed out mouth. The obedient mute. Especially the close up with the extremely short depth of focus stands out.
The weapons were quite fantastic and showed once again how the props team did not lack any imagination. With the mute smiley on top, they seemed to have some sort of water heater spool glued to a toy scifi gun.
We could not leave without taking the opportunity to take some band photos against the backdrop, of course. Admittedly, it was not easy to find some free time during the stressful shoot to take these before it got dark.
The slightly overexposed shots brought some much more interesting colors to the motive.
Sometimes you just feel that the current position does not inspire the subject(s). Here, the band poses on some rocks and looks rather stiff to even confused.
Some shots with the Supersampler had to be included as well. Here, the band stood still as the photographer moved the camera
The face paint as part of the costume also had to be documented, so we took some closeups during the shoot. From these shots, it is clear that the singer and front man was the most comfortable and really got into his role as a despot. The expression speaks for itself.
Unfortunately, I was not able to catch the keyboardist before he had already changed out of his costume. I took a close-up to have one of each member at least.
All seriousness aside, the whole day at the observatory was good fun for everyone involved.
To loosen up, we took some action shots with the Supersampler, trying to get the members to do silly things. Especially these photos remain as a good memory to the rather cold and stressful day.
The band has since disbanded, sadly. Artistic differences and large distances, as well as work life and other factors played into it. For an uprising band they were quite successful, but unfortunately it never took off enough for them to pursue to professionally. As far as the photo shoot goes, the whole day was very productive, with the band being very happy about the outcome. Some of the photos made it onto the album cover while others might have been used somewhere else. I was no and still am no professional photographer. Yet, having the opportunity to engage in serious projects like these through friends are valuable experiences.