The Magic Of The Mo­ment

ProPhoto - - FIRST FRAME - Paul Bur­rows, Editor

Re­cently I in­ter­viewed the singer – and cur­rent judge of The X Fac­tor (Aus­tralia) – Guy Se­bas­tian, for a pro­file to ap­pear in our sis­ter mag­a­zine, Cam­era. Pho­tog­ra­phy is Guy’s cre­ative refuge and he’s al­most as pas­sion­ate about it as he is about his mu­sic. I in­ter­viewed him in his tiny pri­vate record­ing stu­dio in in­ner-city Syd­ney which, in­ter­est­ingly, is packed with ana­log equip­ment be­cause he par­tic­u­larly likes the au­dio char­ac­ter­is­tics and be­cause he’s a self-con­fessed “gear geek”. More in­ter­est­ing though, were the par­al­lels that Guy drew be­tween pho­tog­ra­phy and mu­sic.

Both, these days, are highly tech­ni­cal en­deav­ours, but at the heart of both is emo­tion… and it’s all too easy for the for­mer to get in the way of the lat­ter. As in a pho­to­graph, Guy notes, a song can end be­ing over­worked – too much tech­nol­ogy used mainly for its own sake rather than pro­vid­ing any ad­di­tional un­der­stand­ing of the sub­ject mat­ter. Some­times a sim­ple melody line or lyric is stronger – par­tic­u­larly in emo­tional terms – than any amount of post­pro­duc­tion wiz­ardry.

“Some­times with songs I’ve gone back and back and back and back so much – be­cause I can be so crit­i­cal – that you lose the magic of just mak­ing a mo­ment. A song is a mo­ment in some­one’s life… it’s a snip­pet of what I was go­ing through or what I was feel­ing… and I’ve put it down in a cer­tain way at that time, but some­times you can an­a­lyse ev­ery nu­ance of a song and worry about what ev­ery­body is go­ing to think, rather than ac­cept­ing that, like ev­ery artist, I’m al­ways grow­ing and hon­ing in on my art.

“And I do the same thing with my pho­tog­ra­phy... it’s tempt­ing to over-edit an im­age be­cause you think it will some­how make it bet­ter, but in the end it’s about feel­ing some­thing. A lot of what you might add is ac­tu­ally un­nec­es­sary.”

Bal­anc­ing the tech­ni­cal and the cre­ative is al­ways the chal­lenge. You need to have some tech­ni­cal abil­ity – even a lot – in or­der to be able to get where you want to go cre­atively… but, on the other hand, you don’t want the tech­ni­cal­i­ties get­ting in the way. “It’s ex­actly the same in mu­sic,” says Guy Se­bas­tian. “If you un­der­stand the tools and things that you are able to use, there are so many more op­tions as far as what you can achieve, be­cause what you hear you can ac­tu­ally ex­e­cute… and it’s the same with pho­tog­ra­phy. But then they are just tools. I’m now try­ing to cut down on how much post-pro­duc­tion I do be­cause you can get so caught up in the process that you lose the real essence of the orig­i­nal im­age.

“It’s easy to mess up some­thing beau­ti­ful. It’s a re­ally, re­ally fine line. There’s the purist per­spec­tive of, ‘no, don’t mess with it, it’s pretty good’, and then there’s the per­spec­tive of that, well, it could be more. And then there’s the fact that you’ve over­done it… you’ve taken some­thing beau­ti­ful and you’ve messed it up… your in­ten­tions were good, but…”

In pho­tog­ra­phy we talk about look­ing with­out see­ing… Guy con­tends that in mu­sic, you can lis­ten with­out hear­ing.

“It’s like wish­ing you’d writ­ten that song. As a song­writer, some­times I’ll col­lab­o­rate with pro­duc­ers and they’ll have beds of mu­sic that I flick through, say, ten tracks and only one of them will stand out, but the oth­ers I just can’t hear a melody over. Then sud­denly I’ll hear one of them on the ra­dio be­cause some­body has writ­ten a smash to it and I’ll think, ‘Oh, now I can hear it’, but by then it’s too late. So it’s about be­ing re­cep­tive and about not com­ing in with a whole lot of pre­con­ceived ideas. So with my pho­tog­ra­phy, es­pe­cially land­scapes, I’ll plan ahead – be­cause I have to with my sched­ule – but then there are the pic­tures that just hap­pen… when some­thing just moves me. That emo­tional el­e­ment is re­ally what makes a great song or a great pho­to­graph.”

Amen to that.

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