The Daily Star (Lebanon)
Blurring the line between fan, photographer
Shahinian captures the movements of musicians and their connection to audience
BEIRUT: Perhaps the most efficient way to understand something is to fully immerse oneself in it. That’s just what photographer Annie Leibovitz did when she accompanied the Rolling Stones on their 1975 summer tour.
Leibovitz was able to produce some of the most intimate and revealing portraits that had ever been seen of the band at that time.
Among the idiosyncratic images of the band that Leibovitz captured are a photograph of Mick Jagger in an elevator, wearing a bath robe with a towel wrapped around his head, and another of Keith Richards slumped drunkenly against the outside of a closed hotel room door.
Dubai-based Syrian-Armenian photographer Nairy Shahinian has set out on a similar photographic journey with her ongoing body of work entitled “Ecstatic Moments,” currently up at Ayyam Projects.
The project began in 2010, when Shahinian decided to document her experiences at various concerts around the world through photography. The resulting selection of blurry images explores the “heightened yet fleeting connections that occur between a musician or band and their audience,” she writes in her artist’s statement. Music from the concerts she attended accompanies the selection of 16 photos on display. Some of the performers she captured include Madonna, Bjork, Metallica and Roger Waters.
It appears that Shahinian has employed a slow shutter-speed technique when taking the pictures, lending them a blurry quality that conveys a sense of energy and movement.
One photograph, taken at a Madonna concert in 2012, captures the pop star at a particularly vulnerable moment, face down on the stage, with writing across her back that reads “ON” or “NO,” depending on which way you look at it. In another image the singer looks like she is about to faint, as one of her backup dancers embraces her from behind.
A photograph of Metallica’s James Hetfield from 2011 further showcases her knack for capturing movement. Hetfield plays the guitar against the backdrop of a cluster of blurry drums. This time, the effect creates the illusion that the instruments are pulsating with the same energy that propels the band members.
In addition to motion blurs, Shahinian uses bold colors to communicate these heightened moments. In a 2013 image of Roger Waters, the English musician is floodlit by a wave of red light, which covers his skin as he plays the guitar with his eyes shut.
Another image of the Mikael Larsson from the Swedish death metal band “Lake of Tears,” also contains exaggerated colors. However, the motion blur creates a supernatural double-exposure effect. As a result, Larsson appears to be playing the guitar beside a blue version of himself.
While most of her subjects seem to be isolated, one photograph from a Bjork concert in 2013 incorporates parts of the audience. Captured from a distance, the eccentric Icelandic singer is partially obscured by the fingers of a silhouetted hand that emerges from the audience. A string of yellowish green light exaggerates the singer’s elaborate headpiece, giving her an alien-like silhouette.
Shahinian’s subjects are so enthralled in their work that they seem to have slipped into an alternate universe. While she succeeds in capturing these fleeting moments, it would have been interesting to see the scope of Shahinian’s experimentation branch out beyond the effects of the slow-shutter speed technique.