Just as New Yorker's Jessie Wender was inspired by the music video "I Fink U Freeky," so too was I inspired by the awesome music video done by a, first and foremost, photographer, to create this article! So, what are you waiting for...10 great music videos done and directed by 10 prolific photographers await you after the jump!
Die Antwoord, “I Fink U Freeky,” directed by Roger Ballen and Ninja
The South African band and their friend, Roger Ballen, finally got together to make a music video. And a fascinating one at that. As stated in this “New Yorker” article, Ballen “started with my [Ballen’s] photographs for ideas and then mimicked them in the sets…most of the sets started with almost a ‘Roger Ballen still life’ and then expanded on the particular theme cinematically. In many aspects, a great work of cinema contains an abundance of powerful still images.”
Spoek Mathambo, “Control,” directed by Pieter Hugo and Michael Cleary
Apparently the collaboration between Spoek, another South African musician, and Cleary came about after Spoek used an image by Hugo without permission. Initially wanting to tell him off, Hugo contacted the rapper, was taken aback by his charm and decided it would be fun to film a music video with him, sharing responsibility with Cleary. “I found the entire process much less painful than working on a still shoot. Probably because I don’t have any emotional investment or attachment to the medium. Music videos are so ephemeral. I certainly didn’t lose any sleep over the shoot. It was frivolous and fun.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “My Friends,” directed by Anton Corbijn
Prolific Dutch photographer, Anton Corbijn, is also a long-time music video director. Among the music artists he’s worked with are Depeche Mode, U2, and Nirvana. Here’s the first music video done for Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1995 song “My Friends.” Fun fact about this video is that it was deemed not very good by front man Anthony Kiedis as it wasn’t realistic. There’s no denying this sepia, “on a boat in the middle of nowhere,” video is surreal.
R.E.M., “Überlin,” directed by Sam Taylor-Wood
Drawing reference from her biography, “Sam Taylor-Wood makes photographs and films that examine, through highly charged scenarios, our shared social and psychological conditions.” This upbeat video stars Taylor-Wood’s partner, actor Aaron Johnson who was also the star of Taylor-Wood’s 2009 film “Nowhere Boy.” “I tend to see them as a scene from a film. I don’t really differentiate music videos from the films that I’ve made—it’s just that music videos are much quicker!” says the director of her dabbling in the music video genre.
R.E.M., “The One I Love,” directed by Robert Longo
Another artistic R.E.M. music video. This time by painter/sculptor Robert Longo. “With this video, I wanted to make pictures that looked like the music.” Hence the flames and sparks of electricity as “fire, fire” is the song’s refrain. _“There are no actors, just friends and family of the band."
New Order, “Blue Monday 1988,” directed by William Wegman
Famed photographer William Wegman had his equally as famous Weimaraner dogs star in the hit song “Blue Monday,” which is the best-selling 12-inch single of all time, by English rock band New Order. The dog that star’s in this video is Fay Ray, her name a play on Fay Wray, who Wegman says “compared to my [Wegman’s] previous Weimaraner, Man Ray, was strangely very shy and vulnerable in spite of her powerful presence…But she was obsessed with the tennis ball.”
PJ Harvey, “Hanging in The Wire,” directed by Seamus Murphy
“In still images, at least for me, it’s the moment, the timeless infinity of that moment…In moving images you have other elements to consider and exploit: movement, sound, sequencing. But it’s all photography,” says Murphy. The photographer shot and directed each of the 12 tracks on Harvey’s new album “Let England Shake” after receiving the raw demo of the album which he thought was very beautiful.
LCD Soundsystem, “Someone Great,” directed by Doug Aitken
American video artist, Doug Aitken directed the New York based dance-punk band’s music video. Lead vocalist, James Murphy has also worked on another collaboration with Aitken, on an installation piece by the latter entitled “Song 1” which is meant to “alter the relationship between the museum building and its urban environment. You can read about it here.
Spank Rock, “Car Song,” directed by Luis Gispert
This collaboration was “fated” says Gispert to The New Yorker who says both artists knew about each other and admired the other’s work, long before they were introduced by a mutual friend. Gispert’s stance on making a music video in relation to photography is that “Historically it has served as a conduit for an artist to delve outside of the fine-art context. It was challenging and exhilarating to work with a form that has a broad audience.”
Moby, "Natural Blues,” directed by David LaChapelle
Photographer/director David LaChapelle has also done music videos for Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Elton John. Christina Ricci and Fairuza Balk are featured in this award winning piece (receiving the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Video.) LaCapelle says, of making videos, that “My [LaCapelle’s] photography is usually narrative and conceptual, so the transition from stills to film comes somewhat easily for me…I enjoy the variety and challenges that different mediums present.”
This article was inspired by this New Yorker article which, was also our main source of information.