Boby photographed several bands during summer festivals with his amazing beard and a Petzval lens. Rock ‘n Roll, extraordinary Petzval photographs and Boby’s outspoken personality, are just some of the things that you can expect from this exclusive interview.
Name: Boby Allin
Location: Lambesc – Villejuif, France
Hello Boby! Describe yourself in five words.
Beer, beard, music, photo-report and beer.
What aspects of being a music photographer do you like most?
Having fresh beers in the green room and following a band during a whole tour. If there is one interest in being a music photographer, it’s that. When you start shooting a band – in my case Deluxe and Chinese Man – you have a story to tell. You don’t only shoot a series of pictures to magnify the archives of your agency. There are so many people doing this that I just stopped the concerts race. I still shoot concerts, but of artists I like or who pay me. The interest is not the same. As an eternally failed musician, I’ve always dreamed of being a rock star or at least following one. This is the fantasy of every kid who has seen “Almost Famous.” In reality, there are not so many hookers and drugs, and the tour bus is not so glamorous. But who cares? I am here and I feel like living something extraordinary. The first time I saw Deluxe, they were playing in a bar in front of 15 people. It was hot, the cocktails were coming one after another, and they were squeezed within 2 square meters. Now, those guys are going to fill the Bataclan concert hall two months in advance, after playing at the Trianon, two times at the Cigale and one time in the Zenith with Chinese Man. When it comes to telling stories, I would have had to be completely deaf, blind and hairless to miss those mustached guys.
What are the perfect conditions for shooting an artist or musician?
The first and most important thing is not to be drunk. I’ve tried it’s not productive at all. More seriously, the best situation is when you can go anywhere you want on the set, do whatever you want, and when you have a light engineer that does his job well. Without a light engineer, there is no picture, it’s as simple as that. I’m happy to work with the engineer of Deluxe. Despite his punk-anarchist-vegan-sandal-wearing look, he’s doing a really good job. The light show is really awesome, though it is not easy to photograph: there are backlighting, flashes, lasers, dragons breathing fire and even a space rocket when he’s in a good mood. It’s all the more rewarding when you shoot a good photograph. However, I must admit that I don’t really like when there is lot of smoke, but I avoid complaining. Well actually I don’t know… compared to the average I’m not complaining that much about the shooting conditions: if they are not good… well… I’m the one that has to be good. Speaking of that, I made a small chart about concert photographers:
2%: licking boots
5%: retouches, promotions, publications
You know, music photographers are a special breed…They have the knack for making lot of cool stuff completely boring. The latest trend is to say that double exposures are boring. But when you make a double exposure on film, it’s a real performance. You have to keep the previous picture in mind. You can’t miss or on the contrary, you have to fail completely. It’s exciting to be full of doubts until the development. The surprise of discovering your pictures is beyond compare. The result can be super nice, super funny or super ugly, but it’s always super something. I tried to do it digitally. You can make infinite exposures and check out the previous picture before you shoot… There is no magic. You can as well do it with Photoshop, just to be 100% bored. Maybe I’m just a young pain in the ass, but it doesn’t turn me on that much (though they are people who do it well eh). I can already hear those annoying people who think I want to rekindle the film vs digital old debate. I don’t, it would be the same anyway… One day, by dint of making everything boring, I won’t be surprised if a photographer releases a book about other photographers entitled “50 shades of shit.”
What did you think when you saw the “Petzval Lens”:http://shop.lomography.com/lenses/art-lenses for the first time?
“Hey exotic beauty.” It leaves no one indifferent: its color, appearance, shape, functioning, 4WD. It looked like I was doing the car presentation in the movie La Cité de la peur. “A lens, perfect to drive”. But seriously, when I saw it, I liked it. Some complain a bit about its weight, but it didn’t seem so heavy to me. I like feeling the gear I use, so in my opinion it’s more an advantage than a disadvantage. The first time I used it was for the festival Rock en Seine. I really felt that everyone was looking at me. Well… not at me… at the Petzval. It intrigues people. Eventually, I think it could even become a pick-up asset.
Can you tell us a bit more about the pictures you took with it?
I started with the festival Rock en Seine. It was a good way to train a bit and get accustomed to the focus. Concerts like Airbourne are not the easiest, because those guys are on fire. But when you shoot a good picture, it’s a beautiful picture. For this first Petzval test, I shot the Arctic Monkeys, Crystal Fighters, Warpaint, Thurston Moore, Airbourne, Tinariwen…
After two days I was used to it, and it’s quite easy to use in the end. I also think that the Petzval is brighter than a conventional lens (I mean: the f.4 aperture of a Petzval is brighter than another lens’s f.4 aperture. This may be just a placebo effect, but I really felt this way, so now I’ll let the experts decide).
Then I took it to my first album cover shoot. I was doing it for Louis Delort & The Sheperds. I was really anxious, and as I am a little stupid, I decided to bring a lens I didn’t know really well. You never know, maybe with a little luck it will work! And I was right, because in the end they choose Petzval picture for the back cover of the album and some press photographs.
I also used it to shoot Louis Bertignac during an interview for Rock Ur Life. But his management team didn’t choose any of my photographs… That never happened to me. It seems like his management was quite strict about his image. It’s a shame: we did that shoot in front of the Pantheon, with a beautiful sunset. They told me I shouldn’t take it personally, but I do. It pisses me off to waste two films, make better pictures than the guy from the press, and not being authorized to publish anything. But it’s the game, I’ll bend to it. And actually Louis Bertignac is a really nice guy, I spent 15 minutes with him, it remains a good memory.
Any good surprises while using the Petzval?
All the girls were suddenly looking at me. All the boys too! But as I said previously: I was surprised by the weight (not so heavy), the easy picking up, the lightening, the swirly effect, the Bokeh, the quality of the photographs, both digitally and on film.
Any anecdote on the series of pictures you took?
After the first day of Rock en Seine, I went back to the south of France to film a feature between Deluxe and M. When we discovered the shaped aperture plates (the drop, the diamond, the star…) we decided to create our own aperture plate. Without a second thought, we invented the first dick-shaped aperture plate. It wasn’t so easy to handle because the shape is a bit small and not enough sharp to be seen without a large depth of field. The next day I tried it with a double exposure of Thurston Moore, and it worked. He has gorgeous green light penises floating around him. I don’t need much to be happy.
I only regret I haven’t used it a lot with my F100… In fact, when I took the Petzval, I had a sunset shot on film, and I was waiting for an artist portrait to do a double exposure. I took my F100 everywhere with me for four weeks, like an idiot, waiting for the right moment. I even took it to the Sziget festival in Hungary… I didn’t find any moment to do it at Rock en Seine neither. Finally, after 5 weeks of waiting, I used it for a Louis Delort portrait, knowing that the label would not use it. This is how I did not use my F100 for 5 weeks. I think I shot two days with the Petzval and the F100, and when I see the result I’m pissed off I didn’t have more time.
Any good advice for those who would like to use the Petzval to shoot concerts?
Choose well what you want to shoot with. If it is a punk band in a basement or Airbourne during a festival, it’s gonna be risky. But you can do it, if you love complicated things. After all, I’m the kind of guy who goes shooting a Queen of the Stone Age concert with a Hasselblad so… The best situation is a concert where you are close to the artist: this is the most appropriate way to use the Petzval and get a beautiful bokeh.
The Petzval can also become essential to portrait photography. Outdoors, with greenery in the background, the results are fantastic. I love the swirling blur created by the Petzval.
To conclude, I’m not really good in art and photography history, but I still think that someone willing to do music photography should linger a few hours on the work of Stanley Greene.
Well Boby, once again it was a pleasure talking with you! Thank you for sharing your pictures and impressions. See you soon for a beer!