Today, we sit down with award-winning photographer James Joiner and (on his behalf) American rock band Modest Mouse to talk about what it is like being back on the road and on stage. James shares with us a bit about his photography background, and experiences using our film stocks and lens while on tour with the band. The following photo series are taken on a variety of our Lomography Color Negative films and LomoChrome Purple, by James or band member Isaac Brock!
"It was amazing to see live music and be on the road again, and in some aspects, it felt just like the ‘good ol’ days.’ But there are also obviously loads of precautions being taken at every level of touring, and a nervous eye being kept on the news. Fans and audiences seem extra stoked, however. You can tell they’ve been waiting a long time to cut loose." — James
Hey James, welcome to the Lomography Magazine and back to the big stages! What has Modest Mouse been up to in the past one or two years?
Recording an album! Their latest, The Golden Casket, came out in June and was recorded over the past year, which, considering the past year, is quite an accomplishment. I think in doing so they’ve really put together the perfect soundtrack to our current situation, both cautionary and optimistic.
Does being on tour feel different now, or is everything “back to normal"?
It’s a bit of both. It was amazing to see live music and be on the road again, and in some aspects, it felt just like the ‘good ol’ days.’ But there are also obviously loads of precautions being taken at every level of touring, and a nervous eye being kept on the news. Fans and audiences seem extra stoked, however. You can tell they’ve been waiting a long time to cut loose.
You've been touring and shooting with Modest Mouse for a while now. How did you get started into music photography and why do you choose to shoot on film?
I’ve always really loved music, but have also always felt awkward at concerts - I have an epic case of ADHD, and I don’t just stand around watching things very well. Once I got into photography, being able to focus on the band through a viewfinder was a revelation for me - I could finally truly engage with the show if that makes any sense. As for why I started shooting it, I wrote about music for a long time, so bringing photography to it just felt natural. These days music is just a small portion of what I shoot, but the bands I do shoot I think of as part of an ongoing collaboration/art project. As for why film, well, I still shoot about 50% analogue. I love the interaction that comes from shooting film, and I love being limited to a certain frame count. Plus, while I know there are those who will forever argue that you can just mimic that film vibe with Photoshop, I don’t agree. There’s an actual flash of the light and energy of every moment captured frozen in the chemistry of a film image, like lightning in a bottle, and that counts for something, at least to me. Plus, who likes post-processing?
What Lomography gear is currently on and off the stages with you? What do you like about it?
I’m a huge fan of Lomography’s color 100, 400, and 800 films, as well as the LomoChrome Purple - those are by far the majority of the film stocks in my bag. For digital, I’m a Fujifilm shooter, so I carry a Leica M2 with me and swap lenses between that and my XT4 or GFX 100s (with an adaptor). I also LOVE the 80 mm Petzval lens with Bokeh control and shoot that with an adaptor on both film and digital. Lomography’s approach to photography - about it being fun and experimental while still art - mirrors my own. Lastly, I have the Lomo’Instant Wide camera (as does Isaac) and love the freedom it grants as far as exposure and experimenting with lens attachments.
What do you like about the Lomography film stock?
Well, the LomoChrome Purple is just a unique look and feel, so you can’t beat that. For color, the 100, 400, and 800 films — just the color rendition and punch/saturation, plus the grain. The 800 pushed to 1600 is pure magic in my book.
We also noticed some very familiar purple tones in your current band/press photo on Spotify, Apple Music and Instagram. Can you tell us more about that photo?
Haha yeah! So we shot that in Hawaii, and had a few settings planned. I was originally shooting on digital - the Fujfilm GFX system with a Nikon F adaptor and the Petzval 80.5 MKII, actually - but had my Olympus XA4 in my pocket with LomoChrome Purple in it. We were getting a bunch of shots, but felt like we were missing something, so I started shooting more with that just on a hunch and when I got the images back we knew we’d nailed it. Everything about that film really aligns with the ‘Modest Mouse’ vibe.
Having been on tour, there must have been some good stories that come out of working in a team and being on the road. Can you choose one or two of these photos in this series and tell us the story behind them?
I love this shot. First of all, excuse the fogginess - this was taken on what I believe what the hottest day in NYC history, or close to it. Couple that with a couple of thousand people in a tight windowless room and you’re bound to get some steam. Isaac took this on one of the Lomo Purple Single Use cameras. I asked him to take a couple of shots from the stage with it, and he carried it out with him for the encore at Brooklyn Steel, snapping as he went. One thing a lot of Modest Mouse fans may not know is that Isaac is one hell of a songwriter, but he’s equally as good with a camera and is a passionate photographer. I love that you can see me shooting up at him from the photo pit, the resulting image is here:
This is Simon (guitarist) getting a COVID test before the band shot a session in Brooklyn. We all had to get swabbed, and after a few nights on tour, some of them inside, we admittedly held our breath awaiting results. Luckily, everyone had a clean bill of health! Thank you, vaccines and precautions!
Jonothan Lyons a.k.a. Buddy the Rat is an NYC/Instagram/TikTok superstar. He’s also the brother of a long-time friend of the band’s. When he asked for tickets to the show he of course got them - little did we know it’d turn into such a wild event. After opening band The Districts finished their set, Jonothan donned his Buddy costume and took to the stage, leaped off it, and ran amok through the surprised crowd. It was amazing, if a little on the nose.
You just picked up the Petzval 80.5 MK II as well. How's that going so far?
Oh man, I love it! I shot a ton with the Petzval but full disclosure I’m not super organized so I lost almost all the aperture plates almost immediately. Having the aperture ring on the lens is a game-changer for me. Also, it seems like there’s a bit more sharpness across the frame, which is never a bad thing.
What's next? In terms of music and photos –– what can we expect from you guys for the remainder of 2021?
Man, more touring? Modest Mouse will be on the road through October and I’ll be along for a bunch of it, shooting and hosting some contests to help mentor up-and-coming photographers and hook ‘em up with new Fujifilm setups. Personally, I have a bunch of non-music-related shoots, mostly fashion editorial and outdoorsy stuff. Then hopefully everyone gets their vaccine and COVID goes away so we can get radical in 2022!