You worked with Samuel Burgess-Johnson on this and the previous 1975 album, can you tell us how you came to work together and who does what in the partnership?
DD: Sam and I started working together years ago when I first moved from New York to the UK. I shot a number of the lookbooks for Fortyounce London, which was his clothing brand. Off the back of that we started doing work for record labels both together and separately… I shot for Django Django and Glass Animals and he was doing covers for Ta-Ku. The 1975 singles were all going to be really photographic, so Sam and I worked on those together. After that we worked on a load of projects together for Mad Decent, Sony, and a few other labels. The two of us have always worked really well together, I think we get the sense of what the other guy is trying to accomplish visually. We always discuss ideas and bounce around concepts. Then we plan a shoot, I’d go photograph it (and Sam will come if he can be there), and afterwards I’d edit/retouch the image to a certain point before passing it to Sam for him to have a play with. We sort of bounce it around until it’s ‘finished’.
Like Self-Titled, the new album visuals use neon signs for each song title – can you tell us the idea behind using neon in the first place for 1975 and how that idea has been developed for the new album?
DD: For the initial singles before the debut LP I was taking photos and Sam was laying out a logo over the top afterwards. Then we decided at some point it would be cool to make it look like the logo was actually in the photo, this was on the seven-inch they released in the US. We created a glowing rectangle in post that time. Dirty Hit and the guys in the band are really creative and super dedicated to making really exciting artwork to go with their records, so naturally the idea for the debut LP became “let’s shoot a real neon sign this time”. So we got the sign made and in keeping with the previous minimal covers, I shot it in a pitch black studio with really simple composition (that image was actually done on high ISO medium format film). The inner sleeve of that debut was going to be colour originally, so the idea of doing colour photos was floating around even back then I guess. The palette of this record was something that Sam and the band talked about a lot before the signs were even constructed.
How do the locations for each song relate to the song itself?
DD: The band really thought that through, spent a lot of time thinking about it and developing ideas as to what they wanted. Some of the locations were very specific/personal to them, some were much more conceptual and loose. Those conceptual ones gave us the flexibility to scout locations and work out more abstracted/visual connections to their ideas. So its a mix really. They all mean something and really connect to the songs and ideas. I’ve worked with a lot of recording artists and it’s a rare thing to work with a band and a label so focused on the visuals and how it connects with their music, was a great experience working with them.
Is each neon sign a real physical object? What were the challenges/issues with shooting them in situ? Which was the most difficult shoot and why?
DD: Yes all the signs were real. The list of challenges/issues was immense, especially trans-continental shoots. We had to organise the construction of these signs by location, pick up, drive, carry, and power them in places that had no power sources. The weather and distances between the locations caused all sorts of logistical nightmares too. The hardest one to shoot for me as the photographer was LOSTMYHEAD, which was on a rooftop in a thunderstorm. I would think that the hardest one for Sam was the shot with all the signs in it, that was really stressful (all that fragile neon) and required loads of logistical coordination.
In addition to the imagery I shot for them, I also shot a series on film while out in the desert during this project, it’s on the personal section of my site under In Progress. I’ll be exhibiting that in the next month or so and self publishing a photobook.