Many years ago I was in Wolverhampton library looking for music to take out. I was in the cassette section and there was an album cover which stood out to me - it was the self-titled album by ‘Free’. The cover is of a blue sky and a naked woman’s silhouette striding over the camera. Her silhouette is transformed into a hole in the sky showing the stars, or perhaps a ‘window’ onto the heavens. This beautiful image was created by Ron Raffaelli.
I’ve been in love with this image ever since. I’ve wanted to try out techniques to achieve things similar to that album cover for a long time, such as layering negatives - which is how I imagine that image was created… although I could be wrong.
I love the idea that the silhouette of the woman is a ‘window’ onto the stars, it got me thinking that any silhouette could be used in a similar way.
I created a variation on this idea for the cover of my album ‘Mind Bokeh’. I wanted to create an image of bokeh inside my head. I tried techniques such as layering medium format negatives but the result wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. I ended up using a mirror cut out into the shape of my profile, this mirror was then hung on a wall in my living room. On the wall on the other side of the room was a large black sheet of wool which I pinned fairy lights to. I then took a photograph of the head-shaped mirror hanging on the wall reflecting the fairy lights on the opposite side of the room. Due to the type of lens I used, the mirror and wall appeared in focus, whereas the fairy lights appeared as bokeh. This image achieved what I wanted to achieve - a head full of bokeh.
The mirror and lights technique looked and felt quite different to the silhouette image on the ‘Free’ album cover, which was still an area I wanted to explore. I thought that it would be interesting to explore a similar look to Raffaelli’s image in moving images. I had the first ideas for this music video in autumn 2011. The first ideas involved footage of me spinning or rotating in some way, I then combined those ideas with the idea of using my silhouette as a window onto other scenes.
When I finished Silver Wilkinson and the artwork, it was time to start work on the video. I contacted Russell Weekes to ask if he would be interested in collaborating with me. I had previously worked with Russell in 2011 when he directed the music video for ‘K is for Kelson’. I really enjoyed the ideas he came up with for that video, he’s a very witty and imaginative artist who doesn’t need to rely on huge budgets and pricey gimmicks - he is also a pleasure to work with and a very interesting chap. I told Russell about my ideas and he liked them, so we met up for a pint in the Southampton Arms near the Warp offices when I was down in London. We discussed ideas and techniques and at that point I realised he was definitely the right man to work with on this project.
We hired a studio in Birmingham so we could easily transport my gear from my home in Wolverhampton. We also hired a turntable for me to stand on so I could be videoed rotating. We shot all the silhouette footage against a white wall on my DSLR. Russell’s imagination really shone through here because he seemed to have all sorts of wonderful ideas on tap. I recall him going to a local shop to get us biscuits for our tea break and came back having thought of even more quirky ideas. We shot lots of variations of the silhouettes with different instruments. After the shoot, I then made necessary adjustments to all of the clips and sent them to Russell to cut to the music. Russell then sent his edit back to me - again, his talent shone through with his imaginative editing and comping - layering silhouettes to create new strange figures and shapes.
The next stage was to replace the background and silhouettes with 8mm film footage which I had shot over the last 13 years. I sent off all of my reels of film to be transferred to a digital format and when I got them back, I worked them into Russell’s edit using luma key and chroma key techniques. One thing I love about Raffaelli’s image is the warm, grainy 60s psychedelic look to it, so I decided that my backgrounds and silhouette ‘windows’ should be looking onto warm fuzzy scenes captured on genuine film - I’m not a fan of fake film filters, when you see real super 8 footage you realise what those filters lack. I was super happy with the result, it felt like a long-term ambition fulfilled, but not necessarily a closed book.
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