As an advertising, music and fashion photographer, Dale May is no stranger to rock n’ roll. With nearly fifteen years of experience photographing the worlds most recognizable faces, Dale’s clients include Christina Aguilera, Wyclef Jean, Dave Grohl, Gene Simmons, System of a Down, Matt LeBlanc, Casey Affleck, Hal Sparks, Jon Cryer, and many more.
Dale May has just finished a late ‘70s fashion-inspired shoot for Moby’s newest album “Last Night.”
Q: There’s a surplus of celebrity photographs (both paparazzi and editorial) in the media. What’s your approach to shooting familiar faces in an exciting and fresh way?
A: What keeps things fresh and exciting is the constant yet ever so slight fear of failure, or the possibility of creating something that would be perceived as boring. But it’s not always easy to get what you want when dealing with celebrities, people who have been photographed countless times and analyzed by the world. Nothing’s worse than a subject that "knows their best side".
Without a certain amount of trust between the subject and photographer, you’ll never break that mold and create something fresh. So I usually like to bring lots of squeaky toys along to the shoot!
Q: What’s the concept of the Moby album shoot?
A: Moby’s new album, musically, was supposed to capture "a night out in New York City, with all the sex, and the weirdness and the disorientation and the celebration and the compelling chaos". He was getting back to his roots with this release, growing up and going out in the 80’s. He wanted the images to have a feeling of late 70’s, early 80’s disco / new wave but at the same time, have a subtle discord. That’s where the video camera and TV monitor come into play. With a title like "Last Night" you can help but think something went down. But maybe I’m over analyzing it… look at the pretty colors!
Q: As a celebrity photographer, you take photographs on a set. How does this relate to your personal life? Do you take photographs of close friends and family, or is photography primarily a professional enterprise for you?
A: These days, I rarely take pictures of friends and family, although some of my subjects have become great friends. When I first started shooting and budgets were small, I used a lot of friends. Although I do shoot personal projects from time to time, I’ve always thought of my commercial work as my personal work. More often then not, I’m hired for my vision, so it can’t help but feel personal.
Q: How would you describe your own work?
A: I’m a hyperrealist I guess. I almost feel as much like a painter as I do a photographer. I have a very cinematic approach to images. I build sets, use miniatures, and do quite a bit of plate work. Basically, similar techniques that were used to shoot Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and Lord of the Rings (among other films). And I use color as a painter would.
Q: What other art forms influence your photography?
A: My biggest influences are painting and film. I’ve always loved film stills and movie posters, and the movies themselves of course. Artists Gustav Klimt, Odd Nerdrum and Michael Hussar, although not directly evident in my work, are a big inspiration. I think it’s their gift to make something that’s quite ugly in actuality look so beautiful without changing anything about it. They just force you to see it another way.
All photos courtesy of Dale May.