Thursday September 12th, 2013
by Karrisa Olsen
Tattoos, sneakers and metal bands.
These are just a few of Chris Sembrot‘s favorite things – and coincidentally the main components of his recent shoot for Decibel Magazine. In a collaboration with Converse, he was asked to spend a few days with members of the Doomriders, a Boston-based heavy metal band. Chris followed the group to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where they each got tattooed at Congress St. Tattoo; a shop where their bassist, Jebb Riley, did the inking honors.
Chris stuck to his usual shooting process: voicing his vision and allowing it to happen. Despite the challenge of shooting around patrons of the tattoo parlor, he managed to create a collaborative environment between him and his subjects. He explains -
“This shoot allowed me to document the day and loosely construct the portrait. I gave the guys direction and just allowed them to flow in and out of the frame until we nailed it.”
However, his stay wasn’t all about skateboards and spontaneity. The band’s front-runner, Nate Newton, invited Chris into his home to spend some time with his wife and newborn daughter where he was able to balance out the grunge with pink onesies and pacifiers.
A video of all of the above can be seen below.
View more of Chris’ work at chrissembrot.com
Monday July 8th, 2013
by Maria Luci
You must live in a city. You must have a board. You must be wearing your gear. You must be ready by 6 a.m. These are Philadelphia-based photographer Chris Sembrot‘s requirements for the subjects of his new urban surfer series, “Dawn Patrol.”
The initial idea for “Dawn Patrol” can be traced back to a natural source of inspiration: an attractive woman. Chris explains,
There’s nothing quite like the motivation of a beautiful woman to get you to try a sport. This is the motivation that I felt three years ago when I first met the woman of my dreams—a woman that would one day become my best friend and wife. I always knew my friends surfed but I never really knew what that meant. Being from Philly, I knew people surfed at the Jersey Shore, but didn’t know of the culture and passion that drives these individuals to wake up at 4-5 a.m and drive an hour plus each way just to get a couple hours in during a swell; I was basically clueless about what surfing really meant to them.
It’s not the easiest thing to live in a city and having to drive that far just for a couple hours of fun in the water. Not only is it an early rise, it’s also money spent on gas and tolls. But these surfers all agree that it’s an important part of their lives. It’s something they love and need to do, no matter the distance or money.
This project is directly inspired by three friends of mine: Adrian Castillo, Chris “Cakes” Savaiano, and Jim “Hammer” Hammell who took me under their wings and suffered with the humiliation of helping a newbie. Their dedication to teaching me and insistence that I go with them whenever they went surfing, helped me confidently say to that beautiful girl that, “I surf.”
After learning to surf himself, and becoming a part of the local community, Chris decided to document these dedicated wave riders. It took just one Facebook post to get things started. With over ten responses in five minutes, Chris found his first subjects. From there, word of mouth propelled his project forward to the point where he now has no shortage of board-toting volunteers. Using only available morning light and environments within one block of each subject’s home, Chris’s ongoing series gives an honest, raw peek into the world of urban surfers.
Chris now plans on showcasing the series in a First Friday Philadelphia gallery show next May. View more of his work at chrissembrot.com.
Thursday May 30th, 2013
by Jared Gruenwald
Shooting portraits of famous musicians is always easy, breezy beautiful. Well, maybe not. But if you’re Philadelphia-based photographer Chris Sembrot, and you’re shooting in a swanky hotel in downtown Manhattan, that just may be the case.
Chris was commissioned by British magazine The Guardian (who found him on Wonderful Machine) to capture images of Phoenix—No, not the mythological bird that rises from ashes, or the Arizona city, but the popular French rock band.
Chris was informed that the release of the Phoenix feature would coincide with the beginning of the Coachella Music Festival. Guardian wanted the band’s images to reflect the cool attitude of the mega-fest, but in a city-like atmosphere where buildings and skylines could be worked into the composition.
Now if you’ve heard of this New York City, and I’m sure some of you have, you’re aware of the fact that there’s no shortage of buildings, skylines and street scapes, so there was no issue there. In fact, the band’s rep had already secured a location when Chris called them up: The East Village Standard Hotel. The building’s surroundings and design had Chris smiling from ear to ear. “Once I did a quick scout prior to the band arriving, I knew we were about to get a pretty good set of shots. The space allowed me to shoot with available light and that made me happy.”
The two-hour time slot Chris was given to shoot the band was more than enough. However, he made sure to note that having too much time can cause you to over-think your process. But that was not the case here. This extended window allowed Chris to experiment with each band member. “Since I had so much time, I would basically shoot each member for 5-10 minute “mini sessions” multiple times. I think this helped keep the energy high and the guys engaged the whole time”
To help set the mood and prevent an awkward environment, Chris put together a playlist of some of his favorite tunes. He advises, however, not to incorporate the music of the band you’re currently working with into the mix. “I never put the band I’m shooting into the playlist. Not only is it transparent, but it’s not who I am. These guys are musicians, which means they probably listen to many types of music. I’m basically playing the music for myself or to keep my subjects pumped. If the band likes it, cool. If not, they always have a veto I give them at the beginning.” And only once was this right exercised by Phoenix, when guitarist Christian Mazzalai killed the song “I can make you famous” by Spank Rock.
One challenge Chris did face during the shoot was visual diversity. Remember, this is New York after all, and just because you’re shooting in a penthouse doesn’t mean you have the luxury of too much space. He was presented with two rooms and four band mates. Shooting them together was no problem but transforming the space into different locations for each shot initially had Chris concerned. However, due to the available light and the backdrop of the city, he was able to pull it off. “The guys were great and really down for whatever I asked. They were true professionals.”
View more at chrissembrot.com.
Friday March 22nd, 2013
Brand paternity test.
Who knew Hustler owned a mustard company? Photo by Jeremy Deputat
“Women are objects.”
Gasoline coated negatives for a clean water series.
How to win your NCAA bracket? Choose cool alumni.
This year’s big ticket rivalry is Cheech for Harvard and Chong for Princeton. Photo by Bryan Meltz
Coca-Cola finds no sales lift from online chatter.
Free desk here.
Worst plastic surgery ads.
Finally have the confidence to remove the bucket. Photo by Andy Reynolds
Cross-dressing throughout history.
Who pays photographers?
- Maria Luci
Thursday October 25th, 2012
by Maria Luci
For the last three years, musicians Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, and David Byrne of Talking Heads have been creatively collaborating. The result is the album Love This Giant, a record Rolling Stone calls “A May-December one-off [by] two brainy kids speaking in tongues.” Being a fan of both their solo and collaborative works, New York-based photographer Chris Sembrot was excited when the opportunity arose to capture St. Vincent and David together. The assignment came from UK’s Guardian Guide, who found Chris on Wonderful Machine. Their photo editors knew his style would be a perfect fit for a St. Vincent and David Bryne cover shoot.
According to Chris, from the first email correspondence to the actual shoot day, he had only two days to prepare. They would be shooting at David’s Soho studio and Guardian wanted Chris to make the photographs feel “like New York, while also capturing the space.” This turned out to be simple since the studio had large windows, original hardwood floors and white brick—”it screamed New York loft,” says Chris. Originally, the Guardian photo editor had wanted Chris to photograph the duo in front of David’s impressive and elective tchotchke collection, but David’s studio manager insisted on shooting in a more open space, in front of the windows. This actually worked in Chris’ favor and the resulting images are both intriguing and minimal, with a true New York City feel.
The shoot went smoothly, with David and St. Vincent being easy to work with. “I love shooting artists, and these two are super talented. They were chatting about work the whole time,” adds Chris, “I had to keep reeling them in every few minutes.” This natural interaction lead to real and relaxed moments. Chris also only used natural light during the shoot, which added to the organic style of the photographs. He especially likes the shot of the two, head-to-head, laughing on the couch. “It’s such a genuine moment, and was fun to get them into position once I explained my vision.”
The day went so well in fact, that the only issue was moving David’s giant molecule chair, an art piece he had created which “seemed like 400 pounds.” But with his two assistants, Chris was able to get the chair in position and take some fun shots with it as well.
The client loved the images and thought Chris had “nailed their vision.” The photographs were then used on the cover as well as in a six page spread.
View more at chrissembrot.com.