Just what is it with all the black clothes and staring off to the right?
Press shots: as unavoidable as headphone sweat, and just as ubiquitous. Despite most DJs repeating their wish to just 'let the music do the talking' ad nauseam, press shots are now considered an essential part of a DJ's marketing arsenal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because if you’re letting your music do the talking and you only play generic tech-house, then all it's saying is 'Bmm-tss-bmm-tsss’.
Photography isn't a new medium. We all understand how it works, so the question has to be how come so many press shots are the visual equivalent of a grey rainy day: a dull bloke wearing his new black t-shirt and his best Nike Hurraches staring moodily off into the middle distance?
It's like we're all in some kind of visual echo chamber. Presumably, at some point some mid-level DJ split up with his partner and was all moody, and just happened to be wearing a black t-shirt on the day of a photo shoot. Then suddenly everyone else was all like, 'Ooh, I could wear a black t-shirt and look moody, too!'. But someone already has the "dressing in black, looking moody" market all sewn up - we already have goths and emos, bless 'em.
DJ/producer press photos can be split up into seven basic types:
1. Moody, looking away from camera, wearing black t-shirt and best trainers/jacket
2. Moody, looking into camera, wearing black t-shirt and best trainers/jacket
3. Moody, etc but, wait for it... crouching! This ground-breaking technique was pioneered by bored photographers in the mid 1990s and is now a standard part of the press-shot repertoire.
4. The Unorthodox (1) - Still wearing favourite trainers but now jumping off a sofa. In a street. I know, proper radical right? A sofa... in a street?! Crazy.
5. The Unorthodox (2) - Moody? Check. Best trainers and jacket? Check. Holding a weird one-eyed doll, a stuffed shark or a four-foot, stainless steel letter 'M'? Check.
6. In front of a wall with graffiti on it. This shot signifies that the DJ is from 'the street', yagetmi? Probably Sesame Street, but still.
7. The Blindingly Obvious Prop. This is a personal favourite of mind: the DJ chooses to help out the viewer with visual clues to their profession. "Who is this guy I'm reading about? The one on the iDJ website with the photo captioned 'This is DJ Hamfist'? What does he do? Oh, hang on, that's a pair of headphones right? I think the parts are falling into place..."
And of course, you can make any of these already super-sophisticated shots look even more boss simply by getting them done in black and white. If you think your fans can handle it, then wear your shades in the photo, too, for maximum fleek.
In a way, you have to feel sorry for the photographers, who have so very little to work with. Essentially, a photographer on a DJ photo shoot gets a dull man (it's usually a man - don't blame me, I can't fix the patriarchy) to work with, and that's it. A dull man, with a face, and some limbs, turns up an hour late in his best trainers, and somehow the photographer has to work their magic.
For providing us with literally minutes of fun online, sniggering at that shot of the DJ with the frying pan, cooking up a mix, and the DJ who's barbecuing his decks or whatever it was, we thank you, dance music snappers of the world. But now, photographers I call on you to reject moody, black t-shirts, graffiti walls and the 'DJ crouch’.
And perhaps more importantly, producers and DJs - you can wear different colours. You can even smile. It's okay, we won't think any less of you.
Words: Harold Heath