One of our favorite photographers to follow on Instagram is NYC-based music photographer Shervin Lainez. His work consistently captures the voice of some of our favorite bands and artists, showcasing both their unique styles and shifting visually, chameleon-like, from subject to subject. We took a few minutes to talk with Shervin—hands pictured above, hatting Regina Spektor, more fully pictured below—about his approach and process, picking his brain on some favorite subject in the process.
raven + crow: Thanks so much for making the time to talk, Shervin. We’re big fans of your work. I guess one thing I’m wondering is how the way you approach shoots has evolved over time? I feel like, from an outside perspective, many of your shots have gotten even more specific or themed as your career’s progressed, but I’m curious how that looks from where you stand.
Shervin Lainez: As strange as it sounds, my approach has stayed totally the same for the last 8 years—I hear the music and get a sense of the musician’s vibe/tone/mood, then I look at previous photos they’ve done and go from there. I don’t do a lot of preparation…it’s mostly just getting two people in a room and the chemistry dictates what the photos will look like.
That’s fair. I guess if your process inherently feeds off your different subjects like that, the end products would evolve as you continue to shoot different subjects. I’m wondering how you got into this world of music photography in the first place though; more specifically this very niche part of the music world of largely independent creators with very distinct voices themselves.
I only ever wanted to photograph bands—it’s the first thing I took pictures of and it made sense as the way I could best contribute to the music world, you know? My job was to figure out how I could be a part of the music world and just go straight for that.
You used to live in DC, right? We actually used to call DC home before we moved up to Brooklyn and it still holds a dear place in our hearts.
Yeah! I’m from Northern VA, which is right outside of DC—I grew up going to concerts in DC. I love DC, it taught me a lot about how to build relationships with creative people.
Totally agree, on both counts, really. Were you involved in DC’s music scene at all? It has had some shining moments, especially some years back.
Oh, shit! My old band, Speedwell, played some of its first shows with Q and not U back in college, down in southern Virginia, where we were all from. And we played one of our very last shows with D-Plan back at the old Black Cat—small world! …not to make this all about me. What brought you to New York then?
I spent years in DC shooting bands—it was time to go somewhere bigger with more musicians.
Yeah, that was a natural creative next step for the two of us too. Favorite thing about New York?
So many artists, so many creative people, so much trash, so many human beings.
I think that’s written on the city flag, yeah?
We have plenty of friends in the photography world, many of whom worked before and after the shift in the industry brought about by digital photography—do you find it challenging making a living in this creative industry when anyone with an iPhone and an Instagram account can call themselves a photographer?
Being a photographer is a discipline—you have to commit to it…whatever the device or tool you use is up to the times and technology, but as long as you have a true commitment to creating what you consider art, then i believe you will succeed on some level.
Who are some idols of yours in the photography world, past or present?
All of my idols are musicians—Björk and people like her who changed the game visually; I never looked up to photographers.
This is heresy, I know, but what’s your current favorite artist photo you’ve taken. …c’mon—Pick one pick one pick one!
PHOEBEFUCKINGBRIDGERS. She’s the best.
You’re a music fan and I’m sure you play it cool on set most times, but was there ever a time when you were like, ‘Holy fuck, I just shot one of my musical idols’?
I got to take photos of Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead) once and I thought I would pass out.
Yeah, that makes sense. Nicest artist you’ve shot?
I’ve heard she’s a gem! And craziest in terms of your experience?
One time during a shoot for the band Dresden Dolls they got completely naked with a golden chainsaw and jumped in the shower.
That oddly does not surprise me. How do you spend your time behind the lens when you’re not doing music shoots?
It’s more or less my whole life. It kind of has to be.
And techy question—what’s your gear?
Nikon D810, kit lens and a proFoto 300 strobe.
Awesome. Thanks again for taking, Shervin.