In the spirit of recognising the increasing importance and profile of women in music today, we decided to discuss this on a different perspective, with photography. And who best to address this other than esteemed rock photographer, Eddie Sung, who has taken countless of subjects on stage. Today, we have Eddie sharing some of his memorable experiences when shooting female musicians with his cameras, along with the pictures.
To start with, do you prefer to shoot male or female rock stars?
It doesn’t matter. I only shoot rock stars I respect. I try to capture their STORY.
Veteran legends, sex symbols, new blood or up and comings – I shoot them all. They have either paid their high dues, still paying their dues or about to find out how Fame will be affecting their public and private lives.
Women are the other half of the rock sky. I bring out the rock feel in the female rockers. As in the case of Shirley Manson of Garbage, Floor Jansen of Nightwish, Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches, Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Charli XCX, Nicole Scherzinger, Tegan & Sara and Suzanne Vega.
And I bring out the elegance in the lady singers like Lady Gaga, Olivia Newton John, St. Vincent (who wore a plastic ‘cheong sam’ dress), Taylor Swift, Christina Perri, and Bat For Lashes.
I try to shoot whichever legend comes to town (Singapore) given my availability. About 10% of the bands I shoot are female rockers or female fronted rock bands.
One guitar legend I would never expect to shoot but did shoot was Bonnie Raitt. She’s the queen of the slide guitar.
It was a pleasant surprise for me to meet Rickie Lee Jones on Singapore’s shores. She’s a respected artist and I had the privilege of her signing my “Duchess of Coolsville” CD.
What’s your most memorable/favourite shoot of a female rock star?
I always like to shoot Debbie Harry of Blondie. She has this bad-ass smarts about her, plus she trusts my eye.
She broke the ceiling for female rock stars with intellect to take the stage amidst her male band members in Blondie. I’ve had the fortune to hang with them in many occasions and settings – in studios, homes, restaurants, museums, in Chinatown shopping, in green rooms (chilling and doing make-up etc).
Debbie has said nice things about me to my New Yorker legendary friends. For that, I’m forever indebted to her humble greatness.
Women in rock has been an ongoing topic in recent years. What roles do females playing their bands from your experience?
Sex sells! Haha. Especially when the songbird can really sing and have the moves. It’s important that the backing male band members know that what they do is important to the unique sound of the band.
Bands that immediately come to mind are Blondie, No Doubt, Garbage, and Cranberries (Dolores O’Riordan pictured above).
Have there been any difficult subjects?
None. So far so good. Usually the rock stars are cool. It’s their managers and minders who are a barrier. But I know that they’re just doing their job in protecting the star from the unruly elements.
Once the ice is broken with the star, the manager usually lets me get on with my photography, with the explicit blessing of the songbird.
Any fond memories in the meeting female artists?
Once I had to give Mandarin lessons to Nicole Scherzinger (pictured below) so she can impress the crowd with her Mandarin prowess. Kneeling on the floor next to her in her dressing room (as there was no other chair), I taught her to say “I love you”, How are you?” and “Thank you very much” in Mandarin. I must admit I made her repeat “I love you” to me sensually a few more times than necessary.
After she said the Mandarin phrases on stage to loud cheers, she looked sideways at me to how she fared. I gave her the thumbs up!
When Shirley Manson found out I hung out with her heroine Debbie Harry recently, we voiced our mutual love and respect for Debbie and exchanged Debbie Harry stories.
I was at a invite-only event in New York, when I had the rare chance of meeting with Yoko Ono (pictures above). Here she looks up at a photo where John Lennon looks down fondly at her. Priceless.
What aspects do you aim to portray or highlight in each shoot?
I always try to capture the bands’s story in my images. But in my own unique signature B/W (Black/White) style. I’m proud that all the stars that I’ve managed to show my images to, they all sung praises.
So far my images have appeared in my respected and favourite artists’ albums (CDs and DVDs) either on the covers or album artwork, T-shirts, official websites. They include Beach Boys, Slipknot, Blondie, Kitaro and Eric Johnson.
I had a great time capturing the younger artists like Selena Gomez and Tegan & Sara (pictured above). They are a visual delight to shoot. At an early age, they are already globe-trotting, fun, world-class and gives their 110% to their fans.
Which of your favourite female artist have you shot recently?
ONJ. Olivia Newton John is such a darling. I met her before in 2007. She remembered meeting me. She even sent me an email out of the blue, thanking me for my “beautiful photos. You captured some great moments!!” She ended the email by “Sending love and light (which you use so well!)” to me. Wow, someone pinch me.
Are there any female rock images that have captured the essence of the singer?
I liked this image I shot of Madonna. Her image adorns the entire stage backdrop, but she herself is in a suspended cage. I think it symbolically juxtaposes her private and public lives. Entrapped by her media-savvy life, a daunting price to pay by all public figures. Despite all this,
And then there’s the Scissors Sisters image where Ana Matronic does a scissors cut with her fingers. And Jake Shears feigns pain. Hilarious!
As you can see in my images, I always have a great time capturing visually stimulating images of female rock artists. Currently they only account for 10% of my entire rock portfolio. I wish I could shoot more female rockers when they come out to sunny Singapore to play!
For more of Eddie Sung’s rock images, please visit his website at www.eddie-sung.com