The XX - Night + Day

25th Jul 2013

It's the morning, of the day after "Night + Day” A one day boutique festival hosted by every bodies "band of the moment” The XX. Held in the grounds of Hatfield House, a very picturesque, stately pile just North of London.

My feet are sore from standing and my back; shoulders and neck ache from the weight of cameras hanging from them. It's now Sunday morning and I'm still standing. Only this time on a train. A very busy train it would seem, heading north. Only another two hours and hopefully, I'll be sitting! Most likely behind a desk, editing pictures!

I had a quick look through the images last night when I got back to my hotel post gig and after party, sometime in the early hours!

Just a quick look mind; I can't resist having even a brief glimpse, just in case!

I open up my favourites, just to see.

And then close them again.

Once I've gone through this small, but seeming less unavoidable ritual, I back up all the files to a portable drive, close my laptop and collapse onto the nearby bed.

But like I said that was yesterday!

Rewind the clock a month.

It's one a.m. I'm sat in the passenger seat of a speeding car, driving down a seemingly endless road, surrounded by desert, somewhere in southern Arizona. The sky is black on black, no stars or lights, just the headlights on full beam lighting up the hypnotic passing of white lines.

I look across at Janelle who's driving; her normally beautiful features are screwed up in concentration as she stares through half closed, half open eyes. Waves of tiredness rack her body, She reaches across and cranks up the volume on the stereo; we're both past the stage of coherent conversation. An electronic melody floats out through the speakers. For the next two hours I'm wide-awake, mesmerised by the understated melodic beats, accompanied by the voice of an angel. I vaguely recognise some of the songs, somewhere tucked away in my memory I’ve got a recollection of an, of an advert, perhaps!

I’m almost embarrassed when I ask my friend “who is this?” She smiles at me as though she gets asked that question whenever she plays it. “It’s the XX. You must know them, there from near you” she replies with a half smile.

The next day I download both albums, The XX, they’re first album released in 2009 and my personal favourite, Coexist their 2012 follow-up. While I’m waiting for both albums to download (the WiFi in the hotel isn’t very fast) I read “Itunes” write-up on the band and have to chuckle to myself - I think it’s worth including here, as I’m sure it’ll put a grin on your face too! “You might as well tack another X onto the title of the XX’s buzz-building debut. After all, it’s essentially makeout music for cool kids” A little harsh perhaps, But then what would I know, I ain’t a cool kid!

It's now Monday evening and I'm just about feeling human again! Which means I finally got to see my photos on a big screen and it's a bag of mixed emotions!

My absolute favourite photo, we all have a favourite right? We do our selects, edit those we think are the best, or at least relevant to the brief we're shooting, upload and finally back-up, but we always have a favourite. There's always one photo we're drawn to, you know instantly that that's "the one"

I knew.

I also had inkling that it might be just a tad soft! Slightly out of focus where it matters the most, the eyes.

And it was! I looked through all the other shots, they were OK, good even, but they didn’t have that little something that drew me in and held my interest. I looked through my edit and then I looked again and again, but I kept coming back to that one image. These days we’re obsessed with images being absolutely “Pin sharp” if they’re just a tad less sharp than we think they should be, we apply an “unsharp mask” or similar filter in Photoshop and away we go again.

But something in my photographer’s brain just kept shouting out “you can’t use that image” I guess if I’m honest it was ego. I didn’t want to accept that, there was a chance I’d managed to f_ck-up. Not get it sharp where it mattered most, on the eyes, like I wanted and had fully intended to do, I’d failed!

Or had I?

Still not convinced I decided to ask an expert. Not an expert photographer, nor even someone in the industry, but a fan. A true fan of The XX. And a friend. A friend who I knew would tell it like it was, good or bad, sharp or not. So I emailed Janelle my favourite image and another B&W one and waited. I didn’t have to wait long (Janelle lives in Arizona so there’s always a 9 hour time difference between us) Janelle’s answer made me smile; she sees things from a different perspective to me. To her it didn’t even matter the face was slightly out of focus, there were much more positive attributes to the photo.

“The colour one is awesome. I like her half smile. Almost a smirk…I like it, its not hiding her, its like she’s hiding something”

Nuff said.