Outtakes: October 2012

November 1, 2012
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 Photograph, from March 1997
Over the past 20-plus years with BASS PLAYER, Art Director and photographer Paul Haggard has accumulated a shelf full of broken cameras and some dusty memories. He will recount some over the next few columns until either he can't remember any more or they fail to be interesting, whichever comes first.

HERE AT BASS PLAYER WE ARE A PROFESSIONAL OUTFIT. We use computers, and telephones, and many other trappings of a sophisticated, multi-national publication. One of the many wonderful devices we employ is the “creative brief,” with which editors impart to the staff the essence of the story necessary for the clearest graphic communication.

In this particular case in 1997, I saw Scott Thunes’ name on the schedule for March, and without looking up, shouted, “Hey, what’s the deal with Scott Thunes?” I couldn’t tell who shouted back that he is a monster player who had toured and recorded with the demanding likes of Frank Zappa, but had lately become disillusioned with the industry to the point where he refused to play anymore . . . .

That’s a creative brief.

Excellent! I’ve got it. Given that Scott is kind of separated from playing, I will photograph him with a bass, but it won’t be an actual bass—it will be a drawing he will make and hold for the portrait.

I pitch the idea over the phone to Scott, who seems interested. “Excellent!” I continue, “I picture you drawing it with your finger in the windswept sand on the beach.” A moment of silence on the other end makes me want to reassure him that it’s okay, that I went to art school for a few months, but he interrupts me and actually agrees to meet me at Ocean Beach. Excellent!

It was cold and wet on the beach, and after a couple attempts at rendering a bass in the sand, Scott said, “I don’t want to do this idea.”

“But why?” I whined.

Scott thought his drawing wasn’t good enough (despite using the classic finger-and-sand medium), and after studying both of his works, I realized that it is hard to argue with someone who is right. Fortunately for me, since the drawing thing didn’t work out, Scott wisely had brought his 1959 Precision Bass with him, and we decided to plunk it down on the wet sand, our thinking being that standing away from the instrument satisfied the separation idea (yeah, I know—art school). Combined with the sight of a valuable bass lying on the beach, it was enough to make a compelling image.

There are two possible feelings with which I leave a photoshoot: dread, or satisfaction. In this case, Scott liked the results, I liked the results, creativity served—we have a bingo! —PAUL HAGGARD

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