Karim Sulayman – Grammy Award Winning Artist

Music, People

Date February 18, 2019

Karim Sulayman – Grammy Award Winning Artist

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away I once went to a music conservatory and studied vocal performance. Meaning, for a very brief blip on the space-time continuum, I was a professional opera singer. True Story.

I attended the Eastman School of Music in the late 90’s and have many fond memories of my time there. And like many university experiences, it’s wasn’t entirely about the education that I received there, but also the people I met and interacted with on a regular basis.

One such individual is Karim Sulayman.

Karim and I both studied at Eastman, and from very early on, it was clear that he was passionately dedicated to the art form. Karim was one of those people that was always prepared. Always knew his part backwards and forwards. To this day, he’s a perfectionist, and I know he’d disagree with me on the previous statement, but even if he was unprepared … I never knew it.

Fast forward 20 years, and low and behold, I receive a message from Maestro Sulayman informing me that he’s just putting the finishing touches on his new album, and would like to talk to me about doing the photography for the cover art. The phrase “drop everything” comes to mind.

So after a series of “ok, here’s where I’m going to be and when … you?” messages, we finally found a time and met at my hotel in New York in September. Now normally for a project like this I’d rent a studio and carve out at least a day to do a shoot. However, Karim and I had discussed his and my ideas about the work, and I calculated that all we needed was a clean background and two lights.

And I was right.

Discussing the story of Orpheus prior to the shoot brought both of us to the same conclusion: we needed to present “the turn”. In a nutshell, Orpheus is granted his desire, so long as he does NOT turn around to check and see if it’s really happening. As Orpheus is a tragedy, and based on what the artwork presents, I’ll let you figure out what happens.

Without getting too technical, we achieved this look through a long exposure and a flash at the end of the rotation to freeze the movement. I used the ambient light from a window to illuminate Karim during the turn and then popped a flash off at the very end to capture the finish of the rotation in perfect focus and exposure. It took a few tries for us to coordinate the turn and the stop, but in the end – nailed it!

This image was captured using my trust Fujifilm XT-2 and 56mm f/1.2 combo. For the lighting, a standard umbrella and a Nissin Di700A with the Air 1 commander. Nothing tremendously technical, but the results speak for themselves. And as I so often find in image creation, often times, the simplest of setups with the most powerful.

The entire project has been an absolute pleasure and honour to work on. More over, it’s been a fantastic reminder of how friendship knows not the bounds of space and time.

Many heartfelt thanks and respect go out to my Grammy Award Winning friend, Karim Sulayman.

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