The Other Side with Scratch Art Studios Founder Andy Krupp
Scratch Art Studios founder Andy Krupp discusses why the revitalization of Detroit and the revitalization of rock and roll go hand in hand, tells why Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is next on his list of bands he'd like to shoot, and gives independent artists a few tips to think about before hiring a music photographer in this week's Other Side.
As an elementary school teacher by day and rock ‘n’ roll photographer by night, it’s a safe bet to say that Scratch Art Studios founder Andy Krupp typically has his hands full. Born and raised in Mount Clemens, Michigan, Krupp and his family relocated to Detroit’s northern suburb of Rochester before Krupp hit his teen years. Krupp notes that his deep-rooted love of the Motor City runs through several generations, “My family is here and my wife’s family is here, so that keeps us in the Detroit area. I’m a strong supporter of Detroit and I travel downtown as much as possible to support the great businesses and events that happen in the city. I feel a responsibility to Detroit, maybe it’s because my grandparents were a part of Detroit’s prosperous times and contributed to its growth. Detroit was good to [my family]; my grandparents owned a few small businesses, including an Italian import grocery store in Eastern Market and a tool and die shop.”
Although Krupp loves his day job, photography is his artistic passion. He says he has always been fascinated by photographs, from the moment he received his first Polaroid camera at the age of eight. Back then, Krupp would patiently wait in anticipation as the image he captured would appear on film. “From that point forward,” he explains, “I was hooked.”
The photographer notes that music and performance photography are his favorite forms of the art, which Krupp was first inspired to pursue by looking through old photo books of blues performers such as Mississippi Fred McDowell, B.B. King, and Son House. He recalls, “I was absolutely enthralled by the emotions captured while [artists] created their music. Watching musicians in that intensely focused state of trance [during a live performance] is fascinating. That’s the moment I try to capture. Musicians who are emotionally connected to the song they’re playing are the ones that inspire great shots.”
More recently, Andy Krupp’s company Scratch Art Studios developed out of a desire for a forum to pursue art and photography. He notes, “My son Josh Wallace and I wanted to formalize the work we were already doing for others and ourselves. For him, it’s a full-time pursuit. He’s on more of the artist, illustrator, and graphics side of the business. Some of the projects he’s currently doing are works for the School of Rock, MillKingIt Productions, Bear Lake (pictured below), and The Marvins. I do enjoy working with graphics as well, but my focus is more on photography at this time."
We were able to convince Scratch Art Studios founder Andy Krupp to step away from the camera long enough to tell us what it’s like to be on The Other Side:
Green Light Go: How did you get started as a music photographer? Was there a defining moment that inspired you to work in this field, or was this career path always in the cards?
Andy Krupp: Music photography became my niche in the 90s, when I discovered an incredible music event in Birmingham, Michigan called The La Casa Folk Music Series. This was a series of performances that happened every other month, put on by local musician Dave Brogren. This was a quiet but extraordinary music series. I became the official photographer for the series and had the amazing opportunity to meet and photograph some of the best musicians around, like Townes Van Zandt, Gillian Welch, Iris DeMent, Tom Russell, Butch Hancock, and Alejandro Escovedo.
Working for that series, I meet the then Metro Times editor Thom Jurek. Thom gave me the opportunity to photograph bigger name artists, such as Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and B.B. King.
At this time, I’m really interested in photographing Detroit artists. There are so many great performers here [who are currently living in the area] or who come back home to Detroit to perform. Whether it’s to see Bear Lake perform at the Magic Stick or Yusef Lateef at the Detroit Jazz Festival, there is always a great opportunity for me to do my work. I want to document these performers and give them the recognition they deserve. I hope to eventually publish a book of Detroit musicians on and off the stage; that is a dream project of mine.
GLG: Over the years, you’ve taken live shots of Robert Plant, Donald Byrd, Brendan Benson, Jim McCarty, MC5, Ani DiFranco, and the Grateful Dead, to name a few. Recently, we ran into you at Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas’ show with Bear Lake and The Juliets. What artists would you like to work with in the future?
AK: I would really love to do both portrait style and live performance photography with some of Detroit’s big name artists like, Jack White, Mayer Hawthorne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Carl Craig, James Carter, Karriem Riggins, Regina Carter, Eminem, and Black Milk. I’d also like to shoot indie artists such as The Juliets, Drunken Barn Dance, Bear Lake, and Pas/Cal (if they ever return).
GLG: When you set out to photograph a new band, how do you set up the shoot and determine a location?
AK: It really depends on the venue and the amount of people in the audience. Often, in smaller venues, lighting is very challenging. Sometimes, there’s just barely enough light to get a good exposure, so I will have to set myself up in a location were I can anticipate the performer moving into the brightest part of the stage without the clutter of mic stands in the way. I also have to pay attention to getting proper focus with a wide aperture and a shortened depth of field while the performer is moving back and forth across the stage.
Once I have my spot and metering adjusted, it’s a matter of waiting for the right moment where the artist is most connected emotionally to the music. It really helps to know the artist and their music beforehand, so that I can best capture those trance-like moments.
GLG: From a photographer’s point of view, how do you know that you are a good match for a band? What things do you have to keep in mind before agreeing to work with an artist?
AK: If I really like their music, I know that I’m a good match. Thankfully, I enjoy many different genres of music and I can fit well with a diverse range of bands and performers. Knowing the music is essential to capturing the essence of the band and how they want to be seen. I also have to keep in mind what the artist’s vision is, without limiting my own vision. Sometimes, merging those two [visions] works very well, which gives the artist a fresh perspective.
GLG: What is the best piece of advice you’d give a band that thinks they are ready to hire a photographer?
AK: Give the photographer some time with your music to let him or her gather a vision. Then, sit down and talk. When it’s time to get on stage, be ready to put on a great show. Make sure that you’re into your set and make it a performance to remember.
GLG: What are the most rewarding and challenging things about being a music photographer?
AK: I do this work because I love it. The rewards come throughout the entire experience, from the anticipation of the performance, to retouching on the computer, to the final reward of printing and posting the images for others to enjoy. I would have to say that I am most happy when the camera is in my hand. That’s the part of the process that is exciting in a meditative way.
As for the challenges, I would have to say that using existing lighting is the most challenging part of music photography, because it’s the part of the process that is out of the photographer’s control. Lighting can make or break a great shot, especially if you’re working with low light and an energetic band. Sometimes, the challenge of lighting can make for an exciting opportunity to experiment, but most of the time, it is just plain frustrating.
GLG: What have you been listening to lately?
AK: The local musicians I’ve been following recently include Bear Lake, The Juliets, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., and Drunken Barn Dance. Other bands that I love listening to are Hoots and Hellmouth (they put on a great live performance), The Forms out of Brooklyn, and most recently, Benjamin Francis Leftwich. My old favorites that I always return to include Roy Brooks, Yusef Lateef, Roy Harper, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and John Lee Hooker.
This week’s Other Side is brought to you by: Lauren Mercury Roberts
Photo credit: Andy Krupp, Scratch Art Studios