The Roots and the quiet moments before getting on stage

What music would you play if you were to hang out with some of the best live bands around?

How would you set the mood with music if you were to photograph The Roots as they prepare for going on stage??

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The Agency Octogon came to me to help create a new ad for Martell Cognac, featuring The Roots.

The idea was to show Questlove (Ahmir) and Black Thought (Tariq) in a dressing room as they prepare to go on stage. Reflection, self-evaluation, and elevation all happen at various moments in our lives, but they consistently are a part of the quiet moments before we are to do something of importance….

The intention was to capture The Roots in their pre performance rituals as they get into the zone, soak up the things that inspire and prepare to elevate themselves and those around them to share their music with the world.


In preparing for this picture, and any picture for that matter, I seek in myself a connection to the moment I want to create. I seek to understand, relate and make the emotion my own so the relationship between me and the captured moment will be a real one rather than completely created for the purpose of advertising.


So what are my rituals? How do I get into flow?


Early in my career one of my preshoot rituals was to play Opera.

I loved being in the car, driving through the dark with the anticipation of what the sunrise would bring, listening to the emotions packed into the performers voices.

My favorite was Maria Calas singing Mamma Morta. It’s a stunning aria where she goes from mourning to rejoycing, from seeking to believing and from darkness to light in the span of a few minutes. This aria is symbolic of so many things and in the quiet moments before sunrise gave room for getting in flow while waiting for the light to reveal the landscapes before me…



“It was then, in my grief,

that love came to me.

A voice full of harmony says,

“Keep on living, I am life itself!

Your heaven is in my eyes!

You are not alone.

I collect all your tears

I walk with you and support you!

Smile and hope! I am Love!”




The morning I drove into Manhattan to photograph The Roots was an amazing one. As I crossed the Williamsburg bridge the sun was rising and the wind from the open window flowed through the vehicle.
I shot the image below and let the sensation of the day envelop me just like Mamma Morta would do and I started thinking about what music one would play for amazing musicians…




As I have grown older and increased the understanding of myself and how I prepare and get into flow, my preshoot ritual has boild down to a short walk and a few deep breaths.

I close my eyes and breathe deepley. This grounds me to the moment and make me present. Not just in person but of the moment so I can soak up what is infront of me, connect to it and find in myself what I can bring to it.


As for the music it landed on my digi techs playslist; An eclectic mix of rock and electronica…

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