by Jeff Brinn / Schwegweb.com
Over the years of Rock ‘N’ Roll journalism there haven’t been many music photographers that have made such a lasting visual impression in the industry as Ross Halfin. Covering almost every act in the hard rock industry including such influential bands as The Who, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith to name but just a few Ross Halfin is a true artist to be respected. His in your face gritty look into the world of rock ‘n’ roll off stage has always been a big influence on my objective to “get the shot”. Sure Mr. Halfin has a legendary history of being hard to work with but in this industry it seems that you have to be tough as nails and Ross Halfin is by all means that. Where bands, record labels and managements at times can make your experience anything but enjoyable Mr. Halfin deserves the highest respect for sticking it out so long in this vicious industry.
Lately Mr. Halfin’s web site has become quit the attraction for many music fans due to his “tell it how it is” diary. Halfin has one of the most brutally honest and intriguing insights on his career working with the artists we oh so love. I read it religiously for his incredibly insightful entries that tend to always have a great sense of humor which is hard to find in this business.
When I threw the idea out to my editor of this site I remember the feeling was very mutual that my request for an interview would probably never been returned. Much to my surprise I received a return from Ross himself. I couldn’t believe it. Well, very big thanks must go out to one of the finest masters of his craft, Ross Halfin for giving us the chance to put this little piece together and I hope you enjoy.
Schwegweb: As brutal as the music business can be how have you remained so interested in music photography for so many years and what keeps you motivated?
Ross Halfin: “What keeps me motivated is paying my mortgage… No, seriously, I enjoy what I do.”
I, being a photographer, have always had other photographers around to push me to do better, to look at subject matters in a different way, to get a different angle to an image and to push me in general. Have you had anyone around to help you grow in your photography skills, to push you to do better? If you didn’t do you wish you did?
“No one needs to push me to be better.You should always look to improve what you do.”
Your diary on your web site is very honest and personal insight into your day to day life, have you found many artists to take offense to your posts and as well are you surprised that it has become as popular as it has?
” My diary is very toned down. If it appeared unedited no one would work with me… And yes it does offend a lot of band members, especially singers.”
In your bio you state “Getting the subject matter to co-operate is ninety percent of the task”, which I have to agree with you. Who have you found to be the no-cooperative ones, newer bands or older bands?
“Non co-operative bands tend to be newer bands who have become succesful straight away. Creed are a prime example.”
Unlike most of the bands you have covered in your career you seem to have survived the lifestyles that have surrounded you very well, has it been hard to separate work from fun when being in the middle of such a destructive atmosphere?
“Survive the lifestyle? You get older and realise how stupid you’ve been.”
It seems in today’s music industry labels are looking for that instant hit and no longer help artists mature and grow as they did in the past, has there been any artists lately that have made a lasting impression as maybe somebody that may have longevity, say like a Zeppelin or a Black Sabbath?
“No new artist has made a lasting impression. Mastadon aren’t bad. There again they’re just a heavy version of Rush.”
In your lengthy career you have photographed some of the biggest musicians in rock n roll, do you find it funny when you still run into the egos that are so rampant in this industry and how are you still able to work in these situations?
“Take command of what you’re doing. Don’t buy into the bullshit.”
It seems that labels/managements/etc are looking for cheap images not quality images. How has the market, changed or hasn’t changed, from when you started to now, in the sense of price of an image over quality of the image?
“Record companies always want something for nothing. It’s been like that from day one.”
What has kept you from making the transition from film/slide over to digital and has digital helped or harmed photography as an art form?
“The reason I haven’t made the transition to digital is because I know nothing about it. There again I know nothing about photography anyway. And yes I think it has harmed photography as an art form.”
With all the contracts and waivers that are involved these days by artist managements is there any rules/demands that you have that make your job any easier (time schedule needed/ amount of live songs needed) to get the job done?
“I do not sign contracts or waivers and I do not shoot three songs. You cannot get anything worhwhile – hire someone else.”
What would you like to be remembered for the most when you decide to hang up the camera as a music photographer if you ever choose to?
“I’d like to be remembered as a kind, well-mannered, humble man.”