Interview with Jeremy Saffer, creator of Daughters of Darkness
While it is always fun to interview musicians, there are many, many other forms of creative people in the Metal industry and we at Metal-Rules.com often try to chat with these folks. In this case I spoke on-line with Mr Saffer about his new coffee-table art/nude book called Daughters Of Darkness. Feel free to read my review of this excellent publication which is available in this mont review section. Refer to the bottom of this interview for options o how to check out Daughters of Darkness.
Tell a bit about your early career as a photographer in the music industry.
I started as a musician, a guitarist in metal bands, and that’s how I fell into live/concert photography. After favoring my path as a photographer far more than as a musician, I left Berklee School of Music to become a full time photographer. Having mostly shot concerts in my formative years as a photographer, I wasn’t well versed with the technical aspects of photography, so I went to a 10 month intensive photo school (while also working as a photographer and immediately jumped back into touring as a photographer but shifted gears toward the portrait side of music photography, shooting not just concerts but also album covers, magazine covers, promotional images for bands, and that’s a path I’m still on today.
When did you first get the idea for Daughters Of Darkness?
I had always been drawn to dark imagery, before I ever picked up a camera. I love it in film, in art, and of course in music. Having been drawn to black metal, which I would say has the darkest imagery and sound, those album covers, merch, and music videos immediately became a massive part of the foundation of not just my taste in music but also my taste in art. So fast forward to my career as a photographer where I pretty much 50/50 shoot bands and models. The model shoots are generally fine art/nude for galleries/art books, and for one reason or another my music photography and model photography don’t really cross paths much.
While the music photography can be seen almost anywhere and is much more universal, my model photography is usually printed in Europe more so than the US. One of my friends, Karim, had started a clothing line and needed a photo shoot of a nude model in corpse paint which he hired me to shoot, a sort of parody of the Pulp This is Hardcore album cover, rebranded to This is Black Metal. I did the initial shoot for the design but because the model and I were both huge fans not only of the music but the aesthetic, we shot a bunch of sets in studio, outdoors, and in an industrial looking location. I loved the outcome and decided I wanted to do more with it, maybe a small series of 10 shoots, something like that… a year later I was 50 shoots deep. So the project had started, and continued on for many years.
From conception to when it came off the printing press how long did the process take?
A little over 12 years in all, but that wasn’t my intention. I wanted to have this book out long ago. I even stopped shooting for it for a while. The problem was I had this massive body of work, but it had nowhere to go… The fine art/nude publishers wouldn’t touch it because it was too scary for their audience, they didn’t understand the black metal aesthetic… and metal publishers wouldn’t touch it because of the nudity… I was in a stalemate where I would continue shooting it, re-submit new images, get told “no” and continue with it anyway. I was really lucky to have crossed paths with Rare Bird, who were the perfect publisher who put out metal/music books, as well as nude/art books. My first meeting with the owner, I walk in and he’s wearing a Satyricon hoodie, which, mother north was a major inspiration, so knowing it had found the right home was amazing.
I was surprised at how many different models there were. Was it difficult to find that many Black Metal fans who were willing to participate? Did you have to actively recruit?
I was really lucky in that I didn’t really have to actively recruit models too much, I would just post what I was shooting, what it was for, and models, friends, fans of black metal, fans of my work would all come out in droves to shoot for it. Everyone who wanted to shoot for the book is in the book. I didn’t turn anyway away, I didn’t cast based on any parameters, which is how you have such a vast variety in models from… professional models, musicians, friends who only modeled one time for the book, and so on.
What is it about the old fashion coffee-table art/photo book that still holds so much appeal in this digital age?
Photography isn’t meant to be viewed soley on a screen. Photography is best viewed in physical format, the better quality paper, size, the better. Its why this book got upgraded from an 8×10 book to an 14.5 x 9.5 and from 144 pages to 288. Theres something about how seeing a print in person lit by actual physical light vs. back lit on a screen just looks so much better. I still buy art constantly, photos, prints, I love to have physical copies of things, but to be fair im also an avid vinyl collector and I still buy CDs. I dont think digital viewing will ever fully replace physical prints of art.
How did you have a couple of heavy-hitters in your book, Dani Filth and Randy Blythe, how did you get them to participate?
Randy had been a long time supporter of this project. When he first got into photography I was one of the people he would reach out to in order to ask questions, nerd out on photo things, and we would always show one another what we had shot recently or been working on. He saw this project as it started and always nudged me with support every time I saw him with “when do I get to see the book?!” which was awesome, many times I felt like giving up, I kept going because I knew I wanted this project to be a book in the hands of Randy and people like Randy who had supported me, the models, and others who had been looking forward to it for so long. So when it came time to find someone to write an introduction, it was a no brainer to ask my friend, fellow photographer (he shot my bio photo in the book as well), and long time supporter of the project because he knows me, he knows the work, he knows my work, we’ve photographed one another, and he is an incredible writer. With Dani, Cradle had been the biggest part of the foundation of the book, their merch, their imagery was easily the biggest influence on what started me in this direction. So I was lucky enough to have Dani, who is one of the best lyricists in the universe, write some incredibly kind words about the project. I could not have possibly asked for better people to be involved.
Have you thought about some sort of gallery or travelling exhibition of your work?
If we were not in a pandemic, absolutely. I am hoping once things are safe again, I will be able to do galleries and book signings, and all the fun and cool stuff one does when a book comes out. Unfortunately Covid really put the breaks on that, amongst many other things, but the silver lining of that, is, due to being out of work with nothing to do, this game me something to do. I was able to put this project together and really dedicate a lot of time to re-editing every image, connecting with every single model, and really diving head first into getting this book from a collection of photos to a final book.
For our fans of gear and the technical aspect can tell us a bit about your ‘rig’ as it were?
Its ever changing and I think if anyone gets to see this book they can see how my lighting, style of shooting, and gear changed over time as the book went on. The book was mostly shot on Canon, my favorite lenses used are the 24-70 (probably 80% of the book) 70-200, 16-35, and 85 1.2 – lighting wise I shot the first year on Profoto, and the rest was all Dynalite. Currently I am, like Randy, a Leica guy now. Using the Leica SL-2 with the 24-90, I started experimenting with Lensbaby lenses which are incredible, I plan on getting some more Leica lenses in the immediate future when I start shooting again, and lighting wise I still use the Dynalite UNI400s, though, they went out of business during the Pandemic, and I will need to find new lighting, as once those bulbs go out, there are unfortunately no replacements. I also have a patreon (patreon.com/jeremysaffer) where I post a lot of my full shoots with behind the scenes and technical breakdowns of each shot, lighting, camera settings, the story behind the shoot, etc. etc.
I noticed many of the shots are very minimalist. How did you arrive at the decision avoid heavy set design and use of props and focus on the face and the corpse paint?
I think you’ll find that in a lot of my photography. Not because I don’t WANT to do it, but I have no idea how. I cant build a set! but I also think over-propping can be distracting. I was pretty strict on this project because I had a really clear idea that it should just be the model and the corpse paint, no extra jewelry, no weapons, no spikes, no extras really… there are a few here and there but for the most part I stuck to simplicity. The focus in this project should be the model and the corpse paint, anything else can add to the over all aesthetic, such as the outdoor shots that add different looks than the studio shots, but I think props would have really distracted from what I wanted to do.
Jeremy Saffer online:
Rare Bird Books online:
There are various versions available for purchase.
Daughters of Darkness will be available in four editions: Standard Edition Bundle [Signed] ($60), Blood Edition Bundle [Signed w/ Slipcase] ($100), Extra-Bloody Edition Bundle [Signed Limited Edition] ($150) and The True Daughters of Darkness Deluxe Box Set [Custom Hand-Sewn w/ 24 Extra Photo Pages Not Included In Any Other Edition—Exclusively Limited to 25 Copies Worldwide] ($666). For additional details on each package and for pre-orders, visit www.daughtersofdarknessbook.com.
The Standard Edition Bundle includes the book with standard cover, a Daughters of Darkness tote bag, five 4×6 Daughters of Darkness metallic mini prints, two Daughters of Darkness corpse paint guitar picks, three stickers, one Daughters of Darkness phone-pop, and an Introduction by Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe and foreword by Cradle of Filth’s Dani Filth.
The Blood Edition bundle includes everything from the Standard Edition Bundle, plus a Blood Edition exclusive slipcase, five 8×12 Daughters of Darkness metallic prints, two additional Daughters of Darkness corpse paint guitar picks and three Daughters of Darkness and Rare Bird stickers.
The Extra Bloody Edition bundle includes the book with a hand-numbered slipcased limited-edition “Blood” cover not available in stores and adds a corpse paint make up set, a total of six Daughters of Darkness corpse paint guitar picks in a custom tin, a Daughters of Darkness woven back patch, a Daughters of Darkness T-shirt and two Daughters of Darkness and Rare Bird enamel pins to the Blood Edition bundle.
The True Daughters of Darkness Deluxe Box Set bundle includes the book in a custom hand-sewn version limited to 25 copies worldwide with a hand-numbered slipcased ultra–limited edition alternate cover not available in stores. The package also includes a custom handmade Daughters of Darkness wooden box, a crushed velvet alter throw, a signed and numbered Certificate of Authenticity, two black candles, a corpse paint make-up set, a Daughters of Darkness tote bag, ten 8×12 Daughters of Darkness metallic prints, twenty 4×6 Daughters of Darkness metallic mini prints, a Daughters of Darkness woven back patch, a Daughters of Darkness T-shirt, a Daughters of Darkness hoodie, a custom tin with six Daughters of Darkness corpse paint guitar picks, three Daughters of Darkness and Rare Bird stickers, two Daughters of Darkness and Rare Bird enamel pins and one Daughters of Darkness phone-pop.