Interview with Just Loomis
Jakob Sekse, a-ha-live.com (24.02.12)
Los Angeles-based photographer Just Loomis is known as the man behind the cover photos of Hunting High and Low, Stay On These Roads, East Of The Sun, Headlines and Deadlines and Memorial Beach. He also took the cover photos of several singles, such as You Are The One and Move To Memphis, as well as countless press photos.
His work with the band has been documented in the book a-ha photographer Just Loomis, published by Forlaget Press.
In 2011 Loomis got to work with Morten again, 20 years after he last photographed a-ha, in connection with Morten’s upcoming solo album Out Of My Hands.
I recently had the chance to ask him some questions about those photo sessions. He also shared his thoughts on the trip he had to Jamaica with Morten, seeing a-ha live on the Farewell Tour and visiting Norway for the first time:
When and where did the Out Of My Hands cover shoot take place?
The shoot took place in Los Angeles this last September. Morten was in town to work with Lars [Hustoft], the Norwegian producer. We hung out a lot and did a few very relaxed shootings around Los Angeles. It was great to re-connect and work with Morten again. We had a lot of fun!
Was there any particular idea behind having Morten stand in water?
As I said, we hung out a lot. We talked about a few different ideas and locations and feelings for the album cover. Eventually it was Morten’s idea to use water. He kept coming back to the idea of emerging out of water. So I thought, “We have to do this. There is something about water that he needs to see.” I am very satisfied that we followed this path. We shot for most of the day and into the night. He was a real sport and was completely waterlogged in the end!
For any aspiring photographers among the readers, can you describe the equipment you used for this shoot?
The cover shoot is a straight photograph, done with natural light. I am not big on using a lot of equipment. As a photographer, I believe that you have to be able to do your images with the minimal amount of equipment. The camera was medium format digital. I also use a smaller 35mm camera as well. As the night progressed we used some interesting tungsten and strobe lighting.
So, after delivering the photos, who did the graphic design for the covers?
The design is directed by Jeri Heiden at Smog Design in Los Angeles. She worked on many of the a-ha covers over the years including Hunting High and Low and Stay On These Roads.
Have you heard Morten’s finished album, or parts of it?
I have not heard the album yet, but when I was taking the recording photos I loved what I heard. It had a bit of a-ha in it but I sensed Morten going his own way. The song I heard was very intimate and moving. Personal.
You also went with Morten to Jamaica for UNICEF last year. How did that trip come about?
We were planning on doing the album shoot in LA and Morten wanted to do some additional photos with me. He asked me along to photograph his involvement with UNICEF. These photos appeared in all the Norwegian newspapers during the Unicef Telethon. We also worked quite a bit on another series of photos at night when we were finished with our responsibilities for Unicef. These photos will be revealed at a later date.
What did you think of the guys’ decision to retire as a-ha after more than 25 years in 2010?
Well, so much had been said about it I am not sure I can add much. There is a natural life to most creative ventures. Even as a photographer, there is a natural arc to projects and collaborations. People change. Tastes change. It was time for them to move on and pursue their own callings. We are all fortunate that it lasted as long as it did.
Did you get to see a-ha live in Los Angeles on their Farewell Tour?
Yes. I took my family and it was great. It was great because it was like a reunion. Jeff Ayeroff, who signed them originally with Warner’s was there along with Jeri Heiden who designed the Grammy Nominated Hunting High and Low cover. Also, a big surprise was that Michael Patterson was there. He was responsible for the look and all the animation of the original “Take on Me” video where Morten becomes an animated character. He is now a professor of film at USC in Los Angeles. Great time was had by all!
In February 2011 you visited Norway for the first time, in connection with an exhibition of your photos at the Stenersen Museum. What was that like?
This was a wonderful experience. My first time to Oslo and just loved it, but man it was cold! The exhibition was centered around my book As We Are and I worked with the very talented curator/director Selene Wendt from the Stenersen Museum. All first class! Now I want to return but in the summer!
Which other projects are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new book and three exhibitions.
Official website: justloomis.com