Yawn, another brick wall

Last updated 12:39 16/08/2012

If I had a dollar for every time I had received a picture of a moody bunch of guys wearing inordinate amounts of black posing menacingly in front of a brick wall, I would be able to build a 13-storey brick building to lock them all up in.

Hand on heart, while writing that sentence my email just ''pinged'', advising me of an incoming message. It is a message containing a picture of a band leaning sullenly against a brick wall.

It puzzles me. Of all the backdrops bands could choose, why does ''brick wall'' feature so often?

The other thing about the brick wall shot is that band members usually adopt the same stances.

Someone will have their arms folded and face the camera front-on with a I-need-to-fart expression. Two other band members will be side on, leaning against the wall looking like they are about to fight one another or someone just out of sight. Yet another will crouch down, beside the wall as if he (it's nearly always a he) is about to tie their shoelaces. Someone else will have a hand in their front pocket or be scratching some itch just out of reach.

Occasionally, the photographer will try to mix things up a little and take a sideways shot so you can almost miss the brick wall unless you know to look. OK, I'm joking, the brick wall is always there, it's just a little more to one side.

The other thing that puzzles me with these brick wall shots is that only one person is ever looking at the camera. Someone's gazing at their shoes, another is looking wistfully off into the distance. What happened? Did someone forget to shout ''cheese'' at the crucial moment?

Occasionally, someone will drag a guitar into the shot. Sometimes its leaning against someone's leg. Other times it's propped up against the brick wall.

In my collection of photos of ''Bands Against Brick Walls'' there is one with a piano. A band managed to find a brick wall near a forest. The band are alternately leaning against the brick wall or squatting, while, off in the distance, a piano sits by a tree.

I spent a lot of time wondering how long they spent deciding on exactly where to place the piano for the shot. It's the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.

Occasionally, I get a little thrill when I receive a photo that a photographer has tried to tint - ie, the brick wall is blue or green. Change is as good as a holiday, innit?

In the last five years, the shots of bands posing against graffitied walls dipped for a year or so but is now currently making a comeback. Other popular backdrops are staircases. Why staircases? Is it meant to imply they're going places? Railway lines are popular backdrops, sans trains, as are muscle cars the band can drape themselves over. These cars are usually parked in front of brick walls.

Indie bands love a good forest shot. They also seem fond of the lying down on the ground with all four band members' heads together in the autumn leaves pose.

DJs all like to wear caps that cover their faces as they hover over their decks surrounded only by strobe lighting of the neon kind.

Emo bands like to wear see-through tops and stand knee deep in the ocean. U2 also favour moody beach shots, I've noticed.

British bands like to pose in playgrounds on swings and slides and merrily atop carnival horses on merry-go-rounds, although our own Liam Finn has also been guilty of this latter shot.

I posted a little message on Facebook asking why brick walls were so popular in band photos.

One friend replied: ''They put up brick walls so bands can take photos with them.'' And another: ''Oh dear, I just did a photo shoot in front of a brick wall ...  seriously ... and I don't really know why either!'' Which sparked many comments along the lines of how lucky he was to find a brick wall still standing in Christchurch. None of which helped answer my initial question, unfortunately.

Last week, however, was a first for my band photo collection. Upon opening the email my first thought was ''Is that a urine stain on his pants?'' which was quickly followed by ''Is that a nipple?''

At least it made a change from ''Yawn, another brick wall''.

Obviously the most important thing you need to have as a band is great music. However, I'm always bemused that bands put a lot of effort into making T-shirts, badges and even tea-towels, yet don't seem to be able to get a picture of themselves that accurately portrays who they are and what they represent.

I've just finished re-reading Blink's excellent book D.I.Y. Touring the World. It boasts a great paragraph on the importance of a good band photo.

''If you can avoid your band photographed against a brick wall, you win,'' he writes. ''But seriously, do not underestimate the power of a great photo. It sometimes makes the difference between getting a booking or not.''


The writing is on the wall.

- The Press

Post a comment
Nathan   #1   12:54 pm Aug 16 2012

You are so right.When I was a wee kid I did like the album cover for Band On the Run, surely the most famous of all Band and brick wall shots.

King   #2   01:18 pm Aug 16 2012

I've never noticed brick walls to be that predominant myself. Empty warehouses and industrial areas... that really gets me yawning.

Another brick in the wall   #3   01:23 pm Aug 16 2012

Vicki: Your article is an interesting read however you still failed to answer the question - why the brick wall? I'm more bemused as to why band members never smile in photos? I understand they're trying to be cool, but a nice smile might make these "cool" guys look cooler. Japanese boy bands are notorious for the non-smile picture - smiling, it seems, is not cool. Brick walls and no smiles the mind boggles.

rjt   #4   01:47 pm Aug 16 2012

It's a hipster thing. You imbue hipster coolness by shooting like that, while shooting like that makes you hipster-coll so like most things to do with hipsters it's tautological.

The background tends to move between the 'urban wasteland' (empty lot)and the 'industrial sterility' (brick wall or gasworks)camps and the sullen 'nonlooking' is intrinsic to the pegged jeans and designer footwear of hipsterdom.

Just be glad they aren't including those other two essentials of hipster-based photography - leak/flare/antique treatment and polaroid-look

peetee   #5   04:23 pm Aug 16 2012

Christchurch bands would have to go elsewhere to find a brick wall.

Dan   #6   06:53 pm Aug 16 2012

My theory is that bands choose brick walls because if the photo was taken in front of a white picket fence they would loose all credibility by looking too happy and contented (not to mention homely).

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