Capturing the invisible: Sound by Gregory Harris

The photographer on the noises of New York and deathbed Phil Collins listening sessions – with a sound inspired shoot and film styled by Tony Irvine

Fashion Q+A
Sound, summer issue
Amanda wears asymmetric silk dress by Prada; bra stylist's own; archive Yves Saint Laurent shoes from Albright; stockings by Falke Photography Gregory Harris, Styling Tony Irvine

How do you photograph something that can't be seen? For Dazed's summer issue, Gregory Harris found himself faced with this task. In response, the New York based photographer created a shoot where your imagination fills in for the absent sound – the traffic noises outside the open window, the hiss of the vinyl spinning on the deck. We spoke to him about the challenges of the shoot, his collaborative film with Maria Gordillo and his own musical memories.

How did you deal with interpreting the notion of sound for the shoot?

Gregory Harris: We chose sound because there were a few ways of doing it, we did it somewhat literally by having two people in a room looking like they are listening to music and dancing.

Talk us through the concept behind the film. What did you want to achieve?

Gregory Harris: I think we just wanted to create a little vignette which was like a piece of a larger story, just a funny little relationship between two people.

What were some of the references behind it? 

Gregory Harris: It's based on a scene from a Jim Jarmusch film called Permanent Vacation, we just swapped the roles.

What songs sum up your youth?

Gregory Harris: The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?", Public Enemy's "Don't Believe the Hype", Jane's Addiction's "Nothing Shocking". (I think I just revealed my age.)

On your deathbed, what would be the last sound you would like to hear?

Gregory Harris: The hushed murmurs of a crowd of thousands as my body is lifted and carried by a huge crowd of mourners, the shuffling of feet as the enormous gathering ascends Mount Taranaki and throws my body into the active crater of the volcano…Or Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight". Don't mind really.

What sounds remind you of New York? 

Gregory Harris: Sirens, there's loads of different types, each has their own style and they echo between all the buildings which gives them this epic quality.

What's the most overrated song?  

Gregory Harris: "Happy Birthday".

Most underrated song?

Gregory Harris: Amongst my friends and work colleagues Rihanna is somewhat pooh-poohed as whatever pop music, I kinda have a thing for it.

What sound makes your skin crawl?

Gregory Harris: Not so much now but in the mid 2000s, house music used to do my head in.

Sound originally appeared in the summer 2014 issue of Dazed.

See the film below:

Photography Gregory Harris; styling Tony Irvine; hair Esther Langham; make-up Yadim at Art Partner for Maybelline New York; nails Casey Herman at Kate Ryan Inc using Londontown; set design David White at Streeters; models Amanda Wellsh at IMG, Gabriel Marques at DNA; photographic assistants Stephen Wordie, Mark Luckasavage, Peter Dung; styling assistant Susan Walsh; hair assistant David Colvin Jr; make-up assistants; Mondo Leon, Kanako Takase; set-design assistants Alice Dru; casting Noah Shelley

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