From writing music to photographing the everyday moments in between, discover how photographer and musical artist from The Band Perry, Neil Perry, draws inspiration from the grit of classic novels to inspire his visual expression.
1. What camera and equipment do you use?
I use the Leica M6 and M10. My three main lenses are the Leica Super-Elmar-M 1:3.4/21mm ASPH., the Leica Summicron M 1:2/35mm ASPH., and the Leitz Summicron-M 1:2/90mm. I‘ll use the Leica-Macro-M adapter when I want to capture interesting textures up close. My everyday flash rig is the SF60/SFC1 Remote.
2. How would you describe your photography?
My photography has evolved through the years. I started shooting seriously on the M6 with my 35mm lens. Band life and our culture on tour and in the studio led me to the documentary/photojournalistic side of photography. I’ve always loved walking around the cities where we’re performing and photographing the people, buildings, graffiti, etc. Through shoots with my band, I got to work with and talk to some of the greatest photographers like Steven Klein, Sasha Samsonova, and Danny Clinch. I became more interested in the curated side of photography. I always wanted to branch into fashion and portrait photography and getting to watch heroes of mine shoot up close was the catalyst that made me want to start working in that direction. I bought a M10, some lighting equipment, and started shooting friends, family, and other artists non stop. It’s been an exciting challenge. I’m letting everything influence me … the music on my Spotify, other photographers, painters, sculptors, authors, movie directors, etc. Creators of every medium influence me, and it helps me find my own expression through my photography. I’m from Alabama originally where there’s a certain cultural appreciation for beauty and darkness. That has definitely influenced my music, lyrics, and photography. I think that’s why some of my favorite creatives are Steven Klein, Quentin Tarantino, Flannery O’Connor, Kanye West, John Steinbeck, and Alexander McQueen. All of those artists foil beauty and morbidity in their work. That really resonates with me.
3. When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression, and art form?
I was always taking photos as a kid. My first camera was a blue plastic Fischer-Price film camera – it was always in my hands. I started shooting while on family vacations in Disney World, the Grand Canyon, while my brother and sister were playing video games in the back of our camper. I became really serious with my photography as we started year round touring back in 2009. The more I shot the more I became interested in the actual aesthetic of my shots and the feeling I wanted people to have when they looked at them. What started out as a fun hobby has become a creative passion for me.
4. Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self taught. Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
I never had formal education in photography. I typically learn new things best scouring YouTube videos and getting hands on experience. I forced myself to use my cameras manually – no automatic functions. Although it was definitely frustrating at times, I learned a lot by making mistakes and missing shots. I’d also look at photos I wanted to mimic in a certain way and mess with the controls and edit until I was able to understand how a certain look was created. It was like covering another band’s song. It puts you in someone else’s creative headspace and opens your mind up to new ways of thinking. Most of my learning was trial and error, and learning the basics gave me a lot of confidence in my ability.
5. How did you first become interested in Leica?
I’ve known of Leica for a long time. I remember looking through photography books and noticing how shots taken on the Leica stood out. I didn’t have the chance to shoot with one till a number of years ago a crew member for my band bought an M6 and let me mess around with it. Everything about the camera felt right: the weight, the position of the controls, the simplicity. I took a couple shots and was hooked. I bought my own M6 and 35mm lens the next day. I’ve been shooting with it nonstop ever since, while on vacation, on tour, in the recording studio, in the US, and Europe. Last year I bought the Leica M10 and Super-Elmar-M 21mm lens.
6. What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
Photography is the way I curate and share my experiences. It’s the way I see the world. I like adding fantasy to the ordinary. I enjoy taking personalities and hyping it. Sometimes it’s in black and white with deep contrast and other times in grainy, desaturated color.
7. What genre are your photos?
My photography has a duality about it. When shooting with the M6, shots come out looking more photojournalistic and raw, and with the M10, more fashion/portrait. I enjoy being off script when shooting film. The M6 makes real life moments timeless. The M10 makes me want to experiment and push myself to the boundaries of my creativity to see what’s there. For my fashion photography I’m inspired by the Lou Escobars and Steven Kleins of the world.
About Neil Perry
Originally from Mobile, Alabama, I currently live in East Tennessee where I write and record music with my band, The Band Perry. Being on tour year round has given me the chance to experience and photograph a range of unique places and people. I’m excited to share my experiences with you. View more of my photography here.