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Herring & Herrings metallica album covers

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"You can’t take yourself too seriously in music or in any art really."

Herring & Herring

  • Photography by: Herring & Herring

The Brooklyn- based creative duo behind studio Herring & Herring have captured some of the most iconic faces in the world. With a client list that boasts Beyonce, Sir Ben Kingsley and William Dafoe, the team’s charismatic and nuanced vision is ubiquitous with an enduring elegance and masterful wit. In one of their boldest projects to date, their work behind Metallica’s first album in nine years, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, has ushered a new era of growth. Speaking to the idea of experience and process, we query the curious, humanising process of creativity.

herring and herring photographers stand infront of a white background
herring and herring photographers working on taking photos

“We simply don’t take no for an answer,” says photographer Jesper Carlsen, one half of the dynamic creative brand Herring and Herring. His partner Dimitri Scheblanov agrees. “Ultimately, you have to be curious”, he adds. “We make a list of all our heroes and the people we’d really love to work with and reach out to them.”  Since catching the eye of pop titan Beyonce back in 2013, a litany of artists and celebrities alike have permitted themselves to be reimagined through the duo’s lens. Recently, in a stark deviation from the pairs iconic black-and-white series of formalised portraiture, faces grin and rage across the album cover of Metallica’s new album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Bleedingly raw and ferociously provocative, we are looking at a new period of the pair’s creative maturation – an unfettered expression of the uncensored id. In a rare interview with the enigmatic team, we talk Metallica, battling our inner demons and the importance of not taking yourself too seriously.

Behind the Screams

You can’t wait for things to come to you. You have to make them happen.

Dimitri Scheblanov

Q: Let’s start by talking about the creative dynamic behind Herring & Herring.

Dimitri Scheblanov: Sure. Well, when we first started working together we had very defined roles. Jesper’s background was in photography. So coming into the collaboration, he was a photographer first. My background was in Art Direction and Creative Direction. So when we first started working together, Jesper would be shooting and I would be kind of coming up with the concepts and directing him, the subject on set, doing the post production or finishing it all up. Then, throughout the years all those sort of roles started to merge, and we’ve become interchangeable in certain ways. Most of our subjects don’t even notice that we’ve switched cameras and that one person is shooting versus the other.

Q: Does your work kind of find you or do you find the work?

DS: It’s a bit of both. I think a lot of the ways that we now get found is through our magazine. Since our work is also pretty much built on variety, we tend to take on projects that might be surprising to certain people. We do fashion projects that might surprise people in entertainment, and we do things in entertainment that might surprise people who work in fashion.

Q: Being personal fans of Metallica’s work, what does the band represent to you?

Jesper Carlsen: I’ve been listening to them since I was 12 years old and it always brings me back to that period of my life when I was skateboarding, a bit rebellious. I get the same kind of feeling when I look at them today.

DS: We play Metallica a lot on our shoots. Listening to their music, there’s something that inspires us, that fills me with energy and makes me feel excited. Whether as a band, as individuals or as . a construct. The thing about Metallica is that they’re fearless and take chances. They’re always true to themselves. They work hard and are obsessive about their work. Also, they have a sense of humour which to us, is a big part of relating to people. Those parts of their personalities, as individuals and as a group, are what we appreciate and what we strive to be as well. They’re very inspiring.

Article from the issue :


Sound & Fury

herring and herring artwork for metallica

Q: You ended up shooting the band through your friendship with Lars. How did you get to know one another?

DS: We shot Lars for the second issue of our magazine. In fact, he was the first person we shot for the second issue- that was our first kind of ‘celebrity’ issue. I think we had put in a request to shoot the band but he was the only one who was in town at the moment. So we very gladly flew him over, shot at HQ and had an amazing day with him – there was a connection.

Later on, he was in New York because Jess, (who, at the time was his fiance, and now his wife), was shooting. A friend of mine was working on set with her, texted me and said, ‘ Lars just walked in but no one will talk to him. I think they were all too intimidated. So he’s just standing around by himself’. So I said, ‘well, I’ll pop over”. So I went over there, said “hey”, and we wound up going out for tea and drinks and kind of re-established some kind of connection. Then when we were having the launch party for the magazine, we invited Lars and Jess to come. Basically we just started hanging out every night for that whole week of fashion week. We just drank and talked, and I think that kind of solidified a real friendship.  Since then, we’ve gotten close to both of them and count them as very good friends.

Q: All things considered, it’s pretty lucky to have made that connection.

DS: You’ve gotta have luck. I would say luck is huge. But our ‘big breaks’ are what we’ve made happen for ourselves. It is a funny concept because we had been waiting a very long time for that ‘big break’. Every time a project came around, we would say, ‘‘okay this is it’, but it never had the effect that we expected. So I think we don’t believe in ‘big breaks’ anymore. I think what we do believe in is making your own ‘big breaks’. There’s a quote that we found a while ago by Thomas Edison that says “everything comes to him who hustles while he waits“. That’s kind of been our ethos. You can’t wait for things to come to you. You have to make them happen. When we started, there were a lot of people we proposed these ideas to who that weren’t interested in them. So we thought, “why don’t we invest in ourselves and execute every picture that we wanted to take over the past year”. So we did that. That’s where our magazine came from. We put all of ourselves into this magazine, all of our efforts and whatever blood sweat and tears went into it. Through our work we were able to truly express ourselves

Whether you’re talking about actors, musicians, artists tend to be sensitive, insecure people filled with self-doubt. Success doesn’t really change that.

Dimitri Scheblanov

Q: Given the calibre of your clients, is there a great degree of trust involved in getting an honest picture?

DS: When you’re working with other artists, it’s very different to working with models. You have to work with them and make them feel that your intentions align with what they want and that you’re all on the same page. Whether you’re talking about actors, musicians, artists tend to be sensitive, insecure people filled with self-doubt. Success doesn’t really change that. So working with people with this degree of sensitivity is what brings about the most interesting pictures.

Q: How do you encourage your subjects to let go of all formality to get the shot you want?

DS: We’ve found that when we are very tired, we tend to get the best results. It’s very strange, we’ve noticed that in the past few years. When we’re exhausted, and we’ve done session after session, we kind of care a little less in a way, and that’s when we tend to get really great stuff.

Q: Apparently you and the band came up with the album artwork when you were drinking in Lars’s garage.

DS: (laughs) That’s true, yeah. So Lars called one day and said, ” have this thing I want to ask”, and I said, “okay, let’s talk”. So he said, “I’d love to invite you guys to my wedding and would love to ask if you’d be comfortable taking some pictures. It’s completely open to you guys, but we’d just love to have something that’s an alternative to typical wedding portraits or wedding photography. So Jesper and I sat down and started going through ideas of what would be cool, what would be different.

JC: Well, first we said no. We didn’t know what he was talking about. We were talking between ourselves and said we don’t do wedding photography, so if we were going to do it, it would have to be on our own terms.

DS: Yeah. So we sat down and started coming up with various ideas. One of the ones we came up with were these projections- where we would take a photo of a person and project that photo back onto that same person, or onto a different person. We thought that would be a good wedding portrait, where in a cheesy way two people become one. That was one idea. Another was to set up a photo-booth in the actual wedding area and to take portraits of all the different people that came to the wedding. So we had this elaborate set constructed to do that and that was all fine and very beautiful photographs came out of that. Then, on the first night as they were that we were wrapping up dinner and we had had some drinks, we told them very briefly about the projection idea. Of course we knew what the whole thing was going to look like, they didn’t really understand, but they were open to it . So we set up our equipment and started shooting. Then the secondary images started popping up on the screen, some of Lars’s kids, his dad, step-mum and cousin were all watching this and they were like, ’whoa’. It was cool.

metalica artwork shot by herring & herring
metalica artwork shot by herring & herring

Lars really liked the idea of having himself inside James’s head.

Dimitri Scheblanov

Q: This is the first time the band has put themselves on their album cover. Was there a reason behind this?

DS: I mean for us that was a very exciting thing, that we would have an actual photograph on their album. I think a decision was just that after we did those initial wedding portraits, Lars showed them to James the next day. Lars was very excited about the idea of having his face projected onto James’s head. That was the thing he kept talking about. He really liked the idea of having him inside James’s head, so I think that kind of decision was made pretty quickly. I think they liked the visuals. They identified with it

and that was it. It was more their decision than ours really.

Q: Metallica fans might think that there’s a deeper meaning behind the artwork?

DS: Well you know, if you look at the four different covers, you get that sense of variety of expression on all of their parts. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure they were looking to express the totality of their inner selves and outer selves.

Q: Especially given the recent documentary about James’s personal struggles in Some Kind of Monster.

DS: Yeah of course, I mean I think that’s why they identified with it. It speaks not just to James. I mean when you look at the band, it’s four individuals who make up a group. I think each individual has things that he struggles with, and has demons to battle inside themselves. They each have their own story, and then as a collective, they have this whole other relationship. A kind of a fifth relationship, which is the band itself. So I’m sure that when they saw this image all of those things came into place for them, and I think that’s why they identified with it.

Q: Do you think there’s a place for vulnerability in the machismo of metal music?

DS: Absolutely. I think that’s also what makes Metallica great. They are so open and don’t give a fuck, which is very cool. Even early on, with the backlash they were getting for ‘Unforgiven’ or ‘Nothing Else Matters’, when people thought they were making soft schtick. You hear, or see their vulnerability;  their sensitivity and insecurity. Like many artists that have allowed themselves to get into that zone, they’ve done obviously incredible things with it. That’s where incredible art stems from. The other great thing about Metallica is that they have a sense of humour. That’s something we definitely share. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s what allows them to open up in the way that they do creatively.  So I think that you have to have that as well. You can’t take yourself too seriously in music or in any art really.

Q: Would you say that’s one of the secrets to creative longevity?

JC:  That sums it up perfectly yeah.

Q: What ambition do you have for the future?

JC: I want a Grammy.

DS:  I think a Grammy would be cool. And there are a lot of creative projects that we’re very excited about. I think ambition and ideas are two things that we definitely don’t lack. We love challenging ourselves and we try to do that with every project we work on. The hardest thing is finding the time to do all of what we want to do. We’ve got a backlog of the work that we want to make, that there’s really not enough time. We get very excited about new things, but when we actually have to do them it gets difficult.

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Herring & Herring

Herring & Herring is the collaboration of renowned international fashion photographers and directors Dimitri Scheblanov and Jesper Carlsen. The team’s photographic approach is based upon conceptual and aesthetic exploration; continuously pushing the boundaries of story telling through an ever-expanding visual vernacular for their editorial, commercial and celebrity clients.

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