Thursday, June 5, 2014


by Jamie Goodsell
All images © Kevin Carrico
website •

I first met Kevin Carrico in Nashville when he was working his magic on one of Third Man Records novelty machines. He is certainly one of the most interesting and fascinating people I've ever spoken with. I found out that he can virtually invent anything that he puts his mind to. He is also a very talented photographer, videographer, director of photography, and even does CGI. It occurred to me that this was a man of many talents, so naturally I wanted to hear more about how he came to be. He's the kind of person that's always encouraging, enthusiastic and he inspires to push people further. I'm lucky to know this man. 


When and where were you born? 
August 1964 in Waltham, Massachusetts while my dad was getting his PhD in physics at Brandeis University. 

Where did you grow up and what was it like? Did anything there inspire you early on? 
Just north of Detroit in a city called Royal Oak, Michigan. Believe it or not as a child I was deathly-afraid of my dad's super-8mm home movie camera and all the bright lights that mounted on top. I would run screaming every time he made home movies, which made for some pretty funny home movies. 

Have your folks always supported your creativity?
My parents have always been supportive of my creative ventures, be it writing or music or art. I just sort of gravitated toward cameras because they're mechanical and I love all things mechanical. So I would have to say that my parents and family were my first inspirations, having their encouragement to pursue my developing interests alongside schoolwork and such has always been amazing to me. 

Tell me a little bit about your personal history with photography? 
Aside from snapshots, I got interested in the technologies involved very quickly; from special film processing techniques and darkroom tricks to long-exposure photography, double-exposures and the like. 

Where did you go to school and what would you say you got out of your education? 
When I headed into 7th grade I was placed in a gifted & talented program that allowed a lot of freedom creatively. Though still taking regular classes, we were often allowed to pursue our own interests in conjunction with most of our studies. So, for instance…instead of having to turn in a book report, I was allowed to submit a film or slideshow instead. This made learning more fun while it also taught me to use photos and film in new and different ways. 

Was most of your education learned in the field? 
Yes, I began freelancing in the local commercial industry at the same time I started going to Wayne State University. So as much as school had me studying and issuing project deadlines, the things I learned at work were far more practical or "day-to-day" type things as opposed to photo/cinematic history. It was a good balance but I definitely learned the professional side of things by being out there and working. 

What's your relationship with film photography and when is the last time you developed your own image in a darkroom? 
I haven't shot film in about two or three years now, with digital imaging becoming a far less expensive route for my clients being the main reason. Yet I have never stopped learning either. Even when video tape was first coming out I continued to work with friends and colleagues who were also schooled in film and photography, and were able to get better-than-average results with the early cameras through other means. 

It cuts both ways: film can look "digital" if the lighting isn't done in a certain way, and digital can look just like film for the same reasons. Here's just one example…a film shot that is over-lit or too busy with light can come across with the look of an electronic imaging chip, yet a more subtle use of light with a digital camera that pushes a few limits of the chip can often appear to the viewer as film. I think it's more about lighting and composition than format. Just as film stocks have their pluses and minuses, I like to think of the various electronic platforms simply as different "stocks."

You seem to be more video/director oriented than photography oriented, which one came first for you?
My interest in photography and cinematography have always run parallel to each other, so one did not come first so to speak. I enjoy the challenges of both, and they really feed off of each other. I will often take stills in preparation or execution of a film job to make sure the photography itself works before adding-in camera moves, pre-planned edits, etc. 

Your website describes you as a Director/Director of Photography. Can you talk a little bit about how you evolved into this title? 
Although I've been shooting and filmmaking since childhood, my first job in the industry was answering phones at a local studio. It was a natural progression for me to work my way up through lighting and shooting work. By this time I had developed a reputation for flexibility and efficiency in planning and executing the photography of a project. As I always have, I also continued to do my own side projects whether they were paying jobs or not. 

So, several clients started seeing what I was doing on my own, and how efficient I was. Then they began asking me to direct for them which was a great opportunity. As far as "Director/DP" goes, it stood to reason that for much of the work I do, I could direct and shoot the project...which also ended up saving my clients time and money. This, too, parallels the music industry a bit. There are performers that don't write or play instruments and there are those who write, produce, play and sing. I guess I'm very comfortable in writing, lighting, shooting and directing. 

What are some things to think about when photographing musicians?
I believe that with any subject (unless it's purely art for art's sake), the subject is the most important thing. My job is to get the best images possible to the audience and not to interfere with subject, but to exhibit it. When it comes to music, I think this is extra important. A musician is already expressing themselves and my job is not to alter that expression, but capture it properly and enhance it where I'm able to. I prefer not to "get in the way" creatively, but to "play along.Also, I think musicians (as any person does, really) look best when they are playing music or emoting to their music. To have them off doing random things that might be uncomfortable for them will show in the final product. 

When you're photographing a band, what are some of the things you do to plan for that shoot and when they're finally in front of your camera, how do you start to work things out to make it a productive, positive, and comfortable shoot? 
Well I've always been interested in the imaginative aspects of photography and film…the creative parts. Musicians are extremely creative people and so it's great fun to work with their ideas. My favorite stuff has always been shoots that start with a basic idea and then just heading out and seeing what we can find to fulfill it. Along the way there are always great discoveries to be found if you keep an open mind about it and don't try to plan every little thing to the Nth degree. I think the best stuff comes through a process of discovery once everyone is together and kicking around ideas. Film is very collaborative and some of the greatest ideas come from places or people you'd never expect. So I make sure to have what's technically needed and I'm always broadening my experiences so I can bring those lessons with me to the next job. 

Visually speaking, what makes a great image in your mind? 
This is a tough question! For me it could be any number of things from an amazing lighting setup to a wonderful location. But to the question, I'd have to say that a great image (regardless of the technicalities of getting it), is an image which expresses or exhibits the subject in a way that doesn't distract from the subject, while still being interesting to the viewer after seeing it more than once. 

What were some things that influenced you early on in life?
I grew up often visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts with family and friends and then later on in school, since it was across the street from the university I attended. Initially there was curiosity to these great images from over the centuries and later on it became more of a study. Armed with my spot meter I would often examine the various lighting ratios used. For example, how bright was the subjects face compared to the background, or how bright was the sky compared to the subject? 

In film, of course, the black & white works of cinematographers such as Gregg Toland and James Wong Howe left an indelible impression on me in "controlling light," shaping it and sustaining a look even while the camera moves to and from various points in a scene. Toland embraced and advanced technologies and even employed many darkroom or special effects "tricks" in order to get images that were otherwise impossible to get…and the end result is that you cannot tell any tricks were even used. 

What do you bring to your shoots? 
Not very much in terms of off-the-shelf-gear…I will often make my own devices (ring lights, water effects,etc). Mainly I head out to get what we call a "clean negative." I prefer not to filter lenses very often or use gimmicks in the field. I think it's my experience in the darkroom that taught me that so much can be done there and it translates into motion picture and post-production techniques very well. So I guess the one thing I always take with me is an open mind. 

Can you talk about how you've gotten some of the work you have?
Much of this work has come through personal projects I've done and shown to others. For example I love aviation and aircraft history, so I've played around with CGI in this area as a hobby for quite some time. I've rendered stills as well as film clips and a few clients saw them and asked if I could do the same with product of theirs be it a satellite, aircraft, etc. 

Again, it's easy to get close-minded and form an extreme familiarity with certain looks, certain pieces of gear and certain subjects. But there is a huge difference between knowing how to make an image and understanding how to make an image. Knowing how means you've learned a few things that always work, yet understanding means being able to constantly apply anything you've ever learned to things you may have never done before. 

Do you think the still image holds the same value today as it did 50 years ago? 
Oh, yes…of course. As much fun as it is to make a nice dolly move, a beautiful crane shot, or to have action to support a moving picture, a great still photo can evoke so much more at first glance and over time. I think having been grounded in still photography has meant more to cinematography than the other way around…and I think it always will. 

When you hear the term "finding the light" what does that mean to you? 
I believe it means stepping back for a second, wherever you may be shooting and seeing what might already be there for you to use. So often you can discover great little things if you take a moment to do so. I've seen many shooters simply frustrate themselves (and their subjects/clients) by coming onto a location or into a space and trying to take over the complete environment. Rarely does an environment offer up nothing, but often nuances it does hold can be overlooked. 

What has photography taught you about yourself? 
I think mainly to express myself through an ever-changing landscape of technologies and ideas. 


You said you like all things has that opened up your career path?
I've always been interested in learning. Besides things I'm passionate about or hobbies, I love learning. So it's always been a part of me to do many things (I've renovated and built houses, I understand electronics, I like to repair my own car, I design things on the computer, I can write software)….and it really helps my career in that I can apply just about any of these seemingly unrelated experiences right back into filmmaking and photography be it building a special camera mount, or writing software that will affect an image in a certain way. Being well-versed in other things opens the mind and I think removes limits from one's imagination. 

Explain quality over quantity for everyone. 
Be prepared for both! Some clients will want to shoot all day and night for a single image in an advertising campaign. Other times you might find out that you have fifteen minutes with a band instead of the two hours you were promised. In a more general sense, I think quality…knowing when you've gotten your shot and knowing when to move on instead of shooting something six ways from Sunday. But even with this in mind, things can change. If you're shooting an uncontrolled event (sports, concerts, etc.) sometimes you simply have to rely on quantity and then go back and pick through the pile of photos for the few that will be used. 

How did you get into CGI?  
I've always been interested in computers and learned to program at an early age, so when the technology began to emerge on a consumer level it simply fit right into what I was doing. Sometimes I use it to "test" a shot before a shoot (playing with lighting levels, lenses, etc.) and most of the time I use it as an extension to other "digital darkroom" tools like Photoshop and Corel. As a filmmaker it's fun to incorporate CGI into projects. Anything from virtual sets or creating images that are impossible to get with a camera. Again, it's just another tool in the box, yet the evolution of these things fascinates me. I've most recently done a short film in which a certain location was unavailable, but through CGI I was able to place my actors there and no one can tell. Likewise, CGI has also allowed me to bring a feature film to life over the last few years. 

Can you give me a brief history on your relationship with The White Stripes and what kind of work you've done with them? Can you tell us a good story from those days? 
I shot their first two videos ("Hotel Yorba" and "We Are Going To Be Friends") which is actually related to a funny story. 

I think this was right before "White Blood Cells," I was doing a commercial for Ford/JBL sound systems. Part of the spot required shots of a generic rock concert and the producer had brought in some local musicians to play along to an unknown track that was approved by the agency. Between setups, one of the guitar players would jump off stage and come help us get the next shot ready and it was great. I noticed he was British, but no matter: all day long he's both in front of the camera and behind it and it was great fun. 

Out of curiosity, I asked the producer where they found this amazing guy from England and everyone started laughing. It turns out it was Jack doing an accent which was very funny indeed. During meal breaks he brought a turntable in and played us some of his music which was very cool. About a week or two later they were going to shoot "Hotel Yorba" and asked if I'd like to be the DP and it was great fun. By the end of the day we had about 200 feet of film leftover and instead of throwing it away, we were able to do one single take of "We Are Going To Be Friends," in which Meg actually fell asleep after a 16 hour day. 

What records have you been spinning lately? 
The Raconteurs "Consolers Of The Lonely" along with some Mozart and Beethoven. 

See more of Kevin's work here:

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