“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits,” quotes Dimitri Scheblanov, one half of the dynamic creative photographic duo Herring and Herring. “We simply don’t take no for an answer,” adds his creative partner Jesper Carlsen. Since their early beginnings in the creative industry, the Brooklyn- based photographers have captured some of the most iconic faces in the world. “Ultimately, you have to be curious”, adds Dimitri, “ we make a list of all our heroes and the people we’d really love to work with and reach out to them.” Catching the eye of pop titan Beyonce back in 2013, the team’s charismatic and nuanced vision has since become ubiquitous with a certain calibre of image. Their impressive client list includes a diverse range of personalities ranging from William Dafoe, Billy Bob Thornton and, more recently, legendary cult metal band Metallica. In one of their boldest projects to date, the team have also been responsible for all the striking visuals included Metallica’s first album in nine years, ’Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’. The howling faces that grin and rage across the album, speak volumes of the duo’s remarkable ability to challenge and surprise. Sitting down with the creative duo behind the faces, we speak with Herring & Herring about the story behind Metallica’s album artwork, battling our inner demons and the importance of not taking yourself too seriously.
(The creative duo behind Herring & Herring. Left, Dimitri Scheblanov, Right, Jesper Carlsen)
TBE: Lets 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 both 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.
Dimitri Scheblanov, Herring & Herring
We’ve become interchangeable in certain ways. Most of our subjects don’t even notice that we’ve switched cameras.
TBE: Does your work kind of find you or do you find the work?
D: 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 with in fashion.
TBE – Being personal fans of Metallica’s work, what does the band represent to you?
Jesper: I’ve been listening to them since I was 12 years old and it always brings be back to that period of my life when I was skateboarding, a bit rebellious. I get the same kind of feeling when I look to them today.
D: 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 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.
Jesper Carlsen, Herring & Herring
Whether as a band, as individuals or a construct, the thing about Metallica is that they’re fearless and take chances; they’re always true to themselves.
TBE: You ended up shooting the band through your friendship with Lars. How did you get to know one another?
D: 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.
TBE: All things considered, it’s pretty lucky to have made that connection.
D: 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.
DIMITRI SCHEBLANOV, HERRING & HERRING
You can’t wait for things to come to you, you have to make them happen
D: When we started, here are 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
TBE: Given the calibre of your clients, is there a great degree of trust involved in getting an honest picture?
D: 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.
Herring & Herring Playlist
TBE: I read that JFK’s portrait photographer used to take ages to set up the lights. His subjects would come in all suited and ready to have their pictures taken, but he would take his time fixing up one light, taking it down, setting up another. All the while, his subjects would start to get tired and bored waiting around whilst he seemingly took forever, and then only when they were really bored and relaxed, would he get his camera out. By this point all, his subjects would have let go of all formality and he would be able to get the shot he wanted.
D: We’ve had that in a funny way, in reverse. 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.
DIMITRI SCHEBLANOV, HERRING & HERRING.
Whether you’re talking about actors, musicians, artists tend to be sensitive, insecure people filled with self-doubt. Success doesn’t really change that.
TBE: I guess you’re more relaxed. Apparently you and the band came up with the album artwork when you were drinking in Lars’s garage.
D: (laughs) That’s true, yeah. So Lars called one day and said, ‘I 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.
J: 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.
D: Yeah. So we sat down and started coming up with various ideas. One of the ones we came up 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.
DIMITRI SCHEBLANOV, HERRING & HERRING.
(Lars) really liked the idea of having himself inside James’s head.
D: That was one idea and 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’ kids, his dad, step-mum and cousin, they were all watching this and they were like, ’whoa’. It was cool.
TBE: This is Metallica’s first original album with them on the front cover. Was there a reason behind James and the band wanting to be represented on the cover?
D: 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 by 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.
TBE: Just from an outsider, Metallica fans might think that there’s a deeper meaning behind the artwork?
D: 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.
DIMITRI SCHEBLANOV, HERRING & HERRING
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.
TBE: It seems especially fitting given the recent documentary about James’s personal struggles in, ‘Some Kind of Monster’.
D: 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 a band, it’s four individuals who make up a group. I think each individual has things that he struggles with, and have 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.
TBE: Do you think there’s a place for vulnerability in the machismo of metal music?
D: 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.
TBE: Would you say that’s one of the secrets to creative longevity?
J: That sums it up perfectly yeah.
TBE: What ambition do you have for the future?
J: I want a Grammy.
D: I think a Grammy would be cool. And 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 that we work on. The hardest thing is finding time to do all 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.
DIMITRI SCHEBLANOV, HERRING & HERRING
You can’t take yourself too seriously in music or in any art really.
TBE: You have pretty much shot most of the celebrities, so I guess now it’s about exploring new mediums and creative horizons?
J: We did do some video last year which was something new. We did some music videos for Metallica, and we definitely enjoyed that process a lot. It was also a great learning experience, and a scary thing where we had to be outside of our comfort zone.
D: We definitely want to be doing more in video and film and we’ve got a lot of ideas for that. I think in the end, it’s about exploring our creative ideas no matter who is in front of the camera or what medium that takes. It could be a celebrity, it could be a person of the street but I think as long as we’re excited by the idea’s we’re putting forth, that’s the number one thing.
Behind the Scenes
Metallica ‘Now That We’re Dead’
by Herring & Herring
CHEF ANDRE CHIANG
Michelin-Starred Chef André Chiang, discusses his principles of creativity and the influences that have informed his craft.
An exclusive video featuring Celebrity Trainer Raphael Doub and his unique Skate Gym method that adapts skateboarding movement to engage the body’s whole range of motion.
Renowned sports photographer Marc Lecureuil discusses capturing the perfect moment in time.
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.