Drew Gurian: Master Of Musical Imagery

The "reincarnated" Snoop Lion. Photo by Drew Gurian

Off-stage, Gurian tackles a portrait shoot in two different ways. He enjoys developing a previsualized and well-lit portrait, then moving to a more raw and organic approach to embrace personality, nuance and happy accidents. He credits his mentors Joe McNally and Danny Clinch for shaping his work style. Gurian interned with both photographers and later joined McNally’s team as an assistant.

Backstage with Nalle Colt of Vintage Trouble.

“Joe enabled me to see the world, which influences how you live and how you see. You’re informed in a different way the more you experience in life. I think I learned a lot technically just based on the fact that Joe is known for big production work,” reflects Gurian. “My first shoot with him when I was assisting with lighting was to shoot the world’s largest land-based telescope for National Geographic. It was a 20-story building. So we lit a 20-story building! I had to learn pretty quickly. I learned how important the business side of it is, as well, because so few photographers, and artists, for that matter, really have a good sense of how to run a business. You can take the best pictures in the world, but if you don’t know how to run a business, you’re most likely not going to succeed.”

Gurian says simplicity and working within the moment are the essential takeaways from his experience with Clinch. “The very first shoot I went on with him was with Gov’t Mule,” recalls Gurian, referring to The Allman Brothers Band’s Southern rock side project. “I asked, ‘So, how are we going to be lighting these guys?’ He points out the van window. ‘The sun!’ Danny’s style is really loose, and he has been a huge influence for trying to keep things as real as possible.”

Lead guitarist of Hall & Oates and former musical director of Saturday Night Live G.E. Smith.

Finding that real moment can be tricky when you’re working on assignment. Big names like Luke Bryan, Girl Talk, Mumford & Sons and Run-DMC often have limited time and restricted access. Gurian’s tip for those situations is to build trust and exude confidence.

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