When it comes to luxury and high-performance automotive photography, Los Angeles based Robert Kerian’s work falls in to the stunning category. Mentored by Pulitzer-winning Vietnam War photojournalist, Eddie Adams and apprenticed by Clint Clemens, father of modern automotive photography, today, he’s known to the advertising world as simply, Kerian.
The same drive and talent that has placed him at the top of auto food chain extends to his more recent endeavors in directing TV commercials, music videos and short films. Kerian recently released a new video for the “Fake DJ” tune by Camoflaug3 featuring Robert English.
By far the best piece of equipment is my eye.
You are fairly new to the music video space; can you please tell us more about your background and what motivated you to cross over into the world of making music videos?
Actually in the early ‘90s I shot a couple music videos for my brother who was producing house tracks at the time, I was pretty young. I had a love for visuals so it was a good mix to work with my brother. He went off in to the rap world and ended up getting a really bad taste in my mouth about the music-video business and went in to feature narrative work. After a really bad accident on a film set I quit filmmaking and went 100% in to commercial advertising photography.
Oh wow, what happened, what was the accident?
On a low-budget film a set of scaffolding collapsed and I fell 15 feet with a 12K Light through a huge plate-glass window. I shattered my heal and it basically ended my film career at the time. I easily could have been killed but God was looking out. It took about 1 year to recover and I went back to school to study photography.
Working in both photography and video, which one conveys your sense of style more?
I think for me right now still photography is where my style is. I have been shooting for a long time so it’s natural, a style I’ve developed over time. I think long term, however, if I can find the same voice in film it will really show my style better.
What does film have over still photography? Or the other way around?
Photography is more of an individual vision. You have more control and final say in the end result. If the camera work (composition) sucks, or it’s not lit right or the actor was wrong it’s 100% on you. Same if it’s great. With film it’s more about collaboration, a group effort. Not saying you don’t have 100% control, I’m just saying there are more cooks in the kitchen. Another big thing about still is that it’s 1 photo forever…that photo has to be as close to perfection as possible because you will see it for eternity. With film you have so many other factors working in your advantage. Editing, camera movement, motion with the subject, screen time…all these things are very forgiving to the individual frame. Film is a very powerful tool but in my opinion the single still image is where it’s at.
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Are there any pieces of music out there which have moved you to create/capture certain images? Are there any musicians out there whose stuff is particularly visual to you?
I hear The Orb when I take photos of little puffy clouds. I guess each time I take a photo I kinda see it as music. It’s really weird but sometimes I’ll be framing up a shot and Ill start to hear a song/track in my head. My father was a jazz musician and a photographer; maybe that’s where it comes from. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of Hot Chip, Kaskade and Jamie Jones…Weird.
Do you have a favorite director or photographer; what sort of films/physical art are you drawn to?
Favorite director is Kubrick because he really uncovers more than what’s on the surface. Each of his movies there’s a very profound message that’s trying to come out. I really like Gaspar Noé at the moment because he is so raw and hardcore. Totally in your face and it’s movie making for not the faint of heart. Artist, I still love Dali because of the surrealism. Photography I’m really drawn to the masters like Bresson, Robert frank, Elliot Erwit mainly because they lived in a romantic time of photography long before plastic-bags, Instagram and fake-DJs.
Ah yes, Fake DJs. Can you tell us more about the narrative and how the contrasting images/characters help weave the idea together to make sense in a visual way?
My original concept was to have more of an Orwellian kind of world. I was basically biting the 1984 Apple Computer ad. We didn’t have the time or the resources so we came up with a concept that had similarities to the masses being carbon copy drones. The masks and painter suits fit that really well. When we were shooting the actors became drones on their own.
You chose some really iconic locations in downtown Los Angeles.
Honestly the locations are ones I’m familiar with. I shoot a lot of car photo work downtown and these are pretty standard car locations. 6th Street Bridge, 2nd St. Tunnel, lower Grand (aka “the bat-cave”) are all very familiar to me so it was an easy choice.
Do you plan on doing any more projects with the Camoflaug3 guys? Are there any other music projects in the works that we should be looking out for?
Not sure what Camoflaug3 wants to do in the future. I’m open to it if it’s a good track. I’m working on a ton of other music videos and commercials at the moment. Just finished a “trap” video for a hot new artist called Little Tribe POW.
For the nerdy tech types, what is your equipment of choice?
Red Epic, Arri Alexa, Angeniex zooms, Canon 5D MKIII. But equipment is equipment—it’s really how you use it. I will use the best piece of gear for the job it best fits. For example in the nightclub, a hand-held 5D MKIII was the way to go with a LED panel. We did a good job pissing off the “Playhouse” but we had to light the crowd somehow. By far the best piece of equipment is my eye.