“The nervousness has always stayed the same. The more I like the band, the more nervous I am.”
Alfred van Luttikhuizen – John Coffey
Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, where are your photographic roots and what do you like to photograph?
I’m Per, I’m 42 years old and I took a photography class in 9th grade. I was very interested in the whole thing and being such a little punk back in my teenage years, as I am today, I snuck into this photography class again in 10th grade under my middle name. After school and community service I did a classical photo education, moved to Cologne, got my vocational baccalaureate and then assisted for one year to make my portfolio. I then added a design degree in Darmstadt. Diploma then in 2008. I continued to assist various photographers until 2010-2011, but from 2011-2012 on my own jobs took over and assisting decreased. After all these years, I finally made my home in people photography. But I’ve always had a connection to music and bands. For example, I met my first punk band (Ignite) in 1996, in the evening at a concert they played. I didn’t really have anything to do then – that was shortly before my civilian service – and went on the complete tour through Germany with them. They are Americans and I think they played 20 concerts on the tour in Germany. I went to 10 or 12 concerts, always with a small compact camera that I had at the time. I took the photos, went to the development shop the next morning, checked if it turned out alright and then went straight to the next town with the band in the afternoon. But I noticed that I’m not so good at documentaries, that I prefer staging and so I ended up in the field of people photography. I am also a very very strong light trickler and always try to stage a beautiful light. This has become so my thing.
Frank Carter – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Diana Vu – Swain
Jason Aalon Butler – Letlive
Per Schorn, you photograph musicians and bands. How do you reach them? Is it a mixture of patience and a sensitive persistence? Keep following up without bugging people so as not to leave scorched earth?
As a matter of fact, it is. Sometimes rejections come. Among them very nice rejections! Tori Amos wrote to me personally – even if it was just one line. Unfortunately she does not have time during her concert in Frankfurt, but she finds the project interesting.
Did you contact the management or directly the bands?
Very different. Still, I never know: did my mail reach the band? Did she even reach out to the right manager? Or did it end up in the mailbox of someone in management who thought my mail was unimportant and deleted it immediately?
The management had cancelled me on Motörhead’s last tour – with a pre-written email. And because they wrote about “photos in the pit during the concert”, I knew that they didn’t read my email properly. It’s not worth another response attempt for me. They won’t actually read the second email either! They will skim it, they will read something about photos, and they will think he wants to take live photos. And they will cancel.
But many tour or band managers later told me: We didn’t quite understand your project. And sometimes things work out when you don’t expect them to.
When you’re not expecting it?
Great Collapse, the support band of Rise Against I had written to. Rise Against fill big halls with 8.000 to 10.000 people, like the Frankfurt Festhalle or the Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart. And after our photo shoot, Great Collapse said, “Say, don’t you want to shoot Rise Against?” – “But the management said they don’t want to.” – “We can’t imagine that, hang on a sec!”. And then they pulled me over to the backstage room of Rise Against: “Here, the Per, great project! Check it out!”
Rise Against were totally excited and asked directly: “Where is the photo booth?” “In the next room! I just photographed Great Collapse…” “Great, we’re all here, we’ll join in. We’ll be over in two minutes!” Within a few minutes the pictures were in the can.
Arnim Teutoburg-Weiss – Beatsteaks
Juliette Lewis – Luiette & The Licks
Did you have something like stage fright when you were dealing with a well-known band, and did your relationship to bands, to music, to musicians change?
Funnily enough, the nervousness has always remained the same. The more I like the band, the more nervous I am. It doesn’t depend on the size, I was relatively relaxed with the guys from Rise Against, although they play in front of 10.000 people, because I know them from halls where they played in front of 100 or 200 people as support band of Sick of it all. On the other hand, I was insanely nervous about – now I have to think back for a moment – Bad Religion, because they’ve been with me for such a long time. I think I photographed them in 2016 or 2017 and I’ve been listening to them since I was 13, which is 1991. In 1992, “generator” came out that I bought. I was really nervous about whether the band would be friendly to me, whether they’d be up for the project. Even if you say the band is just having a bad day today or something, it puts a little damper on you when a band doesn’t want to participate. Because you’re a fan, this is a fanboy project. But all the bands I’ve photographed, and I mean all of them, are still bands that I put on and don’t somehow feel bad about. It’s brought me even closer to some bands or the music of some bands, because they’ve been so incredibly nice, or we’ve got this friendly component now, which makes me appreciate the music even more. And as I said, nervousness, I think that’s just like actors or musicians say, there’s still a certain basic nervousness there. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already photographed 100 or 1000 bands and I can safely say that I’ll manage another 110 bands from my record shelf at home alone, because I’m simply a music-crazy person and there will always be new bands that I find interesting and that I’d like to photograph.
And which band do you still have on your wish list?
I wanted to do a portrait of Rancid. They have played at several stadium concerts as the opening act for Green Day. I have not received a response from them to date. (get in touch!)
How much time did you need for the project – from the first to the last band?
Rival Schools, that was the first band. I took their portrait in the summer of 2011. Over the last 10 years I have been able to photograph 15-20 bands a year. 110 bands to date…!
If Corona hadn’t come, I’m sure I would have kept going. Due to the non-occurrence of concerts in any form, I sat down to the layout and realized it together with the graphic designer Fred Beier, who is a friend of mine. And I want to partner with Seltmann Publishers, a publisher whose books I’ve long admired, via crowdfunding to get the book out.
Torgeir Kjeldaas – Wolves like us
Did the bands get photos from you?
Yes, each band is allowed to use the photos as they like. Almost every band has shared my photos on Facebook or the other social media. Most recently Bad Religion, who wrote “Back to group hugging soon” underneath. It was Deichkind 3 or 4 months ago, who actually used the pictures to say “We want to have sweaty, full clubs again soon”. The Sportfreunde Stiller had autograph cards made of it. A few bands have used it as tour posters. There’s an album that has a photo in it from the show. And now the book.
What I find insanely impressive is that at least two people have had portraits of musicians from the show tattooed on them. Once a fan. And once a singer who had another musician, who unfortunately died in the meantime, tattooed himself with one of the photos I took.
That’s what I call a special honor!
Really, is it? When I saw the post of the tattoo, the photo looked familiar. And it really was my photo! Funnily enough, the fan also lives in Germany. So I got in touch via social media and just sent him another print of that photo.
Noam Cohen & Boy Tillekens- Swain
Tim McIlrath – Rise Against
Frank Turner – Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
Are there any band or musician images that you particularly like?
People ask me when I contribute a piece to the exhibition “pick one or two pictures” – it’s damn hard. Because these are all bands that I like and that I appreciate and most of the bands, or actually all of the bands, really made an effort with the photos, either to come up with something unusual or just to make crazy facial expressions or funny grimaces. For example, there is a picture of Garrett Klahn laughing so incredibly heartily in a picture that I have to laugh myself every time I see that picture. Or a bizarre picture where the bass player of Small Brown Bike jumps up in the middle of the photo booth and you only have his crotch and jeans in the picture and no upper body or face left. But there’s also Wolves like us, where Torgier shakes his hair so hard that he really looks like he’s headbanging in the booth. There are quite a lot of pictures, on quite different occasions. I think it’s like when you pick music to go with a mood you’re in, I think that’s how I would pick my pictures in the photo booth. I can’t tell you that I have a favorite, it changes depending on the mood of the day, mood and feeling.
You’ve been working on this project for ten years, you’ve put a lot of heart and energy into it, probably a lot of money as well. Would you do it again?
I would do it again anytime in a heartbeat. But the money was never the background of this series. There’s the song line from H2O that translates to something like “I’ve noticed that I already know all my idols personally”. I got to know a lot of bands during that time. Bands, some of which I’ve been listening to since I was 13 or 12! To the music of some bands it brought me even closer, because they were so incredibly nice. And I’ve become so close with some musicians that I can really call them friends, so I appreciate their music even more.
It sounds like the project is going ahead, doesn’t it?
Yes, I sat back and thought about it calmly whether it continues after an interim balance of 110 bands with it or whether I open a new project. I don’t know at this point. There is definitely another new project with musicians I want to portray. Maybe there will be volume 2 in 10 years, maybe there will be another series in some magazine with 5 bands or something in 10 years. Maybe there will be a version 2.0 someday and I will photograph all the next bands in color in the photo booth. Let’s see what time brings.
Do you also sell prints from this series?
So far I haven’t sold any prints from the series, I’ve had several exhibitions, among others at the Photokina with the pictures and of course there will be prints, definitely, that’s just the nicest way to use these photos next to the book itself, or to buy yourself a souvenir of bands you like. I’m just not 100% sure at the moment in which form the prints will be available afterwards. Whether I will limit them very much or whether I will offer different sizes, because of course I am aware that there is no money in the genre of punk per se. It was the same with me when I was a teenager, you rather recorded music on cassettes than buying the original records or CDs, so I have to make it somehow that it is feasible for everyone who is a fan of this band to buy something like that if you want to have it.
This is a bit contrary to my normal situation as a photographer, or rather as an artist, where a picture should be reproduced as seldom as possible and thus have as high a value as possible.
And that’s something I’ll have to figure out for myself over the next few weeks until the crowdfunding kicks in, how exactly I want to make that happen.
Thanks Per for your time, the very interesting insights into your life and this cool project !
Greg Hetson – Punkrock Karaoke