The Tallest Man on Earth’s newest album, Dark Bird Is Home, features a dramatic
and striking cover that perfectly matches its title. What may be surprising is
that behind that cover – metaphorically, not literally – is a friendship
birthed from a chance meeting, some friendly conversation, and copious Wisconsin
Wittig met the aforementioned Tallest Man, Kristian Matsson, in 2014 at a fellow
musician’s country wedding. Kristian had been recording nearby, and, as a part
of the “pretty tightly knit” Midwest music community, everyone from his studio
took a few days break to drive out to the wedding.
“By circumstance Kristian wound up at a wedding where he
knew practically no one and I met him there,” said Cameron.
The two of them drank, talked some shop, and decided to keep
in touch. So, when time came to develop a cover for Dark Bird Is Home, Kristian pegged Cameron to shoot it.
“Album covers are a perfect medium for photography,”
explained Cameron. “The art of recording music is similar to recording images
in so many ways. They are both records. They are both completely dependent
on human interaction with technology. They often use the same language.”
“The cover idea was
never really talked about in terms of what exactly it was going to be. It was
more of a concept for the execution of an idea instead of defining what the physical
composition should be.”
That meant that Cameron was given the freedom to shoot as he
saw fit, with Kristian trusting of his ability to capture the Dark Bird.
“It was to be a photographic reinterpretation of stories
that came out of discussions about the record and the recording process in
Sweden. The figure of Dark Bird was born on a mountaintop near the town where
Kristian lives. She may or may not be real. It doesn’t matter in the end, as she
is more powerful as a specter, this beautiful figure of uncertainty and
Primarily a portrait photographer, Cameron recruited the
talents of a friend to be his model for the cover as they travelled around his
neighborhood shooting on the steps of houses that felt just right.
“I asked her to stand on the steps of houses that I selected
based on how they looked or felt. Nothing was planned ahead of time. We did
maybe six or seven different houses in various ways. Some were fancy houses,
some were not. A few were abandoned. But it was always this figure in an
ambiguous stance. She looks like she could be returning; frozen in a moment of
contemplation anticipating what might happen once she rings the bell. Or
perhaps she’s leaving and taking one last look at what her life was before she
leaves forever. I didn’t really decide what that was going to be.”
Some time after Kristain made his choice for the cover from
the “exactly 47” options Cameron sent him, Cameron joined Kristian in Sweden to
photograph him for some press photos.
“After the cover art was chosen, I flew to Sweden and met
with Kristian in Stockholm where we spent a few days shooting the press photos.
It was supremely casual… We would get breakfast at the hotel in the morning,
step outside around 10 or 11 am, and just walk around and talk. Every now and
then something would catch my eye and I would stop and say ‘Let’s do a few here.’”
Much like with the album cover, there was no plan for these
photos, but rather a theme that helped guide them in their photographic
“One of the things I looked for were places that represented
transition or movement from one place to another. So I was interested in
bridges and stairways, doorways, etc. I wanted to go to T Centralen (a train
station in Stockholm) because it was a place where people are constantly
moving; arriving, departing, transitioning,” he explained.
“When we got there, I found an escalator where I could shoot
directly from above. In order to get him to where I needed him, he had to go
down to the platform level and take the escalator past me to the floor above
while I photographed him as he went by. Then he had to take the stairs back
down to the platform so I could shoot it again as he came back up. We did it
maybe 10 times. There was a guy on the platform level waiting for a train who
noticed as every two minutes Kristian came out of the same door and took the up
escalator. He was completely confused as to what was going on. It was really