Vivid colors and mesmerizing lights dance across a minimally adorned set as GRAMMY® nominated producer, ZHU, prepares for his latest album release “DREAMLAND 2021” under the label Astralwerks. Under the visual direction of his Creative Producer, Joey Vitalari, take a peek at the making of ZHU’s album visualizer with behind the scene moments captured by photographer & director, Mynxii White.
1. Joey, what visual elements do you look for in your storytelling?
When we plan projects, it’s important to me that I remember to approach them with a balance of intention and flexibility. Our goal is to establish a consistent narrative that ultimately feels real to our audience. I believe locations are the strongest source of inspiration for anything we do. For example, last year I directed a fashion show/music video at one of the sewing factories that ZHU’s brand manufactures clothing. Your location best compliments how you incorporate color, natural light, and what emotion you want to evoke from your audience. We also travel to places where ZHU is musically inspired and we try to bring the connection we have with our environment to life through authentic storytelling.
Some of my favorite images from our projects aren’t always what we originally plan for either, so that’s where being flexible as a photographer comes into play. It helps to have a consistent narrative at the forefront of a project because it allows you to try to incorporate new techniques and ideas to build on and create more successful images than you anticipated. I believe that learning to flow with unpredictability is a great skill. It’s incredibly helpful to have a team working alongside me that are able to immerse themselves into what we create and I’m constantly pulling inspiration from them as well.
2. Describe the concept of the shoot— what inspired the theme and mood?
For the visualizer shoot for Dreamland 2021, the overall theme was that there were twelve songs on the record and our goal was to create varying bodies of work that best encapsulated the mood of each song. We approached each video with the mindset of how they would ultimately be viewed the most and wanted to create an eye-catching visual for every song. Fashion has always been a strong element in ZHU’s brand and the majority of the wardrobe featured are from his clothing line ZHU Merch or were custom made by Emmy, ZHU’s Designer and Fashion Director, to embody the mood we sought to create.
ZHU, Emmy, and I worked closely together deciding what songs should have a more simplistic approach with props lighting and which needed to rely more on talent, wardrobe, and visuals. The quality and consistency of still imagery is important across the ZHU brand, so we knew this shoot was going to be unique in how we photographed it as well. I captured thousands of images in succession to create subtle and controlled movements and we then created video sequences from these sections. Trusting your gear’s performance is paramount with this extensive workflow, and the SL2 was the perfect tool to help us bring this project to life.
3. With a keen eye for design, fashion, and art, Mynxii, what was your creative process like when it came to shooting these BTS moments?
I really wanted to capture details from each scene and highlight the crew who meticulously created it. I wanted the viewer to be able to get a rare behind the scenes moment on how these visuals are birthed, from creation to the stage
4. In preparation for the shoot, what gear did you choose to bring?
I brought my Leica SL-System along with the 24-90 lens and the 16-35mm lens. I really love how I was able to capture the full scene along with the crew who created it. You can really see the magic come to life.
5. With only a limited time to shoot the visualizer, Joey, what are your top 3 selects from the shoot and why?
My three favorite selects from this shoot were chosen for how well they visually represent our narrative, brand aesthetic, and truly captured our vision for the project.
6. How did your passion for photography begin?
I discovered photography through my involvement in the high school yearbook program and photography elective class. I enjoyed the freedom a camera gave me to involve myself in more than just schoolwork, and I received a tremendous amount of support from my teachers in those classes who kept pushing me to be creative. This lead me to pursue photography in college where I was accepted at Brooks Institute where I received my technical education and a much-needed conditioning to the processes and work ethic needed for a career in professional commercial photography.
7. Prior to your photography and film/video production career, what was your visual journey like, Mynxii?
I am self-taught. I never went to school, although I had the good fortune of growing up around some of the most incredible photographers and directors in the business. I learned through observing these great artists and practicing every chance I got when I wasn’t on set working as a makeup artist. When I began the transition from makeup artist to magazine editor, to art director, to photographer, and now director, I made sure to constantly immerse myself in creation, whatever medium I was given.
8. As a director, photographer, and editor, what advice would you have for novice photographers or videographers who want to pursue a career in film or music production?
I will always say- JUST START SHOOTING. There are no mistakes, only unique perspectives and different angles to execution. A camera is like a canvas; it is there to record what your eyes see and what your heart feels. The more I use it, the more I am able to articulate what I see through my camera.
View More BTS Moments by Mynxii White
Connect with Mynxii White on Instagram at @MynxiiWhite and Joey Vitalari at @JoeyVitalari to discover more of their work.
Immerse yourself in the collection of “DREAMLAND 2021” visualizers by visiting the DREAMLAND 2021 website, and check out the complete album through streaming services offered here.