When Guitar Aficionado first contacted commercial and editorial photographer David Bowman about shooting portraits of musician Brian Setzer and his guitars, the assignment called for a studio shoot. But this was February, in Minneapolis, and a blizzard shut down the city, forcing the shoot to be postponed to a date when the studio was no longer available. Bowman suggested several alternative locations to associate photo editor Samantha Xu, including the W hotel, which occupies a 1920s tower in downtown Minneapolis. The day before the rescheduled shoot, the hotel gave its permission for the shoot to take place in two locations in the hotel during normal business hours. As soon as he had permission, Bowman says, “I ran down there with a camera and got in 10 minutes of scouting.”
Logistics: In all, there were ten people on location: Bowman and two assistants, Setzer, his wife and his manager, a guitar technician, a bodyguard, a wardrobe person and a hair and makeup stylist. At the shoot, Setzer’s manager asked that one of the portraits be taken in the back of the lobby, away from hotel guests. “It was a cramped, dark corner, void of any ambient light,” Bowman notes. The walls were black and shiny.
Time was limited, and Bowman was allowed only a few minutes to shoot two portraits of Setzer and a photo of his guitars. “Your job is to get more time with your subject,” Bowman says, but both building management and Setzer’s manager were eager for him to wrap up the shoot in only a few minutes.
During the shoot, which took place both in the lobby and in the W hotel’s “Extreme Wow Suite,” Bowman’s gear kept blowing fuses. Bowman guesses that the wiring in the Twenties-era hotel was not set up to handle a 2,400 watt-second power pack.