Ross Halfin - SW! 15.3. Some thoughts by Steffan Chirazi
As the title suggests, the legendary rock photographer Ross Halfin will be contributing to the next issue of SW! magazine with a Metallicized diary and some of his recent photography. I was delighted he agreed (happily I might add) to contribute to the magazine. His importance in Metallica's history cannot be denied, and the fact remains that he is not only a fine photographer but a funny, amusing writer (somewhere between John Waters, David Sedaris and an angry wrestler).
I have known him since I was a 17 year old in 1984, and Ross has never been an easy man. Typically over the years his first line of communication has involved making sure he is on the front-foot, unsettling those before him with a mixture of robust humor, blunt unchecked honesty and sometimes plain hostility. He is not one to stand on ceremony and he is not one to compromise if the quality of his work is at risk. He is also fiercely opposed to bullshitters, and if he gets so much as a whiff of what he considers to be one, then forget about it, he will never let it rest.
Ross is one of only two people in rock'n'roll who has ever intimidated me, left me wondering how I should behave around him, left me feeling uncomfortable sometimes. He has taken a few written and verbal pops at me over the years, and equally, I have spent years at a time studiously avoiding being in the same place as him. Yet equally, he gave me a few rides home back in the day, and still asks how my Mum is whenever I see him. Frankly, I think I was both fascinated and scared of him. I used to buy SOUNDS and see his photos, I used to buy Kerrang! to and then suddenly there I was, a teenager who was suddenly a peer. Being a teenager can be awkward enough; being a teenager in rock'n'roll was bizarrely awkward. And being a teenager in rock'n'roll meeting a character like Ross was all of the above. As I got older, I started to realize that deep down, Ross is actually a bit of a softie, a man who's bark is absolutely worse than his bite. I wouldn't go as far as to call him a lover not a fighter, but let me just say I guess he isn't the aggressor I used to think he was.
His work, meanwhile, remains some of the best in rock'n'roll, especially live where he has managed to make sure that the best shots of Lars and co belong to him. He is relentless in his pursuit of a great live shot, going wherever he needs to go to capture the moment, and it is a combination of that single-minded determination and his own, music-loving 'frame' which continually sees tremendous live results. And whilst he does shoot digital, his preference remains film, hinting further at the artistic romantic who lies beneath the bluster.
His history with Metallica has been fascinating. Up and down, sometimes his and their personal dynamic has simply rubbed the wrong way too often. But as the years have gone on, both know that theirs is the sort of relationship which one would term 'familial' in as much as it was inevitable that they would work together again.
And they are.
I wanted Ross to write something for SW! because I am a fan of his writing, despite having been a victim of it's blunt rudeness on a couple of occasions. He is a sarcastic, engaging penman, yet beneath the fire there's always a few flickers of the warm human being that lies beneath. I also felt that SW! readers who perhaps do not have access to his work deserved to settle down and have a giggle with him, because trust me, it is entertaining stuff. And in the current climate of homogenized art, the rambunctious, independent and devil-may-care voice of Ross is something which needs to be encouraged and embraced. Because it is unique. Seriously unique. And trust me when I say that word is becoming increasingly extinct...
Thanks for remaining you Ross...