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Mark Seliger and Peter Gannon on the Rhythms of Creativity


The legendary Texas-born photographer and the founder of Halo Music & Sound reflect on their respective creative processes, and why the time is right to collaborate on a groundbreaking new musical partnership

Mark Seliger and Peter Gannon on the Rhythms of Creativity

“I was shooting Springsteen, and he knew I liked to play a bit in my spare time. He asked me why and I said ‘I don’t know, I just love to play’. He simply turned back to me and laughed, ‘well, yeah! Why do you think they call it playing!?’”

The longer our conversation with Mark Seliger and Peter Gannon went on, the more that quote began to resonate. Mark, for his part, can reflect back on an extraordinary career in photography through which he’s collaborated with some of the biggest stars imaginable, and seen his work become iconic throughout the pages of Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, GQ, and many more. Peter Gannon, sat today in a parallel Zoom window, also boasts an impressively versatile career having toured the world as a musician and worked both agency and brand-side before setting up his own company - Halo Music & Sound

What unites both of these creative minds is precisely that love of play, and the curiosity it generates. In fact, it was present right from the moment they first met. “We were working on a project during the initial lockdown which sought to bring musicians together”, recalls Mark. “Because of the restrictions we wanted to pursue something that focused on emerging artists - particularly those with an interest in storytelling - and put a spotlight on their art and their influences”. 

“It was a totally human connection, through a mutual friend who we both admire”, agrees Peter. “Mark and I both share a love of what I call ‘music out of context’, by which I mean the ways in which music can extend into all manner of different media and how that colors the way it gets perceived”. 

At that time, however, neither Mark nor Peter realised quite how aligned their creative worldviews truly were. “It was only later on that I actually realised that Mark was a recording musician in his own right - and not only that, but his stuff was great”, explains Peter. “I knew then that, somehow, we had to continue working together”. 

From that moment on, to say that the results of the pair’s working relationship have been prolific would be something of an understatement. For starters, Mark’s collaboration with Halo led to his being signed to Downtown Music - where his work features alongside the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and the catalogue of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. As Mark explains, however, that’s just the beginning. 

“We’re making some exciting moves with Seliger Studios, expanding into different creative mediums”, he says. “The goal is to become a creative hub for brands, some of whom we’ve already started working with, where they can come to us as a starting point for telling their story and creating a narrative anchor for themselves. Peter obviously comes in on the music side of that proposition. It’s a nimble and freelance model, but we’re always totally invested partners alongside anyone we work with”. 

Already, the benefits of Mark and Peter’s ‘creativity-first’ approach are clear to see. For an example, look no further than Mark’s work with Lee Jeans. 

Finding Your Own Sound 

Among the many artists to have collaborated with Mark in the past is the iconic singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz. “I’d directed an ad for the brand, and immediately had an idea for a song which would pair perfectly with it. It was a few years old at this point, but there was no doubt in my mind that Lenny’s song ‘strut’ would fit our work perfectly”, says Mark. “So I reached out to Lenny, got the film in front of him paired with his song, and he absolutely loved it. He instinctively got what we were trying to do and told me ‘you have to make this happen’. The result is a piece of film which feels totally authentic, where every piece of the creative is pulling in the same direction. Personally, that's incredibly satisfying - and the value for the brand is superb”. 

Above: Instinctively, Mark knew that ‘Strut’ by his longtime collaborator Lenny Kravitz would align with the ad he directed for Lee Jeans. 

The spontaneous and nimble nature of Mark and Peter’s working model is very much intentional. “What we’ve found is that there’s a lot of people who’ve worked with Mark in the past who are now realising they have the opportunity to collaborate with him again in a really direct way”, explains Peter. 

There’s a fluidity, too, in the way the duo see their work entering into the formalised industry structures. “We’re not replacing agencies, not by any means”, says Mark. “But anyone - be it brand or agency -, at any step along the creative process, could stand to benefit from an alternative approach. And, to Peter’s point, we can offer great access to experienced viewpoints such as his own or a creative like Antonio Navas.” 

A Creative Snapshot

For Mark, that all-encompassing approach to creativity has roots which can be traced right back to his photography work. “Photography taught me to fall in love with the people who you’re collaborating with as artists”, he tells LBB. “You need to make sure you’ve done your research on the front end and you have a basic sense of who they are creatively. Once you have that, you can play with it - subvert it, flip it around, whatever makes for an interesting or inspiring end result. But you have to have that love and respect underpinning your work”. 

And the links between photography and music don’t end there. “I think a lot of what makes a great producer can be linked to what Mark’s talking about, there”, notes Peter. “You have to work with the essence of something - an artist, a person, or a song. A photographer has to stay true to their subject in the same way a producer does to their core material. You express your own creativity through shining a different light on it, or reflecting it a different way - but the essence remains unchanged”. 

All of which takes us back to Mark’s conversation with Bruce Springsteen. For both Mark and Peter, to play is to be creative. For all of their hard-won experience and reputations within the industry, it’s refreshing to hear two people talking with such wide-eyed curiosity and ambition about what might be coming around the corner.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, the measure of a successful creative career is whether that curiosity and playfulness has remained intact throughout it all. In other words, we only stop being creative when we lose that playful desire to focus on the ‘next big thing’. That may seem naïve but, as Mark and Peter’s clients can attest, it’s undoubtedly possible.

So, here’s to the next big thing. 

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Halo Music & Sound, Wed, 08 Dec 2021 00:24:12 GMT