“Crack’s USP is its independent spirit. We are not afraid to voice our opinion, and we are not focused on appeasing mass audiences”
London-born Nigerian art director Ade Udoma began taking on styling and creative direction commissions aged 19, while studying music at university, accepting a position at the Bristol-based music and culture magazine eight years later, in September 2018. “My creative partner, Michelle Helena Janssen, and I knew that Crack was the ideal platform for us, as we believe in building community and showcasing creative talent.”
And true to his word, that’s been his focus, both in front of and behind the camera. “Of course, musicians and photographers are essential, but this community we are building includes a far wider range of creatives; stylists, set designers, beauty artists, designers. This has allowed for the magazine to keep a consistently high visual level while remaining daring and unpredictable.” Proof of that is borne out in The Crack Magazine Archives, a new book celebrating the publication’s 10th anniversary through its photoshoots and the stories behind them, featuring musicians as diverse as J Hus, FKA twigs, Chai, Sudan Archives and Thom Yorke – alongside features spotlighting London’s experimental dance scene, for example, shot by Kent Andreasen.
Now 27, Udoma describes his main duties as “conceptualising the overall visual narrative and choosing the right photographers, stylists and crew to achieve the best output for the story”. And alongside location scouting, liaising with artists and their teams, he says he is “very hands-on with the styling, whether that be styling shoots myself or building relationships with fashion designers and brands we believe work well with the Crack aesthetic”.
What makes Crack different to other music magazines? Crack’s USP is its independent spirit. We are not afraid to voice our opinion, and we are not focused on appeasing mass audiences. We want our audience to have a genuine interest in our content, in our editorial opinion, rather than giving them the exact same meal they can get down the road. We value lived experiences and genuine storytelling. You can’t duplicate that.
What’s the biggest challenge working with artists and musicians? You can have a great artist and a great musician and easily produce a not-so-great shoot. Synergy makes everything far smoother. It’s important that we are aware of what type of music interests [a photographer], and the type of musicians they would love to shoot. Now and then we do try to bring very different musicians and artists together to create a visual culture clash, but for these type of shoots the communication and expectation management on our part has to be airtight to prevent any issues on the day of the shoot.
Is ‘personality’ essential in a photographer? Having a clear personality within your work is very important, and we definitely consider it when looking for photographers. Of course, it’s good to show versatility, but the character of the work should be consistent throughout to make an impact.
There’s much more diversity in the music industry than in photography. Is that something you consciously think about when you commission? This is something I am very aware of, and for too long platforms have failed drastically at this. At Crack we believe it is vital when covering diverse subjects to have equally diverse teams behind the camera. You can see this quite clearly just by the variety of imagery we put out.
How does a photographer get your attention? Mostly it’s specific projects or shoots that we see, and are immediately impacted by. Sometimes it’s as simple as coming across an image on Instagram that I think is amazing, then doing a deeper dive into their past work to ensure that it’s not just a one-off photograph. Having a consolidated site is a good thing, but it definitely isn’t vital. I think the most important thing is to have a clear visual aesthetic that is true to you, regardless of the platform.
The Crack Magazine Archives: A decade of shoots & the stories behind them can be purchased through the Crack Magazine shop.