Interview with David Mushegain on His Video of Dublin’s LGBTQ Youth Scene for U2’s New Single - Love
Totally Dublin by Michael McDermott (2018-04-27)
U2 release their new video for their new single Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way taken from their Songs of Experience album. Shot in Dublin and featuring a cast of figures from the young LGBTQ community, we spoke to director David Mushegain about the shoot and working with U2.
How did your involvement with U2 and this video come about?
I was actually in Rome with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I travel with them often documenting the band. Anthony is actually a very close friend and we have done several projects together including a book called Fandemonium in which we documented their fans around the world. While in Rome, Guy Oseary, U2’s manager and my dear friend reached out and asked if I wanted to come by the show that night as they were also in Rome. I went by and ended up later that night discussing songs and ideas for videos with Guy and The Edge. The idea was in the air that we do something in Dublin as I had shown them some portraits I had did about youth in Dublin. I have been documenting youth culture and style in Dublin for roughly eight years now.
When I heard Love is Bigger all the dots connected. It just made sense to match up inspiring lyrics with inspiring young creative souls who have great style and great spirits.
Did you deliver a treatment to the lyrics or have a clear-cut idea as to how best frame it?
I didn’t really deliver a treatment but I did have the idea to correlate portraits with the song. It wasn’t really until I started filming that I thought it would be cool to do something very still and intimate and then combine that with some dancing. Sort of a moment to look into someone’s eyes and then a moment to celebrate and dance with them. I generally like to get into whatever subject I am documenting and let things flow. I have never really been one to make a mood board or a treatment and I am really lucky that U2 trusted me to tell the story without really having to explain myself to anyone.
When did you shoot the video and who did the casting?
I shot the video last Ocotber/November. It was obviously quite cold in Dublin but the awesome young people in the video took no mind. We filmed outside in the rain all day and no problem. I usually work solely with friends. My friend Nathan Hughes and Donal Talbot, who are both in the video, helped me with casting a group of friends. Donal is an amazing young photographer and we have been friends for probably seven years now. I have photographed him many times. I photographed Nathan and Donal with Stella Maxwell and Barbara Palvin in Dublin for Vogue Japan several years back. It was such a fun time.
You’ve spoken about bringing a simple and ‘raw’ energy to shoots which is evident in this video. Can you describe the shoot? Who worked on casting it?
I love to work on all of my projects with a very small team. Many times it’s just myself and my camera. On this shoot, I went to Ireland alone and worked daily with Donal and Nathan and whoever we were filming that day. I have been taking photos for 18 years now professionally and 90 percent of the time I show up to my jobs with just a backpack and myself. I like handling the camera and I like an environment where the subject is the focus of the shoot rather than a clutter of people comprised of clients, stylist and hair and makeup and caterers and production people etc etc. I don’t want to take away from that as everyone working on shoots are artists and creatives in their own right, I just personally don’t like alot of people around when I am taking photos or filming, I like to be surrounded by friends and people who are inspiring and who I love.
I primarily work in fashion, having shot for Vogue and brands for many years. And honestly, since the invention of digital cameras the business is full mostly of people who really have no reason for being there. It is more about them then it is about fashion. I love clothes and style. And I love the people coming up with that style. It’s why I am so interested in documenting young people. They express themselves freely but its all mixed with an undertone of angst and emotions. Dublin has always fascinated me in terms of fashion and style. It’s a mix of seeing what the styles are around the world and what is available currently in Ireland. Kids mix and match with whatever they can and it really lends itself to the most creative concoctions.
Can you tell us about your connections to the LGBTQ community?
I love the LGBTQ community and have always admired the style and passion that surround their scene. I go to Pride parades around the world and I can’t think of any better visual candy. I thought it would be amazing to document that scene for the video as many of my dear young friends are part of the LGBTQ community.
I never limit the LGBTQ community to people who are LGBTQ themselves as so many families and friends are part of the community also. So not everyone in the video is LGBTQ but it is a celebration of the scene.
I have documented alot of civil rights marches and activists and I feel very strongly about LGBTQ rights and obviously civil rights in general. There is no room for bigotry or hatred in this world and I have absolutely zero patience for it. Intolerance is so antiquated.
Are there any insights you garnered from shooting youth culture in Dublin? Any surprises or contrasts to say their contemporaries in the States?
Certainly, well actually I don’t want to paint with broad strokes. The States comprises a massive area. For example, youth culture in a small town might be way less tainted than in a big city. Let me explain that comment. When I go to Dublin, young people are excited to get involved. To collaborate creatively, to tell their story. There is not so much ego and in fact, there is a certain kindness and innocence. When I work in LA or NY for example, that innocence is long gone. By the time people are 15 years old, they have people in their ear telling them they are stars, and managers and family members telling them they should be making millions for anything they do. And I hear that the youth should feel empowered and encouraged, but not to a folly. The onslaught of social media really took its toll on bigger cities. Everyone has an agent and really for no good reason.
Dublin is a cosmopolitan city. And a big city, but it really has such a small town feeling. I love love love the youth culture in Dublin and feel so blessed that I have been allowed to document them. Honestly, when people open the door into their lives, I cant think of a greater honor. Personal lives are such sacred ground and I respect more than anything people allowing me to access that for a moment.
Can you tell us about your project Our City of Angels which donated 100% of its proceeds to Planned Parenthood? Did you get any sense of the importance of the forthcoming referendum (on repealing the 8th amendment which prohibits abortion) in Ireland from those you shot for the video?
Our City of Angels is a magazine I do with my friends. We make a limited number of issues and it’s absolutely not about making money. It’s done with our friends and for our friends. Everyone in the magazine is part of the family or extended family. Even the ads, which are free for our friends, are just for friends companies. We sell a certain number of copies and all of that money goes to a charity. Last issue we featured Lilly Depp, who helps creative direct the magazine, and her mom Vanessa Paradis. Lily thought it would be great to donate to Planned Parenthood.
For the next issue, which hopefully is out soon, I am not sure what we are donating too but we have a few ideas. I work on the magazine with Lily, and Ash Stymest, and Stella Maxwell and Anthony Kiedis and Marlon Magnee from the band La Femme and a few others. It’s really such a fun project. It comes out annually or actually whenever we want to put together a new issue. We do everything by hand. My friends Louis Shannon, who has Entrance Gallery in New York City (the coolest gallery for young artists and the young arts scene in NY at the moment) and Ary Warnaar from the band Anamanguchi, and Alon Shapiro have a creative direction company called New Day Motor Club. We do everything together. They laid out the Chili Peppers book, they have edited all our U2 projects including Love Is Bigger. And together we design and layout Our City Of Angels. They’re all young creatives and incredibly talented.
What are your takeaways from working with U2 and your time spent working here?
I love working with U2 for several reasons. First of all its an honor obviously to work with such an iconic band and with artists who have helped to sculpt modern culture. But also because their team is made up of kind and caring and creative minded people. It is not a struggle to work with the U2 family. They ask for a project to be done but then give you the freedom to do it. Does that make sense? In other words, they let someone tell their story, while making suggestions, those suggestions do not overpower the narrative of the project so you are allowed to express your vision and tell a story.
They’re also very sensitive to whoever we are working with. It’s not a battle. They’re artists and they’re professionals and they’ve been around for a while and I think that comes with a certain compassion and understanding that only experience can nurture.
What’s coming up for you in 2018 in terms of assignments and projects?
I am about to go to Japan to continue working on a documentary about my mentor Gene Krell. Gene is an underground general in the fashion industry. He started all of Conde Nast Asia. It was his vision to go to Korea many years ago and launch Korean Vogue and then Japan Vogue etc etc. He is from Brooklyn and moved to London in the 60s and bought a bankrupted shop called Grannys Takes A Trip. He turned that shop into one of the most iconic stores ever. Having made clothes for Hendrix, the Stones, Johny Thunders etc. . Gene is one of the most creative minds in fashion and we explore his world through his life and via friends such as Vivienne Westwood and Keith Richards. It’s really such a pleasure to work on this project. I am directing the film with my friend and fellow fashion photographer Craig Mcdean.
I am also working on a book about snapshots from the last 18 years. I am really excited for that. I am sort of a hoarder, not so much of objects but of memories and I look forward to sharing some of the photos that are dear to me.
Aside from that, I am always searching for models and young creatives. I love nurturing young careers and that is a big part of my life. I have discovered a lot of the models that I believe have directly affected and inspired change in the fashion world such as Charlotte Free and Slickwoods and Stella Maxwell and I continue to work with them. I don’t say that out of ego please, I don’t want it to read that way. I love and feel honored to be allowed to work with these wonderful souls. Aside from that always working on the magazine and I am currently finishing up visuals for the U2 Tour that is about to start and that’s why I wrote to you so late. Sorry!!!! They’re due tonight.