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Musician Feature—Ned

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Ned on a beach in Washington by portrait photographer Bret Stein

For this first installment of my series featuring photo shoots with musicians and bands, I thought there was no better person to start with than my friend Ned.

Ned and I go way back, and he's undoubtedly the most consistent friend I've had over the years. Beyond that, he is one of the most talented musicians I know.

In recent months I've been trying to piece together how I would take the perfect portrait of each of my friends. The perfect portrait for me that is. The photo that would most convey how I view a person. Where would I take these photos? What would the important elements of the photo be?

Ned's portrait was one of the first that I was able to fully and clearly previsualization. It needed to hold a lot of different elements of what I felt made up Ned, and how I thought of him in my mind: A musically inclined, classy, hat and bow tie-wearing, lover of all things ginger beer and the outdoors.

One summer evening on a trip to Idaho from Tacoma, after Ned and I had talked over the plans and elements, we met up to do the shoot. This was no small endeavor as we needed to hike up the North Menan Butte with the all out gear and props at sunset. Luckily we made it.

Musician Ned Wilcox played bass ukulele with ginger beer on Menan Butte by music photographer Bret Stein

I personally am really happy with the final result. To me it does the job of putting a ton of Ned elements into one picture, without being too on the nose to the casual observer.

The location of the portraits was on top of North Menan Butte, a hike Ned and I once did every day for a week one March, and many times otherwise. And we took the photos right before dusk as a call back to a time we hiked the butte sometime around 11 P.M.

Ned is sitting with a a ginger beer lost in his own thoughts playing a stringed instrument. In the beginning I had tried a more posed shot, which didn't work at all. It wasn't until Ned sort of just did his own thing that the photo fell into place.

In addition to his location and activities his clothes are a big element: A flat cap like he so often wore in our teens; he dressed up for an event most people wouldn't have dressed up for (being on a butte); and he on has his scout pants and Chacos.

The graininess of the photo was even intentional. I'm not sure why, but it just felt right. When I had imagined this photo of Ned, it had a lot of grain.

All of these elements speak "Ned" to me, while perhaps they wouldn't to others. But that was the point of the whole photo after all, capturing Ned how I saw him.

Once we finished the shoot we hiked down and did what is likely one of the most classic Ned-Bret activities. We went to the the grocery store late at night, wondered around, and sat on the balcony. Only this time we had jobs so we could actually buy some food.

It was a great evening.

musician portrait of Ned Wilcox wearing a bow tie pleaying a ukulele on menan butte by music photographer Bret Stein

Musician Ned Wilcox plays bass ukulele at sunset on menan butte Idaho by music photographer Bret Stein

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