Born In Shadow: Self-Titled. Behind The Photograph

Copyright © Christine Alicino

Third Eye Blind released their self-titled debut album on April 8, 1997. With 5 singles and having been certified 6x Platinum, to say this album was a success is an understatement.

20 years later, this album remains popular among old fans and continues to gain new fans. It isn’t a thing of the past, a brand of nostalgia (despite being a hallmark for anyone reminiscing on 90’s alt and post-grunge pop rock, or the fact that playing through the songs is sure to open a time capsule of memory and emotion that any given listener has ascribed to each track or the album as a whole); Third Eye Blind is a living, breathing soundtrack to the life of anybody who knows what it’s like to be both alone and alive.

Instagram: @shockwax

This past spring, Third Eye Blind issued a rerelease of the album. Over the summer, they performed the album in its entirety on their Summer Gods Tour. As one would expect, this meant we got to see that iconic album cover plastered all over the place - from the album itself to social media post and new merch to fan recreations - and we loved it! Many of us grew up with this photo or came into our own with this photo by our side; It represents something very significant in our lives because we’ve been so deeply influenced by the music. But what do we really know about this photo that means so much to us as fans? For something we are so familiar with, wouldn’t it be nice to know more? We thought so.

To find out more about this photo, 3EB Lifestyle decided to reach out to the source: photographer Christine Alicino. It was a pleasure to speak with Christine about this photo, her experience with the band, and her career in general. We’d like to thank Christine for taking the time to speak with us and share her story with us. We hope you all enjoy the information and images she provided. Now, without further ado...

Courtesy of Christine Alicino, Photographer

3EBLIFESTYLE: How did you break into the photography music scene?

CHRISTINE ALICINO: Everything goes into image making, that’s the beauty of photography. Early impressions, work in experimental theater, my buddhist practice, friendships. So in the early 80s when someone gave me a camera, it all came together. I was in an all girls punk band in San Francisco called The Urge, opening for The Dead Kennedys, The Avengers, etc. I started to take pictures of behind the scenes and then publicity pics. Self taught, I rounded out my education at the Academy of Art.

©christine alicino

I collaborated with Brian Eno on the video “Thursday Afternoon” and in exchange I got my first lighting kit, light meter and there was no turning back.  Although, my first love was black and white film and print, I became a Polaroid addict, addicted to its low tech and the mutability of the media itself.

©christine alicino

©christine alicino

3EBL: How did you get the gig? Did you know the band beforehand or did you get connected some other way?

CA: I was introduced to this opportunity through the art director I worked with on the Tracy Chapman, New Beginnings.

3EBL: What was the idea/inspiration for that photo?

My assignment was to photograph a young woman with an expressive mouth in my edgy polaroid style. Blood red lipstick and dark eye liner were used to emphasize the slightly evocative mood Stephan was looking for.

Once all was in place, the real creative process occurred with the model working with me and Stephan as he and I looked at the polaroid film and pushed it until the emotive feeling he was looking for appeared.

3EBL: Who is the model?

CA: I had a working relationship with Look Agency, and they sent over a few models. We were looking for the right mouth. The model was Shandra Boatwright. She was beautiful, professional, and a great sport. She had what we were looking for, an “expressive mouth.

©christine alicino

3EBL: What technique(s) was used to create the image?

CA: Poalpan transparency film with a Nikon 35 film camera. Shot in tungsten lighting. After editing the selects, I made 3x5 polaroids with a Vivitar slide projector, and further enhanced with sandwiching the film with a colored filter and made a variety of colored polaroids. In the end they used the whole polaroid included its rough edges that added another kind of edge to the image.

3EBLS: How was working with Stephan and how was it the day of the shoot?

The shoot took place in my studio in the south of market on December 16, 1996.

CA: A creative collaborative effort between my style and his musical vision. I shot about 5 to 6 rolls. At one point, Stephan just jumped in front of the camera and grabbed her hand. It was like he was putting his mark, as the creator, and collaborating with the model, as well. They were very cool. I gave my “San Francisco Band Deal”a cheap fee with a contract that stated if they ever hit gold or platinum with the album that they would have to pay the going rate for the photograph.  We also made the same deal with the merchandise. When the record went platinum they sent me a check and a big box of t-shirts. Funny thing, they were the only band to do that.

3EBLS: Do you recall the time of signing that agreement to actually getting that check in the mail?

CA: It was quick, like about 10 months. It made me happy.

3EBLS: Which color release of Self-Titled is your favorite?

CA: I did a few versions during the shoot. The original is in black and white. And then I would put a filter. It was done all by hand, no computer just using a low tech Polaroid.

I like the yellow one, I refer to it as sepia.

3EBLS: How did doing this cover impact your career?

CA: I was so busy then with my career, I just kept working, I was a single mother, so I had to keep up with the work, other jobs and school. I was shooting so much. It was a piece that I showed as part of portfolio. Now some of my friend’s kids are very impressed.

3EBLS: What are you working on now?

CA: I recently moved out of San Francisco to Upstate New York. I am able to focus on my personal vision - the continuing collaborations with artists, musicians, and performers in multimedia productions making moving images with stills and video, and projecting them within the context of their narrative. Working with improvisation and synchronicity.  Also working a fine art still imagery with personal narratives.

©christine alicino

3EBLS: What is your message for photographers that are trying to break into the music industry?

CA: In May, I was asked to review portfolios of the graduating class at an art university, we discussed how the value of an image has plummeted in cash value, even though images are used more now in communications then ever before (except perhaps the cave dwelling days, haha). So you need to be creative in your approach, yet staying close to what is real for you. People are interested in seeing the backstage, the lifestyle, what really going on in ones world. Then apply your vision to it - fantasy, documentary, commercial, fine art... whatever you choose.

There is also a path to any career. You have to decide what your passion is and it helps to get a job within the industry, studios, magazines, assisting, production, etc. It’s about developing your style. As they say, “One thing leads to another.”

3EBLS: A message for Stephan and Brad?

CA: “Thank you for showing me that there was indeed some integrity in the music biz!”

--Interviewed by Liseli Thiele, Introduction Written By Lizette McMillen, Edited By Tatiana Asnaran

Questions by 3EB Experts at Lifestyle. 

To See More of Christine's work Please Visit her website.  All rights to these images are retained by Christine Alicino.

©christine alicino

©christine alicino