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Photographer Shervin Lainez wasn’t the most artistically inclined student at Catholic University. In fact, he wasn’t even that into photography—at least, not until he met Laura Burhenn as a college sophomore in 2004.
Lainez and the singer-songwriter—then a university employee—became friends when Burhenn approached him in the school cafeteria and complimented a button on his hoodie. “Before I met her, I would only casually take pictures of my friends,” Lainez says. “She gave me her record, and I loved it. I called that night and said, ‘I love your voice. I love what you’re doing.’ I said, ‘Let’s take some pictures.’ I had no portfolio, and she had no reason to trust me—but they turned out pretty good.”
Through Burhenn and Georgie James—the band she would later co-found with ex–Q and Not U drummer John Davis—Lainez wound up with a lot more photo-taking opportunities. “I would go to her shows and sell her merch,” Lainez says. “She introduced me to other bands. Before that, I wasn’t the go-getter type.” He has since become the go-to guy for many younger D.C. bands, with his promo shots appearing everywhere from local blogs to national magazines such as Billboard and CMJ.
Lainez has recently compiled a number of his favorite snapshots taken in the past two years into a collection called Happy Accidents. The self-published book will be pressed in an extremely limited edition of 65 copies and available almost exclusively at its release party. Lainez considers the photos portraits of his favorite local bands. Bellman Barker is captured covered in soot; the members of Mass Movement of the Moth cradle a friend in their arms. There’s also a fair amount of Lainez’s original favorites, Burhenn and Georgie James. Several members of bands documented in the compilation contributed written pieces to the book, heaping praise upon their contemporaries in essays that accompany a few of Lainez’s photos. The book also includes a CD of music donated by a number of the featured groups.
The inspiration for the collection came after Lainez was invited to hang a small show at Asylum in Adams Morgan in March 2007. “I picked 15 pictures. People came. I sold stuff,” says Lainez. “It was great. But I thought, I don’t want to do this again. It’s too much about me.”
Instead, Lainez decided to make his work more accessible—not to mention more affordable to the friends and musicians he was documenting. “I wanted to do something else that was more community-based,” says Lainez. “I went with the option that was much more expensive for me but less expensive for anybody who wanted it.” Copies of the book will sell for $30.
Lainez’s plans for Happy Accidents extend beyond the book’s first edition. In an effort to celebrate the community that the book documents, Lainez is staging his own art happening. “The other half of the project…will be a book party, art show, and a concert,” says Lainez. “I’m also taking photos that didn’t make it into the book, and I’m basically having posters made on really cheap paper.”
Lainez’s increasing workload may keep him busy, but it isn’t exactly paying the bills. “I’m trying to work less and do more pictures…but it’s by no means supporting me,” says Lainez, who works part-time at Community Music in Silver Spring. “But I’m still the cheapest photographer in town. I’ll do a shoot for Mexican food.”
Lainez discusses his work at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. Free. (202) 483-5000.