The Secret Life of Robyn
Jim Goldberg Captures the Swedish Pop Star's Inner World on Super 8
In this intimate portrait, documentary filmmaker and Magnum photographer Jim Goldberg goes beneath the surface of peroxide pop star Robyn’s veracious persona and quirky style. Filmed on Super 8 around her performance at this summer’s Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee, the short reveals the Grammy Award-nominee dancing with fans backstage, giving us insight into her undiluted energy. Known for his use of text-overlaid imagery, Goldberg has shot subjects as diverse as Somalian refugees, NYC sex workers, Condoleezza Rice and Dennis Hopper. Described as "direct, independent and intuitive" by the Swedish singer, he was granted unique access as the pair developed their concept collaboratively through an extensive exchange. Goldberg asked Robyn, "What's it like to be immersed in your world?" Her deeply personal monologue, layered with a mix of the single "Indestructible" from the 2010 album Body Talk, provides an unrestricted view of the sincere ambition behind her career. Here we document their creative process via excerpts from their e-mail dialogue.
Robyn: Hello Jim. I'm curious about you. Lets start talking about stuff. What time zone are you on? I'm in LA. R
Jim: Hello Robyn, from the road. Would love to speak. Very much looking forward to working with you and creating something excellent. Bye, Jim
Robyn: Ok, let's speak Friday! I'm on a plane that lands in San Francisco around noon. I can call you then?
Robyn: I like your idea about moving through the crowd, it's such an intimate thing to do before a show. I'd like to talk to you about things I could do walking through the crowd: I am a careful, but quite brave person. I don't think I would be the one making out with a dude and throwing a towel at the camera. I'd probably dance with someone instead or whisper something funny in their ear and when I got to the stage I'd dance some more. But the tough energy, the in-the-moment thing you want, I get.
Jim: Hello Robyn, Yesterday I worked with an editor and came up with a very quick, rough sketch of a way to make the NOWNESS video of you. There is of course a lot more footage of you dancing and you on stage with the band... (it's all really good!) and the final piece will incorporate everything. Also the exposure hasn’t been adjusted and that will be opened up more and change the look. I'm trying to make it a collage so that the audience experiences a variety of working methodologies and it works on a visceral level. I would love some suggestions for music. For instance, what were you and the other dancers listening to on your mix tape on your iPod? Or is there a new song that you are working on?
Robyn: I'm thinking of what this could be. I have a feeling that a hard beat or a really amped up club track won't fit what you’re doing. I have no recorded unreleased songs just lying around, but a remix or a stripped version of one of my songs could work. I thought about maybe recording something with my band. Let's discuss!
Jim: I've integrated ambient sounds into the piece, including the sounds of feet dancing. One other idea is that I remember you making sounds when you were dancing alone for me in the trees, more like a “wooooosh” or “waaaah”. Would love to add that sound too. As far as the text, I would like you to write something that is intimate and personal and reveals who you are. What’s it like to be immersed in your world? Perhaps we could record you saying what you write on a phone answering machine… so that the sound is scratching and adds another level… Bye from San Francisco, Jim