I used to shoot a lot of concerts. My friend Tony and I even started a little entity dedicated towards music photography. We loved it, and we’re proud of the work, but we always struggled a little with knowing what it was or where it was going. That was ok in the beginning, but you can only do that for so long. Luckily, Elijah Dhavvan and a group of photographers took Rain City Collective over and carried on. It’s impressive to see where they’ve taken it. The music scene deserves that kind of coverage.
When I first started shooting concerts, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t, but I learned a few things, which I think I’ve now forgotten. I think one thing that helped me learn and improve was to shoot bands more than once, a lot more. This is where I should list a bunch of reasons to back that up, but I am really hungry, and the three eggs, butter, and film in my fridge do not a breakfast make.
But I’ll take a quick shot. You get a feel for the band and how they work together. You recognize the playlists and can better predict the moments that lend themselves to photos. With some bands, you want to catch that fierce contorted rage face waging war on the microphone and challenging the crowd. For other bands, it’s not a rage face – just a random result of lyrical structure. It would be incongruent. (Later on today I’ll be looking incongruent up.) Here’s the most important reason – the band recognizes you, trusts you, and sheds some of that armor. I’m not trying to be the Rolling Stone guys in Almost Famous who critically review music. But I do like to occasionally get the photos that I think are far more interesting than the stage shots – the green room, rehearsal, tour, etc. shots. Most bands aren’t going to say, “Sure dude who we don’t know, bring that camera that also has audio and video into the spaces where we’re most vulnerable.”
My stomach is grumbling, time to wrap this up. There was a point here somewhere. Three of the singers/songwriters/musicians I’ve shot a lot of are Anna St. Lee, Heather Edgley, and Sandi Fernandez. They’ve all had a mix of solo projects and bands. I’ve followed them as they’ve worked full-time jobs and somehow found the energy to grind it out in the music industry. If it doesn’t sound like a grind to you, you don’t know any musicians. You haven’t been there for load-ins, sound checks, tours in cramped vans, gear stolen from cramped vans, late nights (there aren’t many happy hour concerts…this old guy would support that), fast food, setting aside time to write and practice, and scheduling shows. Anna, Heather, and Sandi have faced their ups and downs (cliché alert!), but they’re still out there making incredible music. I’m glad I got to catch them at the High Dive last night and see so many familiar faces. And holy crap there were a lot of talented photographers there – go check out Doug Indrick and Jeffrey Martin.
(The first three photos are individual stills. After that it’s a slideshow. Individual photos are really slow to upload in Squarespace. They’re also a mix of color and black and white…it’s my site I can do whatever the hell I like.)