Meet The Exhibitor, Reg Richardson AKA RockStarRising!
Tell us about yourself
Born in Liverpool, went to schools in Anfield and Breckfield before going to university to study chemistry in Manchester. Six years and two degrees later I did postdoctoral studies in Oxford, Exeter and Cambridge before a company was daft enough to offer me a permanent job. Since then I’ve stayed in the science/pharmaceutical sector and I’m now a business manager for an American chemicals company. I still support Liverpool FC and enjoy returning to the city to visit family, having this event here is fab. The photography, particularly the gig photography, is a welcome release from the daily grind.
When did you start photography and where has your journey taken you since?
I was given a small German viewfinder camera by my grandparents as a teenager and took photographs of everything. My first attempt at gig photography was Hawkwind at Liverpool Stadium on the tour when they recorded part of the set at the Stadium for inclusion on the Space Ritual album. I turned up with my little German camera and the smallest Sunpak flashgun in existence. I stood up against the barrier, on the other side of which were no press photographers at all. The lad on security offered me the chance to duck under the barrier and stand in the pit. I must have the negatives from that night somewhere I need to dig them out, but what I do still have is one of the prints….of Lemmy playing his Rickenbacker bass. The next time I would photograph him would be almost 40 years to the day, playing with Motorhead. Although I continued taking photographs this was the only gig I did until I started to do it a little bit more regularly more than 35 years later.
What is your favourite thing about music photography?
Getting up close to the musicians, seeing their expressions and, occasionally, interacting with them.
What is your least favourite thing about music photography?
There’s three things actually, the three song rule and the inability of some bands, or the venues, to provide good lighting – not just for people like me but for the audience in general. No-one likes a 100% backlit show where neither the photographers nor the audience can see the musicians except in silhouette. The final thing is the ridiculous attempts of artists and their management to grab the rights to the photographers images. They can’t do it with the audience members, who are using compact cameras that can take superb quality images, so why do it to those working to get them publicity.
What has been your biggest learning curve since starting gig photography?
Accepting that ISO6400/f2.8 is your friend and dealing with it.
Do you build relationships with bands/artists you shoot? If so tell us about them.
I try to. Apart from local bands which have friends playing I try to chat with the bands, their crew and management whenever I can. Over recent years I’ve built up very nice relationships with bands such as Diamond Head and the Tygers of Pan Tang as well as a few others. The friendship has got to the point where I can ask to attend just about any gig they play and know I’ll get in. The other aspect of building good relationships shows when I ask for bands to sign photographs that I sell for charity. This is usually not just one or two prints (all images are ones I’ve taken at previous shows), we’re talking maybe 15 or more in one sitting and the bands or artists are usually happy to do it.
Many photographers spend a lot of time shooting for free, do you have any advice for people just starting out?
Start small, maybe in your local pub or club, allow the bands to use the images for promotional use for free. These images are usually far too small to be of much use commercially so it’s no loss but it gets you known to the bands, their fans and the venues. Work your way up and improve by listening to constructive criticism and acting on it if necessary. Look for press outlets and good websites that have more weight when applying for accreditation for bigger bands. Work hard!
Choose 3 of your favourite music photographers and a bit about why you like their work?
I do tend to go with the more classical photographers such as Annie Liebovitz, Jill Furmanovsky and Gered Mankowitz who, between them, have created some of the most iconic photographs of bands and artists ever. Often they would capture the performers away from the stage and so can show the public what they are like without the stage personas.
What are you looking forward to at this years festival?
Meeting other, hopefully, like-minded photographers and seeing what they produce. Websites like Facebook, Instagram etc are okay but the final printed images are what I’m looking forward to getting a look at.
Tell us a bit about the work you have chosen to exhibit?
These all go back to question 6 and the ability to ask artists to sign images for charity purposes. On show today are images of Diamond Head, Doyle, King King, Magnum, Kory Clarke and others who I’ve met through the photography.
What are your hopes for the future of music photography?
I just want photographers of all abilities to try and capture good quality, interesting, images that may convey a story or an emotion. They don’t need to be iconic, indeed most will be destined not to be, but they do need to be good!
What is your favourite way to share your photographs and why? E.g. Twitter, Instagram etc.
I use Facebook a lot, despite its flaws, I also use Twitter on occasions and I’m using Instagram a bit more these days.
What do you think makes a good gig photo?
If a stranger likes it, then it’s good. Oddly enough not all photographs need to be pin sharp and have a shutter speed so fast it stops the motion, sometimes you need to be able to see the energy the artist is putting into their performance. Personally I like taking photographs of people with a personality or an interesting stage look. I also like it when the performers pick you out and play up for the camera, it’s all staged but it’s fun and the bands fans generally love it.
What are your plans for the future with music photography?
Personally I just want to be able to do it for as long as I can and for as long as it remains fun. As one of the TV ads says, when the fun stops (or the money to buy new gear runs out), stop!
Thanks for the interview Reg! Looking forward to see you at the festival this year!