- Tell us about yourself
Hi, I’m John, I take photographs for https://urbanistamagazine.uk and my own https://livemusicreviews.co.uk
- When did you start photography and where has your journey taken you since?
I’ve been interested in photography from a young age, but never had the time and/or money to pursue it. A couple of years ago, realising I was approaching 50 I still didn’t have the time or money to pursue it, but especially when my mum died, I realised if I don’t make the time now, I may never do it.
My first photo pass was for a 1 day music festival in Jan 2017 at Arts Club called “Club the Mammoth” with 2 stages and bands starting every half hour or so, it really threw me in at the deep end! In particular at one of the bands the pit was packed as there was a bit of a buzz about them, lairy blokes behind me were swilling beer around, and the band seemed a bit menacing (probably part of the act, but still!). It was very different to how I imagined gig photography, but it was a baptism of fire, and despite being a bit shell-shocked by the end of the night having not even stopped for something eat or a drink, I couldn’t wait to get back in the pit!
- What is your favourite thing about music photography?
Lots of things! I love the challenge of getting photo-passes, it can be a frustrating process particularly when PRs don’t get back to you, or a pass you really want falls through at the last minute, but there are few buzzes like getting that email that says you’re on the list! Meeting great photographers in the pit. The constant challenges to get good shots, the anticipation of getting home and checking your shots.
- What is your least favourite thing about music photography?
Not getting a photo-pass that I really wanted, hanging about waiting to go into the pit! Artists who turn the lights on, dance and do interesting stuff from the 4th song once we’ve left the pit!
- What has been your biggest learning curve since starting gig photography?
How quickly 3 songs go by on that side of the barrier!
6. Do you build relationships with bands/artists you shoot? If so tell us about them.
To be honest, not really. I haven’t really done any band shoots or studio stuff yet.
7. Many photographers spend a lot of time shooting for free, do you have any advice for people just starting out?
I don’t do it professionally yet, but the way I see it, we all dream about making a living as a rock photographer, or travel photographer or whatever, but the reality is that the internet has decimated print publications leading to fewer outlets with a budget for photography, meanwhile digital cameras with super high ISOs and massive SD cards letting you take thousands of shots, have made it far easier for a new photographer to get good shots, which means lots of people have got into gig photography, and many are happy to do it for free. So when you have an ever expanding number of people chasing ever declining opportunities, competing with people who will do it for free just to see their work in print, I think you have to be pretty exceptional to make a decent living out of that alone.
I know people who shoot for agencies who do sell their work, but I think they have to do it alongside other types of work (photography and other fields) to make ends meet.
I think a good rule of thumb is, that the less appealing a type of photography is, the more likely you are to make a business out of it. For example, I don’t know anybody who shoots weddings just for the fun of it, and whilst it’s a competitive business and landing jobs in that field still isn’t easy, it’s an area where people do generally get paid for their work.
Gig photography is great practice for other kinds of event photography, and very enjoyable, but financially I don’t think it’s where the money is sadly.
8. Choose 3 of your favourite music photographers and a bit about why you like their work?
That’s a tricky one! I’ve met so many amazing photographers since I got into music photography, it seems unfair to single out 3!
Shirlaine Forrest is my favourite music photographer at the moment – her images of The Rolling Stones for example were stunning! John Johnson has amazingly creative compositions – not just in music photography, for example he has a picture of an old guy roller-skating with the sign for “Forever 21” in the background – I wish I could come up with compositions like that! Mark Holmes takes wonderful arty shots that are always distinctive.
9. What are you looking forward to at this years festival?
Printing out my work! I very rarely print my photographs, so I’m looking forward to having an excuse to do so. Also, there are some great bands on the bill!
10. Tell us a bit about the work you have chosen to exhibit?
To be honest I’m still trying to decide! The great thing about this opportunity is that it’s forcing me to evaluate my work. Maybe I’ll take a photo a few days before the festival and decide I have to include it!
11. What are your hopes for the future of music photography?
That’s a tough one! With a day job in IT, technology fascinates me. Portrait lighting on the iPhone X for example where it builds a depth map so that you can remove backgrounds is great fun (useless for professional work at the moment though, it tends to cut your ears off and stuff like that!) things like eye focussing has great potential especially as the technology improves. Faster frame rates where you can basically take a movie and extract full resolution shots will all make it easier to get the shot you want.
But then, as it gets easier to get great shots, our expectations will rise, and perhaps without all the challenges we currently face, it will become boring?
So my main hope is that it remains an interesting field despite advances in technology!
12. What is your favourite way to share your photographs and why? E.g. Twitter, Instagram etc.
I tend to use Facebook and of course my blog and Urbanista. I feel like I should do more on Instagram, but I find it a bit of a hassle having to get my photos on to my phone!
I post to Flickr to keep my photos in one place.
13. What do you think makes a good gig photo?
For me it’s a photo that grabs your attention and captures the moment!
14. What are your plans for the future with music photography?
To carry on learning and improving and carry on getting photo passes for interesting events!
Some of the people I’d really like to photograph who I haven’t already would be Lenny Kravitz, Sade, Rag N Bone Man, St Vincent, Paloma Faith, Noel and Liam Gallagher, Baxter Dury, Paul Weller, Bjork, The Correspondents, Blondie, The Cure, David Byrne, U2, Madonna, and one of the big visual metal/heavy rock bands! I hope to have ticked off at least a couple of those by the end of the year!