Meet The Exhibitor: Paultergeist Photography

  1. Tell us about yourselfHi there! I’m a freelance photographer from Belgium. I’m 29 years old, even though some people won’t believe it and are convinced I’m stuck at 22. I grew up in the south of Belgium (the bit that speaks French) but I spent the last 8 years around Brussels and Antwerp, working in HR and Communications. Music has always been my passion, for as long as I can remember. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Stones, Gainsbourg and so on… Until I became a teenager and discovered punk rock. That was the point of no return. When I was 19, I started helping out a band from my hometown by booking them around Belgium and France, which lead me to become a booker / promoter for international bands in Belgium. I met a lot of interesting people that way, some of whom I am still friends with today. 2 years ago, I was fed up with the office life. I had a pretty good job, a company car and a nice house near Mechelen, but the monkey suit really wasn’t my thing so I resigned to really focus on my photography. Plot twist : Belgium hasn’t much to offer to creative freelancers, and finding photo work was a real struggle. However, my travels took me to London a lot, and I quickly realised there were loads of career opportunities to grab there, so in October 2017, I packed my bags and moved to England. I now work at the Brewdog bar in Shoreditch, which leaves me a lot of free time during the day to work on music and event photography. During my free time, I collaborate with Suelan from The Ladies ltd. Suelan is a professional photographer who specialises in portraits, weddings and events. It is an amazing opportunity for me to learn new tricks and improve my style. 
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    When did you start photography and where has your journey taken you since?
    I started photography in 2012. I had already been booking gigs for 3 years then, and I was looking for a way to get more photos of my gigs on a tight budget. So I purchased a Nikon D3100 and started taking photos myself. I had had some training during my studies and internships : I studied Communications and Marketing, and I worked in a local newspaper so I knew how to work with a camera and make it look ok. I just needed to learn how to do that with people jumping around in complete darkness… But I’m always up for a challenge, and in constant search of improvement so I wasn’t afraid to get in there and try new things. I just decided to shoot every show I went to because practice makes perfect. Then, I started applying for photo passes at bigger events and here I am now, showing off my work for the first time at an international exhibition!
  3. What is your favourite thing about music photography?It most definitely is the challenge of capturing the best image in a split second. There are a lot of things to pay attention to : angle, ISO, shutter speed, focus,… And the musicians on stage, of course. 2 seconds of distraction could cost you to miss the best jump shot in the universe. I have had the chance to shoot, meet and work with incredible bands, something I would not have been able to do otherwise.
  4. What is your least favourite thing about music photography?
  5. Equipment is rather expensive and ends up being covered in beer and dust all the time. No fun. Also, bad light equipment and fog machines.

  6. What has been your biggest learning curve since starting gig photography?

    I spent my first 2 years shooting with the 18-55mm kit lens and I got fed up with the lack of space I had, and the lack of quality in low light. I spent a lot of time learning about lenses and looking for a wider lens with better aperture. That helped me a lot understanding the technical side of photography (one bit I knew nothing about before then). When I bought my 14mm Rokinon, I was sure it was the right lens for me. Problem : it is a manual focus lens, so I had to basically re-learn how to take photos of a show. There isn’t a lot of time to focus when the musicians are moving around, and this time like every other time, I discovered that practice makes perfect. I own 3 manual focus lenses now, and I switch a lot between them during a show to get different points of view and angles. 
  7. Do you build relationships with bands/artists you shoot? If so tell us about them.I will if I can. I’ve met amazing people this way, so I always try to have a chat with the band and let them know what I thought of their set and where they can find the photos afterwards. My favourite memory was at Sjock Festival last year. I go to this festival every year and would never ever miss it (I’m typing this while on my way to Belgium for this year’s edition). Last year’s line-up was great : The Fleshtones, New Bomb Turks, Nashville Pussy, Bad Religion, The Hellacopters, Legendary Shack Shakers, The Living End and more… The weather was lovely, and I was running around shooting every band I could. While watching a band from backstage, an American musician started a conversation with me. It was the singer of New Bomb Turks and they gave an amazing performance afterwards. The band then asked me to send them the photos I took of them and gave me amazing feedback. So chuffed, since they’re basically garage punk legends. 
  8. Many photographers spend a lot of time shooting for free, do you have any advice for people just starting out?Yes, once again I’ll have to say that practice makes perfect. But don’t let people walk all over you because you will be taken advantage of by some bands and promoters. Stand your ground, own your work and make it worth it! We spend a lot of money on gear, getting to gigs and we take a lot of risks to take the perfect image. Also, you can’t really go to your landlord or electricity company and give them a credit. Get credited, of course, but remember they don’t pay bills. 
  9. Choose 3 of your favourite music photographers and a bit about why you like their work?

    Jon Alexandersson from Sweden (, Neil McCarty from England ( and Rachael King also from England (
  10. – I have never met Jon, but I know his work through social media. We are into the same music and usually end up shooting the same bands when they are touring our respective area. He has a particular style and I like the fact that I can recognise his image even before seeing his name above his post. I bet he’s a fun bloke!
  11. – I met Neil via The Zipheads. He shoots them in England and I shoot them in Europe. He has his own style and won’t budge, and he can make the shittiest venue and gig look absolutely fantastic. I love to talk photography with him, because he has years of experience and always gives great advice. I learn a lot from Neil, and I’m always very thankful.
  12. – Again, I found out Rachael’s work via social media, and again, we seemed to be into the same kind of music. She literally is at every show in the UK and gets the best shots. We met at Alexandra Palace last year, and she is a very friendly and funny girl. Also, it’s not always easy being a woman with a camera in a punk rock show so I have a lot of respect for her.
  13. What are you looking forward to at this years festival?Firstly, I have never been to Liverpool so my inner Beatles fan is already fainting in excitement. But mainly, having my work exhibited at an event dedicated to music photography is quite a big thing for me. I really enjoy participating in community projects and supporting my scene, so I am really happy to be part of this festival, it looks fantastic and I cannot wait to be there!
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  15. Tell us a bit about the work you have chosen to exhibit?
  16. I tried to choose images from different countries and events, with different bands from different years. It’s my first exhibition in a new place (I’ve only been living in England for 9 months so I’m guessing no one knows who I am), and I really wanted to give a good overview of my work and progress over the years. You will see photos of legends like New Bomb Turks or Legendary Shack Shakers but also photos of smaller gigs. One I am most proud of is a one of The Zipheads in March 2013. It was their first show in mainland Europe, during their first gig in Belgium and we named it Aarschot Calling because it reminded us of the London Calling album cover. Fun fact : I have worked with the Zipheads for 5 years (booking and shooting), and I think I saw hem about 50 times? They must be the band I photographed the most. I could probably do it with my eyes closed and a pint in each hand now.

    What are your hopes for the future of music photography?
  17. That would be great if we got more credibility and respect for our work. I don’t particularly enjoy chasing up bands and promoters just so I can get credited and paid for my work. It is frustrating to see bad quality work being published because some accept to work “for exposure” or because some publications / promoters are total cheapstakes. Remember that cheap work ain’t good and good work ain’t cheap (read that in a redneck accent, it’s even better!). And lastly, I really don’t like browsing the Internet to find out an image has been used on posters / cd’s and the artist hasn’t even been contacted beforehand to check if it was ok. If bands get paid after every performance, then photographers get paid when bands want to use their photos on posters or cd’s. And if you contact them, some will probably cut you a deal! So don’t be a prick.

    What is your favourite way to share your photographs and why? E.g. Twitter, Instagram etc.
    I mainly use Instagram and Facebook. I also have a website and a Flickr page, but I think I get most of my feedback on IG and FB. With clever hashtags, I can get new followers all the time, and FB gives people a chance to share my images and bring new followers to my page. 
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  19. What do you think makes a good gig photo?
  20. I like being able to see the musician’s face and expression, and I like to catch them in action, while they are running and jumping about rather than standing behind the microphone. I think it’s important to catch emotions and movements and to try to make eye contact with the band members. One of my favourite concert photos is a portrait of Mick Jagger on stage of Alec Byrne from one of their gigs in Knightsbridge in July 1968. We can only see his face and the microphone, and he has a focused look in his eyes that says it all. It is a very simple but yet extremely powerful photograph.

    What are your plans for the future with music photography?
  21. I would like to focus on collaborating with publications as a photographer and writer, and I would like to work more on press portraits and album designs. I would also love going on tour again and document life on the road. I take the opportunity to network and meet as many bands as I can, and hopefully, that will get me somewhere at some point. I think moving to London to focus on my photography was a big step to take and now I’m ready to go even further! With Shout About It, I have the chance to present my work to a new and wider audience, so thank you for being there, and thank you for having me!Pauline Di Silvestro – Paultergeist Photography
Photographs Included:
Daddy Long Legs @ The 100 Club, London – 09/06/18
Batmobile @ Kingsmeadow, Kingston – 19/05/18
The Bronx @ Sjock Festival, Gierle BE – 06/07/18
MC50 @ Sjock Festival, Gierle BE – 06/07/18
The Mummies @ Sjock Festival, Gierle BE – 07/07/18

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