There's something very intimate and exposed about music photography, and I'm talking more about the new starters, the ones putting themselves forward in front of people to be judged at the very beginnings of their careers, not the big stars.
I've photographed some of the most famous names in the world, there's a confidence to those performers that comes with time and obviously practice, lots of it. The same can be said about photographers I suppose, your confidence and repertoire grow with each and every shoot you do, you can spot the newbies a mile off. I remember my first wedding shoot, I was so nervous. I obviously didn't show it, but it didn't help that the bride was nearly two hours late, and most of the guests couldn't find the tiny chapel in the middle of borderlands of Armagh. I'd only found it by accident when I'd gone to scope it out the week before. Tucked away in a little dip in the middle of nowhere, no phone signal and very little in the way of signage, a tense time.
Roll on 10 years and I'm still at the wedding photography, but I'm really getting more into the music end of things now, and the reason is simple; you get to see some real talent emerging from this small corner of the world. One of my favourite covers I've seen played was done by a guy in a dark little bar in Derry. Sean O'Hagan's own version of Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' below...
Pragmatix's Sean O'Hagan singing, I just want to dance with somebody.
One of the reasons I don't do this, and that's for the money. Nobody gets rich photographing musicians unless you manage to get a tour contract and travel the world with these top flight stars, like a hero of mine Mike Lerner is doing. He freely admits he only managed it through luck and good fortune, simply starting out photographing a little-known star at the time known as Katy Perry, who we all know became something of a household name eventually. He's now running around making Justin Beiber look good.
The real reason I do this is to get off my arse of an evening, marrying my love of home grown musical talent and at the same time, getting back to my roots in photography and just doing it for the love of it.
Interestingly I spoke with a bassist a couple of weeks ago, of a great band and he said something that struck a chord with me (if you'll pardon the pun) and that was "Since I started playing in a band, I practice a lot less than I did before. Before I was playing 5 or 6 times a week, just for the fun of it, but now, I only play when we gig".
Coming back to the photography, it was the same with me for a while. I would be out photographing anything and everything, then when I started working full time for the papers, nothing was for just me anymore. Wedding photography is slightly different because I just love doing that anyway and it's always an honour when some one puts their trust in you to cover that most precious of days. I don't get an opportunity to do it as much as I used to, simply because of the competition out there now in wedding photography, especially this neck of the woods. Everyman and his dog is a wedding photographer it would seem!
Music photography is different, you have to push yourself, you have to sometimes negotiate with venue providers to let you in the pit at the more formal events. The pubs and clubs are a challenge in themselves too just from a lighting stand point. They're always underlit and you'll never have the space to work in cause they're pubs! But, I'll still go out and support local talent where ever I can find it.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll be flying coach tagging along to one of these as yet undiscovered gems in the near future.
Check out my Music Portfolio if you want to see some of the names I've been fortunate enough to cover.