FEATURE: Shining a spotlight on Gig Photography

In July 2019, Matty Healy of The 1975 was met with huge backlash after claiming on Instagram that he didn’t need to credit photographers, as he was doing them a favour by letting them photograph him.
Within a few lines, Matty Healy had managed to completely disregard the amount of hard work that goes into gig photography. Getting the perfect photo within your allotted time (normally only the first two songs), whilst battling against intense stage lighting and weaving your way through other photographers in the pit is something that requires practice, never mind the hours on your computer meticulously editing before your ready to share your creation with the world.
And of course, whilst scrolling through Instagram, absentmindedly liking photos of your beloved musicians dancing around onstage, it can be easy to forget all this, especially now live music is currently out of action…
So today we are using our platform to shed a light on those behind the camera and give some amazing photographers the opportunity to tell us the story behind what they consider their favourite photo.
“The Libertines on August 3rd 2017, as part of SSD Concerts’ Live At Times Square Festival, held in Newcastle, taken with a Canon EOS 600D and a Canon 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens. It was the second year these gigs were held in Newcastle, and the space was really transformed through the concerts and crowds who attended. Because of the iconicity of The Libertines, the majority of ticket-holders were die-hard fans, and it made the atmosphere of the show so much more meaningful. I certainly wouldn’t consider this photo the best gig shot I’ve taken, but it is one of my favourites. I have more photos of a better quality, with a better focus, but it was the first time I tested out more creative lenses like fisheye and wide-angle lenses. It was one of the first major shows/events that I worked at, which is why it stands out. It brings back memories of not really knowing what I was doing in terms of shooting live shows, as I have only worked in this industry since February 2016. It reminds me of a lot of trial and error, particularly struggling with old camera year in tough lighting conditions. I think it shows progression, in terms of my work.” 
“This is a shot of Himalayas taken on the BCC introducing stage at Reading Festival in 2018. I used a Canon 6d Mark 2 with a canon 24-104 f4. I don’t know why this is my favourite photo really, personally I think everything just works, if I’m going to be critical I wish it was more centred but it works, gig photography to me ain’t about perfect it’s about capturing the moment. This photo also brings back a lot of memories, we worked so hard for months leading up to the set on socials and PR, it was all I thought about for what seemed forever.  
It was the first Reading Festival I had ever been too, I always wanted to go but bottled it every year, standing in the middle of the festival I remember looking at the main stage in an empty field with Fall out Boy sound checking and thinking to my self what on earth has a kid from Merthyr Tydfil in the valleys done to get here. 
We were all nervous that no one was going to turn up but the reaction the boys had was unbelievable, must have been 2,500 there, halfway through the set I found my self on stage just looking at the sea of people and seeing a welsh flag held high and proud in the middle of the mosh, just filled me with pride and love. 
A weekend filled with friends, love, rock n roll and overpriced cider.”  
“This is a picture of Strange Bones at Nambucca, back in 2018. Taken on my old Canon 60D! While it isn’t the most technically impressive photo I’ve ever taken, I have so much love for it because it’s just full of everything I adore – the chaotic energy captured, a venue that is practically my second home and being surrounded by so many of my friends that I’ve met through live music photography.”
“I took this photo at Birmingham arena during Liam Gallagher’s tour of his debut solo album As You Were. This was during a time when I was on tour photographing the band Trampolene who at the time was supporting LG. I thankfully managed to secure a photo pass from Liam’s PR team and next thing I knew I was in the pit of an arena shooting the Oasis frontman. I think it’s a classic rock ‘n’ roll shot showing Liam singing with attitude, and also features him wearing one of his iconic Stone Island parkas. It was definitely an exciting time for me, and this is a personal favourite of mine as it brings back amazing memories of that tour.”
“Having been a fan of Pale Waves since late 2017, I decided I wanted to shoot them at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in September 2018. But due to my lack of experience at the time I wasn’t getting many photo passes, so I chose to buy a ticket and go anyway. However, as I still wanted to shoot them, I bought an Ilford black & white disposable camera for the gig and shot them from the crowd. I remember that throughout 2018, I was often following Pale Waves when they toured and also meeting a lot of other fans. I remember waiting outside the venue before the gig with the friends I had made so that I could get to the front and get some good shots. What I love about this photo is that I captured the singer Heather Baron-Gracie’s distinctive silhouette with the stage lights shining behind her which created a brilliant contrast. There are a select few photographs I have taken that I would consider being among the best I’ve created but considering the fact that I took this photo on film when I mainly use digital, it’s probably my favourite image I’ve taken.”
“This is a photo of Raidersbanduk when they played Facedown at Scala on 6th March 2020, taken with a Panasonic Lumix GH5 and Sigma 18-35mm lens. I love how fiery the shot looks. Warm, chaotic looking but zen at the same time looking at it. Every time I shoot, I always have a photo that makes it into my favourites album! Like I look at this photo, and it takes me back to the night this was shot on, as it was a pretty fun night, had my mates around and made some new mates, fun times!! A merry night it was. I shoot vids for facedown, so when I heard this band play, I liked what I was hearing, switched from vid mode to still mode, and shot some pics of them.”
“Weyes Blood, my absolute favourite. I used a new camera. To be honest I had no idea what I was doing. I usually have a certain idea of an image in my head. The gig was amazing, I cried the rest of it.”
“Luke Griffiths of False Heads shot on Sony A7/50mm at the InMusic Festival, Croatia, June 2018. This photo invokes so many great memories, an amazing experience for both the band and myself. False Heads we’re playing their first main stage at a major European festival and I jumped at the opportunity to join them when asked, I mean who wouldn’t shoot your friends and favourite band from the stage, things like that don’t happen too often. It’s not my best shot but the situation makes it my favourite, visually it (hopefully) gives the viewer an insight into the performance and makes them want to be on that barrier. 
Certainly, a tough shot to get, especially with one hand as I was already holding Luke’s guitar when he jumped off the stage!”
“This is a photo of Yonaka at Electric Ballroom taken for Gigwise, (Nikon D810, 50mm, f3.5, ISO 2500, 1/320). This is what music photography is all about for me. Discovering and watching artists grow from playing tiny venues and continually smashing it as they take it onto the bigger stages and audiences. I’ve taken better photos of Yonaka over the years but just recall feeling proud watching from the balcony and seeing the excitement from everyone in that sold-out Electric Ballroom in Camden. There is an amazing up and coming artists scene and it’s where I get the most enjoyment.”
After receiving extensive criticism, Matty Healy later updated his Instagram post, and finally tagging the photographer and changing the caption to, ‘Edit: I lost the debate.’

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