Way back in 2003 when I was starting out, Jools Holland was one of the first artists I photographed with any degree of professionalism. As a pianist myself, I think he is fabulous to watch. So I was gutted when I was initially turned down for a photo pass as he apparently no longer allows agency photographers in to his shows. Well in the end after a couple of polite emails I was allowed by his manager to come and shoot the show, and I was also allowed to syndicate to my agency, Getty Images.
There were only a few of us there – probably a good thing as there’s no pit so you’re right there with the crowd seated at their expensive seats, and we shot the first three songs. After that we had to wait before shooting the first song when Mel C of Spice Girls fame joined him on stage.
The only thing was, he doesn’t keep to a set list, so instead of coming on at 9pm as planned, she came on nearer 9.30pm which meant we got another half hour of the set to shoot. If truth be told, I was happier with my shots of Mel C than I was of Jools, but it was a good night all round.
Tonight was a night of firsts. My first Sigur Ros show, and therefore the first time I’d ever seen someone play a guitar with a cello bow, the first time I’d heard someone sing from the back of their throat in an entirely made up language, and the first time I’d heard someone hold a single note for the best part of a minute.
I had been given privileged access by the band’s management to photograph the entire show and bearing in mind the band are notoriously reluctant photographic subjects, who normally only allow very restricted access, I knew I was lucky.
My picture research before the show worried me. Perhaps reflective of their reluctance to be photographed, they play in dramatic, ethereal lighting which looks stunning to watch, but is damned near impossible to photograph in. For the majority of the show I was working at ISO6400 and even then I was sometimes at the limits of acceptable shutter speeds.
Having the whole show and having been briefed by their Creative Director about what would happen when meant I was able to shoot from the back to get big wide shots of the overall stage show as well as shooting from the pit to get more intimate close ups like the one above of Jonsi Birgisson.
It was without doubt one of the hardest technical shoots I’ve ever done, and to really do it justice it would have been great to do two shows – one from the back and one from the pit. Still, I came away with a good variety of shots and have a lot more editing ahead of me.
Koko is a venue I have never enjoyed shooting at. The lighting is usually distinctly average and the only way to and from the pit is to force your way through the crowd. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to apply for a photo pass for Boy George, and when someone told me he’s been a DJ for years, I had visions of shooting a dull DJ set until I found out he’d be singing.
At the end of the first song he asked the lighting tech to turn the lights down low “because that’s the way I like them”. Well they weren’t exactly bright for the first song and for the whole second song he was bathed in gloomy dark blue, not a camera sensor’s best friend.
Because he had a huge wide brimmed hat on, the only decent shots were to be had when he glanced up – you could hear everyone’s shutters going crazy each time he did it as otherwise it was a bit pointless. As we were walking out he had his little diva moment and said something about “bye bye photographers, yes, you only get the first three songs”. There were only six of us and I doubt many of us would bother going back.