BIG thanks to my friend Eric Garcia for offering to come take some photos at the start of my opening reception! It really was surreal to see my work printed large scale and have a ton of people come out to view it. My artist statement was printed on the wall next to the images, and you can read it below
ABOUT FIRST THREE NO FLASH
There’s nothing quite like photographing live music. Lights are flashing making it hard to meter your shot, crowd surfers are falling on top of you and your gear, the guitarist on stage is thrashing around, security guards are yelling at you to see your photo pass…. you’re completely at the mercy of what is happening in front of you as well as your surroundings and access limitations. Lighting is unpredictable, the fans are unpredictable, and most of all the performances are unpredictable. It’s an experience that is truly out of your control as a photographer. The adrenaline rush is insane as you are trying to get all of your shots in a short window of time for your assignment, while usually sharing a small space with other photographers competing for the same thing. Your time in the photo pit is intimate without being intimate at all. Being an artist documenting other artists is surreal, frustrating, rewarding, and liberating all at the same time.
"First Three, No Flash" is the industry standard rule for photographing concerts, meaning credentialed photographers can generally only photograph the first three songs from a specific area and utilize what light is available. These limitations affect what type of lenses you bring, how many cameras you use, and how you approach your assignment. This rule is widely understood by the music industry and generally applies to the press. There are exceptions and your access is dependent on who hired you, what the venue is, if you know the band, etc. but you’re generally only allowed in the photo pit or soundboard area for the first 15 or so minutes. That time goes by fast when you’re wrestling with all of the variables at hand. The “First Three, No Flash” rule is said to have caught on in the 80’s:
“Paul Natkin, one of Chicago’s best concert photographers stated in an interview that the rule started in the 80’s with bands playing in New York. During concerts, the photographers, only having 36 shots available per reel of film became concerned with the lighting and started using flash to light up the artists on stage. This caused many artists, such as Bruce Springsteen a bit of a headache when fifty or so photographers started flashing him as he walked on stage. The Boss became concerned with this practice and said something needed to be done. According to Paul, someone came up with the idea of just letting the photographers shoot for the first fifteen minutes, or first three songs as the average time per song is around five minutes. It was around this time when MTV appeared on our television sets and artists wanted to look perfect on stage photos as they did in their music videos.” -Fred van Leeuwen, Fstoppers.com
I have always been drawn to old film photos of Led Zeppelin concerts in the 70’s and have gotten such emotional reactions to images of young screaming girls chasing The Beatles in the 60’s. I grew up thinking how important it was that someone had captured those moments, and dreamt of being able to do the same with the bands that I loved. With a photography degree in 2014 and no idea what to do with it, I quickly got burned out from photographing everything people told me I should do…until I dove head first into music photography.
This exhibition highlights the concert photography opportunities I have had over the past 3-4 years, as well as artwork by Thomas Wimberly inspired by these photos. All of the songs playing over the speaker are from bands and artists that I’ve photographed, many of which you will see on the walls today. Most images on display were photographed during the first three songs without flash.
The past few years have been SO much more work than you could ever imagine, but gave me experiences that have intensified my passion and appreciation for music, photography, and the art of the fleeting moment in general. Photographing live music is hands down my favorite, and I am eager to see what opportunities in the industry are next.