Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Photographing concerts, Part 1

As some of you know, I am passionate about music. Recently I had a revelation that what I would really love to be is a concert photographer. That activity puts together so many of my passions and interests: being at an event, listening to music, being among a large group of people, having a function at an event, photographing, creating aesthetic pictures, documenting an event.

Genesis at the Capitol Center in Washington, DC.
Then I thought: I actually already am a concert photographer. Or at least I have been on many occasions. When I was in high school, I took pictures of all the events, whether of a sporting or cultural nature. In 1981 I saw Genesis for the fist time and was taking pictures from the 33rd row with my 55mm lens when the guy next to me handed me his telephoto. I didn't know anything about holding the camera extra steady when you have 200mm on the front of it, so they didn't turn out too well, but good enough to support my memories of the event.

Genesis at the Capitol Center in Washington, DC.
In 1988 Chester Thompson was in Richmond giving a drumming workshop at the school where my father was working. He talked about Phil Collins' less than perfect technique (thus the nickname "Slappy") and told the students how important it was to practice your diddles and paradiddles EVERY DAY. He demonstrated the combinations, gradually getting faster. He was then going so fast that not only was he sweating but so was every aspiring drummer in the room! He said, "OK, when you can do it that fast, then you can stop practicing. For one day."

Chester Thompson at St. Christopher's School in Richmond, VA, around 1988
I easily get side-tracked when it comes to Genesis, but the hell if I'll call it a digression!

Two other wonderfully Genesis-related concert photography jobs included shooting The Musical Box in Stuttgart a couple of times unofficially.

Denis Gagné as Phil Collins and David Myers as Tony Banks play on their TOTT tour in Stuttgart in 2009.
I was lucky enough to have made the acquaintance of David Myers at these concerts, something that has led to a wonderful friendship. The funny thing here, though, is that I don't even remember taking these pictures. The music had transported me into another realm.

When David came to visit me, I only took a few pictures of him playing my Blüthner (and he took a video of me playing HIS arrangement of "Firth of Fifth" for HIM! Needless to say, one of the highlights of my life.).

Through David I got permission to photograph two shows given by his best friend, Martin Levac, who was touring with his band throughout Europe in 2010. I shot the shows both in Stuttgart and Mannheim and then sent him a selection of my work. He used several of the pictures in his next tour program!

Martin does a terrific job giving his audiences what they missed from Phil Collins' younger days. And his drummer, Mathieu Groulx, is also the drummer and vocalist of the New World Men, a Rush tribute band. He was so much fun to watch.

This is Part 1 of a series on my concert photography. Next up: some other bands I've shot in Stuttgart; and some tips for beginners.