Photo Gems of the Week
Why do we need still photos of music? You can't photograph music; it's auditory, not visual. Yet like most things in life, it's nuanced. Yes, literally music is auditory, but it's made by people. Fully animated people (some more than others) with faces, hands, arms and legs. People like us, who we happen to like.
Photographs let us gaze -- without shyness, perhaps even voyeuristically -- at those people who've managed to reach us with their music. Sure, some people just look at concert stills to get an idea of what they can expect from a tour, or maybe catch a glimpse of themselves crowd-surfing, but even those individuals no doubt pause a moment longer on certain frames than others, for the sheer "eye candy" aspect.
For the most part, though, many concert images look very similar, and there's a reason for that. Nearly all professional music photographers have to work within the same limited sight-line perimeters and time restrictions. Known in the industry as "First Three Songs, No Flash," each photographer has about 9 minutes --if they're lucky -- to get photos in an environment something akin to an obstacle course; lighting that is usually very dim or fluctuates rapidly between too bright and too dim, shoulder to shoulder with many other photographers, in a narrow "photo pit" (if there is one) which may or may not contain speakers and cables, etc., all the while trying to avoid getting their expensive gear drenched with beer.
And that's the good part. By the time they've made it this far, most shooters have already jumped through numerous hoops to get press credentials, and even then their name is all too often not on the list when they show up at the box office. In other words, professional concert photographers have to be thick-skinned, patient and ideally have eyes on the back of their heads.
Just as with any form of artistic expression, music photography can be brilliant and it can be boring. Some shooters are work horses, focusing on quantity and breadth of event coverage, while others are more creative and aim to produce truly unique images. Some even manage to be both. As photo editor at SoundSpike and an 18 year concert photographer, I've come to appreciate that most anyone with half a brain and the right camera equipment just needs to show up to get a few good pics, but few can consistently get the gems. What constitutes a gem? For me personally, it's the one that surprises me. Jumping off the page with its color, composition, emotion or sometimes simply by its downright perfect exposure. The gem is subjective, and not easily defined, but there is one surefire way to tell when I've seen one: As soon as I forward to the next frame I suddenly realize I've just been smiling.
View some examples of Hali's favorite "gems" from the week of 9/30-10/6