To start, I want to give a big thank you to Earsplit for allowing me access to many of the bands I’ve photographed. Without their help, my body of work would literally be half the size it is now. I also want to thank Cvlt Nation for offering me this space to showcase my work, it means a lot.
I’m going to start by being blunt: I’m not an old or well-worn photographer; if anything I consider myself quite the novice – this is especially true in regards to concert photography. Although I’ve been rigorously studying photography for the past few years, it was only (as of Dec. 2011) six months ago when I first turned my camera toward the stage. In this feature, I’m supposed to show you seven photos that have a great meaning to me, but with so little time behind my belt, it’s hard to choose a set of photos that not only stand out/have a story to me, but work well within a set together.
So that’s what I tried to do. I chose a sampling of photos that, although may not best represent the broad spectrum of my work over the last two and a half years, certainly represents how I typically choose to portray my subjects.
A lot of people in the Seven Stories series have had some interaction with Harassor, and I’m no exception. My first experience ever with this band was Pete Majors calmly walking onto the stage prior to the start of their set, and watching him calmly douse his body with thick blood and enter what I can only describe as a meditative stance that made the viewer contemplate whether Majors had found the spiritual door to hell. Then, as the music began to play, Majors came out of his almost trance-like state quite quickly; but before he rose completely to begin his evocations with his band-mates, I was able to snap this portrait.
This was taken at a small place known as Chain Reaction in Anaheim. Gigan was the second band to play that night, and they didn’t receive much love from the audience that was in attendance (at least, that was what the barren front of the stage told me). The area was clear of all humans besides myself, so I was able to walk around unperturbed and construct shots how I saw fit without any hindrance. I really did appreciate Gigan’s skill though, and I wanted to get a picture that not only represented the aptitude of the band members, but utilized the stage effects they employed to help create their very alien aesthetic. The house lights were surprisingly strong, and the smoke was incredibly think – catching this picture was just one of those instances of finding the right viewing angle and snapping the picture before everything became obstructed.
This picture was taken at the Power of the Riff which was held at the Echo/Echoplex. All of the earlier shows above at the Echo were plagued by horrible red lights – to make matters worse, they were exceptionally dim red lights. After a bit however they opened up the bottom of the venue, aka the Echoplex, so I headed down there to try and grab a front row place to see whoever was up first. Let me tell you, never had I loved a band so much as Early Graves at that point during the festival, because they not only had access to a myriad of lights… they actually used them! This was actually one of the first times I was able to get a low angle shot, thanks to both the the height of the stage and the vast amount of back-lighting. The photo came out looking exactly how the band had sounded that night: physically imposing and dominating in all other respects. Even though they weren’t anywhere near the heaviest band on the bill, I will definitely give Early Graves credit for being one of the most energetic bands that hit the stage that night.
The almighty Grave, one of the absolute first death metal bands I ever heard (next to Infester and Demilich), so needless to say this was one hell of an exciting night for me. The place was packed to the brim by the time Grave hit the stage – so packed that I actually had no room to move and was stuck in one place for the entire duration of the show. And when they made the announcement that they were going to play their first full length “Into the Grave” in its entirety, I and everyone else just flipped their shit. I had a goal that night, and that was to try and capture Lindgren’s iconic visage (If you don’t know what I’m talking about: http://www.metal-archives.com/images/1/0/2/0/1020_photo.jpg?5355). The lighting was absolutely awful, and I was in no position to actually even see half of the band as they played – but something went right, because that opening came up and my camera shutter went racing. Ola looks cold, calm, and collected… and that face, even with it being half covered you can tell that he doesn’t give one fuck whether or not you understand what he’s playing one way or another.
Most of my concert photos are primarily black and white. Not because my camera has terrible ISO performance or because of crap lighting (although the former is true and the latter readily available), but because I genuinely prefer black and white to color; the natural abstraction allows more leeway in regards to interpretation with the viewer when done properly, and if you’re crafty also allows a lot of illusory tricks. However, eventually you reach a point where you worry that your preferred medium is stifling not only your creativity, but your longevity. The last thing I wanted was for people who had seen my previous work to put off/ignore any of my newer works because they would make an illegitimate snap judgment about the content and quality of my newer photos due to the simple reason that they were “just black and white”.
I however am not a fan of hyper-plastic processing, the likes of which you will typically see in commercial ads or even very famous band promos. To me, it just looks too sterile. I figured what better way to branch into the world of color than to try my hand at first replicating older film types. From there I branched out even further until the photo became its own “thing”; and that’s what this photo really represents: an evolutionary change in style.
Dark Castle was playing a show with YOB and Of the Horizon, and by the gods was it glorious. If you’ve never heard Dark Castle, do yourself a favor and pick up Spirited Migration (or if you refuse to blind buy, youtube some of the tracks to get a taste). All the sheer heaviness that exists on record is multiplied by a factor of three in a live setting. What makes this picture one of my favorites, other than the superb color scheme, is that it literally in almost every way is deceiving. I went into this show not knowing what to expect from both Of the Horizon and Dark Castle, and after everything was said and done and I finally returned home, what was I greeted with? A very calm and relaxing picture! Does this picture embody the sound of a thick rhythmic guitar that’s capable of crushing/grinding rocks to dust? Does this woman look like she’s capable of literally barking/growling your head off? Do any of these lights look sinister, or even evoke an idea of roughness? Of course not, and that’s where the surprise is. More to the point though, this picture was reprocessed far after my first conscious decision to recolor photos, and to me it is a constant reminder that, although I may have my preferred editing/post-processing style, I need to actually focus on what the picture itself says and can offer the viewer, instead of just what I want to pull from it.
I’m currently in the process of moving. Now moving isn’t inherently bad, but when you are moving because you can no longer bear the burden of living expenses… well, it’s a less than stellar experience. I live in an area of the city where every house is an inexpensive (given the surrounding areas house prices) cookie-cutter knock off of the ones ten to fifteen miles over. Here, no one talks to their neighbors and no one knows each other. The area is always barren of life, and it’s a very rare event when you see someone walking down the sidewalk. Despite the illusion the city has designed for this area – that of a clean middle-class haven – the truth of the matter is that the surrounding landscape speaks far more about the content and quality of the community than anything else. We’re surrounded by hundreds of power lines, by crushed rocks, smashed and flattened earth, and dead grass; furthermore all the animals that used to live in the area have died off due to expansion. It’s a hugely isolated community, both inside and out. And to be frank, despite its cleanliness… it’s desolate and ugly as hell. I wanted this picture to impart a sense of calm, sadness and loneliness, which I think was successfully done with the muted colors. I also wanted the eye to naturally rest on the path leading towards the horizon, that way when they notice the horizon itself it crooked and warped the viewer is left with a disheveled view of the entire scene.