Seven Stories…Markus Shaffer

Photographer: Markus Shaffer
Based in: Brooklyn

I’ve been photographing live music for over 20 years now. Occasionally for publication but mostly for the bands whom suffer my lens in front of them while they perform. Music has been such a powerful force in my life for so long it’s hard to image what existence would be without it. In so many ways, music has given to me and made my life all that much better. Be it through the visceral feelings experienced through listening or through the world of friends and camaraderie that has come from all the musicians I’ve met over the years, music has been a staple of my existence since my early teens.

Living in New York affords one the amazing opportunity of getting to see an extraordinary amount of live music. We are lucky to have a very dedicated group of people who book shows, run clubs and generally make a huge effort to promote and perpetuate the scene of heavy music here. With such a scene comes an even larger group of talented people who are involved in some way or another. The abovementioned who make it happen, but also the artists, photographers, people who run music websites, and certainly not least, the musicians themselves. I constantly find myself humbled to be surrounded by such talent of all kinds. It’s not often I make an effort to share my photographs with the public at large. Thus, having been asked to contribute here is an honor.


Black Tusk
One of my all time favorite photos of any band. These guys are always smiling on stage. Nothing else I’ve shot of any band has ever come close to personifying the performance in the way this does. They are fun as hell live and this image will always remind me of that.


Jeff Stieber of Hull
I’ve been very fortunate to call each of the members of Hull my friends for some time. They have always given me unlimited access every time they performed live. Jeff has always been exceptionally kind in letting me climb around on stage and shove my camera in between drums and cymbals to get images such as this. He is definitely one of the hardest hitting drummers in heavy music coming out of New York these days.


Helms Alee
I started experimenting with multiple flashes a couple years ago. It’s not always easy to do when there is an unruly crowd. Even more disturbing is to be the lone photographer up front getting in the way of the people who are just trying to enjoy the show. It’s a fine balance of trying to get the shot you want, juggle gear and respect that other people are there who don’t care about cameras. When it does work out though, it can be pretty amazing and you can get an almost 3D effect. Ben’s right hand seems to be almost reaching out of this image.


The Atlas Moth
One of my favorite things about shooting bigger clubs is that they often have backlighting. Adding the element of stage lights can make an image all that much more dramatic. Having to shoot where the light is constantly changing makes for difficulties, but sometimes happy surprises as well. I don’t care for green or red stage lights as they can really kill skin tone in color photography, but it worked out here I believe.


Trap Them
It’s hard to explain the feelings one can derive from abrasive music to those who don’t listen to it. Sometimes an image can evoke a sense of raw angst that even laymen can understand. A couple different friends of mine who don’t care for loud music have seen this image and commented how they can relate to the idea of just wailing on an instrument for the sake of release.


One of my favorite bands to see live. The dynamic between Dave and Keko is amazing to see in person. This particular show was a sad commentary on how much the music scene in New York has changed over the years. Two songs into the set they were shut down because the neighbors were complaining about the noise. Kind of an embarrassment for New York.


The Catalyst
So often, bands will have an astounding array of photos of all the members but the drummer. Granted, there is the aspect of being at the back of the stage which deters many photographers. It never hurts to ask a band if you can get up close. All the members of The Catalyst were very gracious in allowing me to get as close as I wanted last time they played in Brooklyn.

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The Author



Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing.

  • MHK

    nice! love the effect in three.

  • George M

    Markus Rules!

  • Carrie Whitney

    Love the dimensional pictures! Amazing lighting! They really come to life! Awesome!