Monday, 1 January 2018

A Celebration of Live Irish Music Photographers

Photo by Alan McCarthy

Live music photography has always been something that has fascinated me, and that fascination is borne from so many layers, both personal and in a wider sense. On a personal level, and purely why I dabble at an amateur entry-level in it myself, is the archival nature of it. Hopefully without veering too far off, and I'll keep this brief, having studied history in college, part of which involved holding in my hands original documents from some of the most tumultuous times of the last century, I have a deep appreciation of historical sources, no matter what the subject matter is. There is nothing greater and more valuable than a primary source which will survive time and be available for future generations. Often these are lost, but thankfully in the digital age this becomes less likely.

The second aspect which drives my interest in music photography is the dearth of it from the decades which planted the seeds of modern music. Words are powerful, but how many times do we read about iconic artists' first or early live shows and rely purely on the memory of others, without being able to get a true visual feel for the moment being described via black and white print. Limitations obviously played their part, from the 1950's to the early 1970's cameras were not a luxury item, for the professional photographer they still aren't! When I read, or see a limited number of photos ranging from small shows or big live concerts by the likes of Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple etc. they conjure a magical narrative, yet I'm left wanting more, and from earlier in the story, pictures of the very first or early performances by these icons, in the most unexpected of venues. 

For me the modern day live music photographer is not just relaying an event in the moment to be published in the following days or weeks, they are also actively archiving in a historical sense, and not just the artist or band they are shooting, but a mini-era, a snapshot in time of a movement, big or small (right now in Ireland it's big, and has been for some time). Each photo that captures a band or solo artist in the throes of their live performance is a paragraph in that overall story, and that story will only get fully told decades later, and be read and viewed by eyes that the person who holds the camera will more than likely never know. Without being overly romantic, images photographers take are probably moreso for their audience, immediate or in the future, than themselves.

In the broader sense I remember live shows I was at when I first started going to gigs in the late 90's, I think of the likes of The Mary Janes fronted by Mic Christopher on the main stage in Whelans, with not a photographer in sight, or around the same time and venue The Frames at their peak post-Fitzcarraldo and Dance The Devil, such fond but gradually fading memories. There is of course the argument that witnessing such performances in the moment without a smartphone at hand or through the view-finder of a camera made them special, and I agree and disagree 50 / 50 but I think that's a discussion for another time, and one that probably doesn't exercise me as much.

To wrap up before sharing this wonderful collection of live photos taken by photographers from every level, almost all of which were shot in Ireland over the past 12 months, I have to acknowledge my admiration and wonder. Just as the standard of live music has surpassed all expectations and is currently at, or still reaching, a zenith never seen before in such volumes, so too are our photographers. I have been left in awe on a weekly basis over the past two years in particular by the standard and creativity which is reflected in their work, mostly through social media, and in particular through Instagram, for what it's worth. This is the main reason I felt the need to share their work, and they are many, so it is something I would like to continue to do in the future. 

It is an incredibly difficult game, no gig is ever the same, there is no singular format of preparation for each show. Venue, lighting, unforeseen circumstances, time-constraints are just a few of the challenges. It is also seriously hard work, and it is a time-consuming exercise after the gig has passed, but all of the below photographers capture what they do so well because they are passionate about photography, and of course, music itself, and for those two reasons alone, they need to be celebrated. Do check out the rest of their work at their websites and social media below, it's a goldmine.

The below photos are listed in alphabetical order of the artists that were shot by Irish-based photographers during the year, described in their own words, and I would like to offer my sincere thanks to each and every one of them for taking the time to share their work with us here.

1) Brian Mulligan - Aerosmith - 3Arena - June, 2017

Photo by Brian Mulligan for Hot Press Magazine

"Getting to shoot Rock GODS like Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith was great and finally getting to see these legends in person was a joy. There was no pit access at this gig so I packed my 200-400mm f4 lens. It weighs the same as a big man in a small car but got me close enough to reduce distractions and to capture some beautiful, colourful shots of Aerosmith doing their thing. The settings were 1/2000 sec, f4.5, 360mm & 2000 ISO. One off the bucket list!" 

2) Ciara McMullan - And So I Watch You From Afar - Koko (London) - November, 2017

And So I Watch You From Afar - Ciara McMullan

Photo by Ciara McMullan

"This photo is of And So I Watch You From Afar in KoKo in London in November past there. They are very good friends of mine and fellow north coasties. I joined them for the last two weeks of their tour and shot SO much but this one is my favourite, may have had a little cry at that show because I just kept reminiscing about how I have been taking pictures of these guys for nearly 10 years. The combination of that and the epic venue and atmosphere was just amazing. 

As I type I’m actually in a hotel in Dublin after shooting ASIWYFA in the academy last night and I’ll be in Galway with them on NYE too. So it only seems fitting to pick a photo of them!"

3) Sarah Ryan - Birdcloud - Sin É - September, 2017

Birdcloud - Sarah Ryan Photography

Photo by Sarah Ryan (of The Thin Air)

"By far my favourite gig of this year, Nashville duo, Birdcloud. I was totally blown away by their performance on the night. This shot was taken towards the end of their set. It’s one of my favourite photos from that night."

4) Aaron Corr - Cage The Elephant - The Academy - January, 2017

Aaron Corr - Cage The Elephant

Photo by Aaron Corr

"Cage the Elephant are one of the best gig experiences you're likely to witness by a modern rock band. Matt Shultz is the front man all other front-men have to look at to see how it should be done.  Every last bit of energy goes into his performance, and this makes them a dream to photograph.  I love this shot  the most from 2017. All the passion is there in his face and I was more than happy to catch it.

5) Olga Kuzmenko - The Dillinger Escape Plan - June, 2017

The Dillinger Escape Plan - Olga Kuzmenko

Photo by Olga Kuzmenko

"Many of my peers strive for the perfect shot in terms of sharpness, brightness, and flattery. For me, live music photography is about capturing the energy, emotion and atmosphere in my own artistic style, so I try to break away from the expectations of clichéd stock concert photos. This particular shot features one of my favourite bands, The Dillinger Escape Plan, who are sadly calling it quits at the end of 2017. I had the pleasure of shooting them from the pit three times this year in Nottingham, Belfast and Dublin, and wanted to capture some of their raw chaotic performance in my images. It was shot on my Canon camera at 0.4 sec exposure time, f/5.0, ISO 100 on 190 mm as the strobe light illuminated Vocalist Greg Puciato, giving the multiple-exposure effect."

6) Kristina Hajdu - Jon Dots - Whelan's - July, 2017

Jon Dots, Whelans - Kristina Hadju

Photo by Kristina Hajdu

Whelans, crowd, beers,
Tiny room, bad lighting.
Guy, guitar and a Mac.

Hundredth of a second -

emotions and devotion, sacrifices and self-expression, still and moving all compressed into...just one picture."

7) Niall O'Kelly - Jurassic 5 - Vicar Street, Dublin

Jurassic 5 - Niall O'Kelly Photography

Photo by Niall O'Kelly

"Having been a fan of Jurassic 5 for as long as I can remember this was one of the highlights of my gig going life. I don't necessarily rate this photo as one of my best but I love it because of the overall experience of the show. I might be blind to the fact that this could be a shit shot because I love the band but it's because of gigs like this that I do what I do."

8) Leah Carroll - Lamb - The Academy - September, 2017

Lamb, The Academy Dublin,  by Leah Carroll

Photo by Leah Carroll

"My photo is of Lou Rhodes who is the singer in the band Lamb. They played The Academy at the end of September. It was the very first night of their 21st Anniversary Tour and you could tell they were a bit nervous. 

The crowd were so excited to see them and their support buoyed the band. Andy Barlow gave the audience some fantastic insights into how the band started, about how different he and Lou are but how well their chemistry works when combined.  Once everyone relaxed into the gig it just took off. The set list was a great mix of their tracks across the two decades, plus one."

9) Lucy Foster - Paramore - The Olympia - June, 2017

Lucy Foster Photography - Paramore - The Olympia

Photo by Lucy Foster

"I try to capture the atmosphere and the energy of each performance in my live music photos and I think you can tell from this one that she’s giving it absolutely everything. I’m always grateful when I get to photograph such powerful and inspirational women and Hayley Williams is a total badass! I’m a huge Paramore fan. Shooting this gig meant a lot to me."

10) Kelly Levacher - Metronomy - Body & Soul Stage - 2017

Kelly Levacher - Metronomy - Body & Soul Stage

Photo by Kelly Levacher
Website: (do you recognise anyone on the homepage??)

"This photo sums up everything that I love about being a photographer: fun festival vibes, groovy lights, nice geometry, funky colours and a well-dressed bass player"

11) Kieran Frost - OTHERKIN - Electric Picnic - 2017

Kieran Frost - OTHERKIN - Electric Picnic - 2017

Photo by Kieran Frost

"The excitement of getting to cover Electric Picnic every year is up there with Christmas. On the first night, I wrapped up early for the evening, and went to find my friends, but kept a camera with me. While at the Salty Dog Stage watching Otherkin, Luke somehow ended standing above me, and I fired off this frame – an image that was really just a lucky accident, but I feel my favourite from the year."

12) Sean Smyth - OTHERKIN - The Button Factory - December, 2017

Sean Smyth - OTHERKIN

Photo by Sean Smyth

"It was a pretty quiet year for me; I only shot a handful of shows and it's something I already want to rectify in 2018.

OTHERKIN came to The Button Factory after a long European tour and it was also a gig to mark the release of their debut album. Luke, the lead singer, is notorious for getting pretty involved with the crowd so I knew what to expect from him. My partner, Conor, was the lighting design duties for the show too so, I popped along with my RX100 m3 and was delighted with what I got. It really goes to show that the best camera is the one that's with you."

13) Tara Thomas - Rusangano Family - Electric Picnic, 2017

Rusangano Family - Tara Thomas

Photo by Tara Thomas

"This image was snapped for Other Voices at Electric Picnic earlier this year. For me it captures the force of nature that is God Knows. Having had the immense pleasure of working with Rusangano Family on numerous occasions I was technically well prepared for his lively antics. But sometimes no matter how precise your camera settings are it can just boil down to being in the right spot at the right time."

14) Colm Laverty - St.Vincent - The Olympia Theatre - October, 2017

Colm Laverty - St. Vincent

Photo by Colm Laverty

Colm Laverty is a photographer and film-maker based in Belfast whose debut feature 'Document', a film about Northern Irish band Malojian and featuring Steve Albini was released in 2016.

15) She Bop Imagery (Ciara Brennan) - Susie Blue - Output Festival - February, 2017

Susie Blue - Ciara Brennan - SheBopImagery

Photo by She Bop Imagery

"I took this photo at the music trail at the Output Music Conference 2017 at Susie Blue’s set in Aether and Echo. This is one of my favourite photos that I have taken this year as I love the lighting. The rainbow colours in the photo are similar to a pride flag which I thought was really cool as the band are very outspoken about issues such as gender stereotyping and homophobia."

16) Shannon Cooney - SWMRS - Fibber Magees - October, 2017

SWMRS - Shannon Cooney

Photo by Shannon Cooney

"For me, This image perfectly summarizes the atmosphere of the show. It shows Cole Becker of SWMRS perched on a tiny barrier participating in a chant with the crowd during a song in their set in Fibber Magees on October 9th 2017."

17) Alan McCarthy - The Regrettes - Fibber Magees - October, 2017

The Regrettes - Alan McCarthy

Photo by Alan McCarthy (Tour Manager / Photographer for Fangclub)

"I'm choosing this pic because it's probably the first time at a show that I've followed an artist into the crowd and come out with the picture I'd hoped for. I've tried many times and had decent results, but this was the first one I looked at and knew it had worked straight away. Also The Regrettes are amazing, check them out!"

18) Stephen White / The Last Mixed Tape - Theresa Wayman of Warpaint - Vicar Street - March, 2017

Warpaint Vicar Street Photo By Stephen White The Last Mixed Tape

Photo by Stephen White, The Last Mixed Tape

"I think this photo was a tipping point for me. Around the time of taking it, I had become involved with an artist who worked with charcoal sketches. Her work embraced movement, blurring and the slight imperfections they caused visually, something as a photographer I had always avoided. I was, until then more interested in freezing people in time and capturing moments, all things blurry/out-of-focus where immediately cast aside. However, her art and conversations about why she was drawn to conveying motion must have had an effect.

I went to Warpaint's show in Vicar Street with nothing planned or mind shot wise. But in the moment, I remember watching how thrown into her guitar Theresa Wayman was. How she was physically putting herself into the music. It was powerful. I wanted to capture that feeling in a photo, the same way the artist did with her drawings. I turned the shutter speed down just a little, waited and took this shot. From then on motion was something I wanted to incorporate more and more."

19) Molly Keane - The XX - Electric Picnic, 2017

The XX - Electric Picnic 2017 - Molly Keane

Photo by Molly Keane

Above is Molly's photo of The XX bassist Oliver Slim at Electric Picnic this year.

Molly Keane is an 19 year old professional Irish photographer living in Dublin. She began taking photographs when she was 13 and specialises in Portrait, Conceptual, Fashion and Live performance photography and also has a keen interest in reportage and street photography. In October of 2016, she was chosen as 1 of 12 photographers from all across Europe, both amateurs and professionals, to compete in the prestigious photography competition Sky Arts Master of Photography Season 2. This year, aside from Master of Photography, Molly has worked on the official photographers team for Electric Picnic music festival covering acts such as The XX, Birdy, Vince Staples, Interpol, Car Seat Headrest and Pond.

Note: All photos were kindly provided by the photographers with permission purely for this post and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without their permission.

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