Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get started with concert photography?
So, I’m a lifelong musician/music lover/creative person (I can’t think of anything else to say to be perfectly honest) who was exposed to a lot of music from an early age through the radio in my home area of DC/suburban Maryland and through my dad’s CD and record collection. I’ve played music for a long time and started writing about music when I was a senior in college (better late than never) for a publication at BC called the Gavel.
I branched into writing for Allston Pudding after that and was a contributor there for a couple of years. I moved to North Carolina after graduating from Boston College in 2013 for a job opportunity and wanted to write about music on the side, but I didn’t really know anybody down there to vouch for me so I sort of bullshitted my way into writing for a publication based on the strength of a couple pretty decent iPhone photos I had taken at some shows up here. I grabbed a very very very very crappy digital camera from Best Buy and covered my first show in North Carolina in 2013 and here we are!
Do you remember the first show you photographed? If so, which show was it and how did you get your press pass?
The first show I photographed was Queens of the Stone Age on their tour for …Like Clockwork in 2013 at an amphitheater in Asheville, NC. I was writing for/covering the show for a publication whose name I honestly can’t remember and I wanted to interview someone from the band, but that wasn’t happening so they offered me a photo pass to cover the show (hence my very poorly chosen first digital camera choice - I’m 99% sure it was one of those point and shoots on steroids with a superzoom lens that tried to look like a DSLR).
After that, in 2013 I photographed the Dismemberment Plan, Wavves, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (and maybe a couple more bands I’m forgetting) before I moved back to Boston, was making WAY less money and paying WAY more in rent, and realized “ok I have to not do this expensive time consuming thing for a little while so I can feed myself.”
Is concert photography your full time job? If not, what else are you up to?
Oh, if only. I’m actually taking something of a breather from live music photography right now (sort of. I’m shooting a couple shows coming up.) just to handle some things in my personal/professional life. I currently work as a freelance marketing consultant and commercial/portrait/event photographer as well, and I work pretty regularly as a production assistant both in studio and on location with a variety of commercial photographers and videographers.
My background is in social media, marketing, copywriting, and brand/audience development, so getting back into that on a more full time basis has been a priority of mine recently. I also consult for some bands I’m friends with around town on the business side of things.
Have you have to overcome any challenges or obstacles in your journey as a photographer?
I would say the main challenge that isn’t a technical challenge (i.e. why are my photos not turning out the way I want because of some limitation with gear or whatever) has been pretty consistently burnout.
Like I said before, right now I’m struggling to find a ton of motivation to photograph live music because I’m trying to get a bit better balance between my craft, my job, and my life, and I’ve been burning the candle at both ends to try to make full time freelancing work. I can’t say I’ve worked past them because I’m still working through them, but talking to people, giving myself room to breathe, and being more patient has helped a lot. Oh yeah and therapy, everyone go to therapy.
You’ve spent a lot of time on tour, as a photographer and tour manager. Is there anything you’d share with photographers who want to follow in your footsteps?
This is actually one of the questions I have gotten asked a lot. I don’t think I ever particularly wanted to be a tour manager, to be honest. Between the end of 2018 and the end of 2021 I toured a lot with Weakened Friends, an independent rock band from Portland, Maine who have been dear friends of mine for a while. On those tours I got a pretty good sense of the scheduling behind touring, some of the logistics, dealing with different venues, selling a bunch of merch, budgeting, finances, etc.
That experience with Weakened Friends and also selling merch a lot in Boston got me hooked up with tour management/merch management clients in We Were Promised Jetpacks and Microwave, who I spent a few months with earlier this year.
If you are truly interested in getting into tour management as a photographer, there are a few things I would definitely recommend doing to make your life easier.
- Go on small tours to start. Weekenders, week-long tours, or small regional runs. You’ll likely be hitting up your friends’ bands for this kind of stuff, and a good way to demonstrate your value will be to offer to sell merch, help drive, and produce content for them.
- Have your workflow dialed in. Tour management AND photography are tough to manage. Some very very VERY good photographers who i admire greatly are also fantastic tour and merch managers - Elena De Soto, Ashley Gellman, Carly Hoskins, and CJ Harvey are some shining examples of people who can seemingly do it all. But your life will be infinitely easier if you can dial in how you shoot, how you edit, and how you deliver. You’ll be in a thousand places at once and pulled in a lot of different directions while on tour.
- Take time for yourself. I really love Headspace and the Calm app for stuff like this. I struggled quite a bit with being mentally overstimulated on tour and spreading myself too thin. If you don’t take care of yourself while you’re on the road, you’re going to have a bad time. Take as many steps as possible to eat healthy, to rest, to exercise, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. It does wonders for your mental health.
- Don’t try to do everything. You will quickly find out if you’re trying to slam too much into your days.
What went into developing your style as a photographer?
Style??? No, but seriously, I really struggle with this on a day to day basis. I think one thing that helped me a lot, at least with looking at how I photograph live music, was branching out into other genres of photography (marketing/commercial work, events, athletics, still life, etc.).
When you just do live music photography for so long, I feel like it’s pretty easy to get stagnant with how you shoot, compose, edit, etc. The more I went out of my way to push myself to do different things and honestly just shoot MORE helped me land on what I consider my “style:” dynamic movement, off-kilter details, utter chaos sometimes. I still have no idea how to edit after nine years but I’m getting there.
Where do you find inspiration?
Hoo boy. Well. Some of my favorite photographers are athletics photographers, portrait photographers, and lifestyle/fashion photographers - the team at RabbitWolf Creative, Aisha McAdams, Ben Weingart, Jered and Ashley Gruber, Brett Rothmeyer, Ben Rayner, all do absolutely incredible creative visual work that I’m inspired by. In terms of music photographers and visual creators around, I can’t say enough about Ben Lieber or Mitchell Wojcik. Just two incredibly talented visually creative forces.
In terms of live music photography and Boston photographers in general, I’m pretty consistently amazed at Ben Stas’ (@noisefloorphoto) stuff between his documentary film work and his live music work. Emily Gardner (@emilygardnerx) is the queen of making images look like vibrant, surreal portraits, Omari Spears (@o.shoots) knows how to compose better than almost any other photographer I’ve seen or worked with.
Brent Goldman (@brentgoldmanphoto) truly has no business being as good as he is after only shooting shows for a year, it’s kind of ridiculous, and I think his editing style is one of the few that I’m legitimately jealous of. Bri Gately (@brigately) captures details at a show like no other. She’s not local to Boston but my friend Imani Givertz (@imanigivertz) (based in Nashville) is one of the most talented, creative people I’ve had the fortune of encountering and working with and all of her stuff blows me away.
Getting into shooting more film and exploring different formats with that has helped me a lot in working through my process and figuring out how I like to compose and be more methodical about selecting shots, as well. I really enjoy messing around with new film stocks, camera systems, etc. because it makes photography new again.
What advice would you share with people just getting started with concert photography?
Shoot shows in the absolute shittiest lighting available to you, don’t go nuts on buying the most brand new, most expensive new gear if you don’t have a 100% need for it, talk to everyone you meet, don’t be a dick. DON’T. BE. A. DICK. Taking pictures is FUN.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
Kind of a toss up. Any time I get to help Weakened Friends with visuals is always really special to me. They’ve been my friends for a very long time and we’ve regularly worked together on photo and video projects for their releases, tours, shows, etc.
Another super proud moment(s) has been working with the Hold Steady on promotional portraits and behind the scenes stuff for a few of their recent records. That band has meant a hell of a lot to me since 2009 and I’ve been a massive fan for so long that to be able to call them clients and friends still blows my mind. Another big one was sharing a bunch of real estate with my friend Ben Stas on the physical layout of Hallelujah the Hills’ most recent record I’m You.
What’s the best or most memorable advice you’ve ever received?
I feel like I’ve heard a ton of advice from a lot of people, I feel like Mitchell Wojcik has consistently advised me to stop being so self-deprecating online (which…yes, fantastic advice). And I pretty much think about a line in Ben Stas’ instagram bio once every couple weeks: “Available for freelance if it’s fun.” Are you fucking kidding me? That’s honestly the only way I want to think about freelance work from now on.
What gear do you currently use?
Right now my main driver is a Nikon Z6 II with the Z-mount 24-70 2.8. My other camera that’s a backup/that I use for portrait shoots and stuff where I need a lot of cropping capability is a Nikon D850. I have a bunch of different lenses but my most used are that 24-70 I mentioned earlier, a 14-24 2.8 for those super distorted wide shots, and a 70-200 2.8 (that I desperately need to send out to Nikon to get the filter thread fixed). I’d also be a fool to not mention my 85 1.4 that I pretty much always have on me. Such a nice focal length, incredible for portrait work and live stuff. Really just an incredible lens.
For film stuff, I have…way too much stuff. I tend to impulse buy gear after doing a fair amount of research and inevitably justifying it saying “I’ll use it for project XYZ.” The film cameras I use the most right now are my Nikon F4 (with a bunch of different older F-mount lenses), my Fuji GA645 medium format camera (a beast of a point and shoot), my Hasselblad 500C that was definitely an impulse buy that I don’t regret in the slightest. I have a few others, but those ones are probably the ones I keep picking up more than others.
I’ll usually toss a point and shoot or a smaller camera in my bag whenever I head out for the day, so that’ll usually be my Yashica T-4, a Nikon zoom point and shoot, or my Olympus Pen FT half frame (though less of that now because of consistent light leak issues that I…cannot decipher). In terms of film, I love shooting black and white, so I’ll usually lean on Ilford HP-5 or Kodak T-Max 3200, although Cinestill BWXX is creeping up there. For color film I’m really loving the new Kodak Gold 200 in 120 format, and it’s honestly hard to beat Cinestill 800T and Portra 800 and Lomography 800 for color film stocks. Pretty much always have those on hand for the additional flexibility of that 800 speed.
Do you have any projects, recently completed or upcoming, that you’re particularly excited for?
Honestly, I’m happy I’ve taken a bit of a break as I look for a new full time opportunity. I’ve been really not appreciating my own work as much as I used to which means I’ve been going through the motions a lot with what I’ve been doing.
Honestly, I’m mostly excited to take a step back and re-evaluate how I present myself as a photographer and creative person - taking some time to comb through my past work, re-do my website, write a bit more, re-establish myself as a more well-rounded creative. I have a few gigs and some interesting portrait sessions I’m excited to dive into, though, and I want to start taking on more personal projects and travel-based work this fall.
Where can people see more of your work?
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
No. Leave me alone (kidding. Always available to give feedback/chat about photography or whatever/talk shit with anybody whenever. Again. Just don’t be a dick.).