Music Republic Magazine most definitely has a real ‘A-Team’ of writers and photographers spread across the UK and overseas. More will soon join our ace contributors in 2020.
But here, we look back at a selection of the best photographs that our intrepid and talented lens maestros captured in 2019, at concerts and festivals throughout the year.
It may look easy to get great images of bands and artists in action, but it is far from easy. First, you need to get the hard to secure access to shoot the band or artist, via the band’s or artist’s PR rep’ or record label or management or the concert/festival promoter or venue. There are always far more applying for access than passes available.
Then you need to adhere to the rules. The shooting position can be challenging to say the least. It may be way back from the stage, at the sound desk or even further back. Or it may be in “the pit”, but in one spot and stay there. All on the left or all on the right, or pick a side, left or right and stay on that side.
If the pit is full of photographers, it can be impossible to move from one spot. If there is an emergency issue in the crowd that the pit crew need to deal with, often the photographers are moved out for safety reasons and their shoot is over.
Official photographers with accreditation usually get just the first three songs to shoot a band or artist, and then are escorted out of the venue. No shooting from the seats or standing areas after the allocated songs. But it can often be less than three songs. It can be one song or two songs only.
In some instances, it can be a timed shoot, for say one or two minutes and that’s it! Lady Ga Ga was 30 seconds and out, on one tour. Stevie Wonder: one minute.
One steadfast rule: No flash use allowed. Even if there is little light, as is usually the case with many of the rap and hip-hop gigs. Lots of very low light, strobe flashes and the artist never still for the entire gig. Often the songs that the accredited photographers get to shoot have terrible lighting, only for the decent, bright lights to miraculously come on as the photographers are being escorted out!! Today’s modern LED lighting rigs are not great for photographs, and can be a pain in the **** for gig snappers!
There can be very high stages and lots of equipment between the camera and the artist/band. Smoke/dry ice/hazer (steam) effects on stage can mess up the shots too. Microphone stands, music stands, keyboards, monitor cabs, drum kits and a myriad of other gear can block the shot.
At festivals and the big arena gigs, there are usually a few guys shooting video for the big in-house screens. For some gigs, there are TV crews filming. Some on dolleys (cameras on tracks). The video or TV camera guys take precedence over stills photographers, and can be positioned directly in front of a photographer who only has 1, 2 or 3 songs he or she can shoot.
Today, especially for the rappers, they often take with them an entourage,which includes one or more shooting video footage and/or stills on stage, so they are inches away from the artist and in everybody else’s shots taken from the pit or the sound desk.
Shooting festivals presents a bunch of added complications for photographers, too. Like certain bands and artists deciding on the day they will not allow any photographs. Or some of the bigger stars having pre-approved lists where they have sight of who has been approved by the festival PRs to shoot the event, and who they are shooting for, and then the band’s/artist’s people approve who they will allow to shoot that band or artist at that festival.
Often, that approval is not announced until shortly before that band or artist are due on stage. So there could be 50, 60 or more snappers with photo passes to shoot the festival, but only a handful get approval to shoot that particular band or artist. That may also mean from miles back in the crowd by the sound desk, and it may also mean only one song.
There are also the release forms that many bands and artists want photographers to sign these days. Those that simply state that the images taken must only be used by that named publication for editorial use only, and no commercial use, are fine.
But today, more and more are adding what is known as a “rights grab” clause, where they claim the right to use any of the shots that photographer takes of them for any use at all, forever, with no payment or credit to the photographer. They allow you to take their photograph in exchange for free use of your photographs for whatever and whenever. No payment. No credit.
Add to that, many now demand image approval; where the band or artist’s management or PR rep’ have to see the pictures and approve which ones they will allow the photographer to use before they are sent on to the magazine, newspaper or photo agency who the snapper is shooting for. But often, that approval is coming back too late for the pictures to make the deadline. But they cannot be used because the release form was signed to agree to image approval before distribution/publication.
These release contracts can also stipulate a time limit on how long the images can be used for, which no picture agency or their photographers can sign. Many of these contracts can also include a clause preventing any of the images being posted onto the photographer’s social media or shown in their portfolio.
There’s a heck of a lot more issues to deal with for today’s concert photographer than the few outlined here, before they get access, before they take one frame and during the shoot. Plus of course, the skill of taking sharp, exciting images capturing the atmosphere and the action of a band or artist live on stage, in action. And the vast expense of owning the right equipment to do the job.
So this is our opportunity to pick out a few of our best images, taken and published in 2019 in our “Live Zone”, from gigs and festivals our guys and gals have covered for your delight…and to salute the efforts and the skills of all of our superb photographers out there for us night after night, often under very difficult conditions.
It may look easy and many may think if they have a camera, even on a mobile ‘phone, they could do it… But it is an art. An art that may die out one day, with more and more artists and bands banning all pro’ photography from their tours.
Some ban access to the media and then take one photographer on tour or allow them to shoot the first night, and then the band or artist’s people approve a few shots to be dished out to any media reviewing the gigs.
Most professionals refuse to sign the release forms that demand free use of the images, so all in all, there are fewer bands and artists being photographed on tours these days by experienced music photographers who have the right gear and skills. So all that is left are a zillion poor quality shots taken by fans from miles back in arenas and stadiums, on mobile ‘phones, and a trillion hours of shaky video footage with distorted audio.
So enjoy these fabulous images, and the rest of the superb gig shots in our “Live Zone”, as in the not too distant future, there might not be that many bands or artists allowing access any more.
But please note: This is not a giant whinge about how hard a job it is to shoot and deliver fantastic photographs of today’s bands and artists in action. This is just to explain some of the issues facing today’s music ‘tog’s’, and why you are seeing more and more reviews of your favourite band or artists published in the magazines, newspapers and on-line, with old stock images (even pix showing previous line-ups!) or reviews with no pictures at all.
Not to mention those publications that are happy to run blurred, poor quality snaps taken by the reviewer on their mobile ‘phone from their seat way back from the stage!
Please check out the names of our star snappers and who’s who in the pictures, at the bottom of the page….Enjoy!
Main image (top of the page) of digital camera and blurred band on stage: Jason Sheldon
Against The Current: Andrea Bottino
Beabadoobee: Andrea Bottino
Sigrid: Andrea Bottino
Cher: Jason Sheldon
John Newman: Sadie Parker
Matt Goss: Jason Sheldon
Matt Goss: Jason Sheldon
Rob Zombie: Jason Sheldon
Starset: Jason Sheldon
Rita Ora: Jason Sheldon
Rita Ora: Jason Sheldon
Sigrid: Jason Sheldon
Olly Murs: Jason Sheldon
George Ezra: Jason Sheldon
George Ezra: Jason Sheldon
Dalton Harris (X Factor winner): Jason Sheldon
Post Malone: Jason Sheldon
Marcus Scott (Tower of Power): Simon Redley
Matty Healy (The 1975): Jason Sheldon