Music photography has been a passion of mine for over 20 years. Before that, during my teenage years in the 60s, I took the occasional photo at concerts, such as the Rolling Stones, and in the television studios while attending the weekly recordings of the Billy Thorpe show, It’s All Happening. It was all about the songs and seeing the artists, not so much the feel of the music and visual connection through the lens.
Over the years cameras and technology have had a remarkable upgrade. So too, hopefully, has my ability to capture the spontaneity and intensity of feeling that travels from the artist to the audience. I have also combined photography with journalism; writing reviews on the many festivals and gigs I attend, as well as the musicians’ latest CD releases. These are published in two monthly newsletters, and used on the artists’ websites, while the photos are used for their publicity.
Now my question is this: “Why is it that I am beginning to question my role in the mosh pits at festivals and concerts now that I am in my mid 60s, when it seems perfectly acceptable for male photographers to be doing this at the same age, or older?” And more importantly: “Is there an age when I should consider stopping?”
Quite often I stand, hemmed in at the front of the stage, enviously watching my fellow (male) photographers up on stage, standing out as if they were one of the band, capturing that perfect image. I, on the other hand, slink around in the shadows, watching intently for those ‘magic’ moments to record through my camera lens. I might add, this lens happens to be about the size of a small telegraph pole, and probably just as heavy! Not for me to be seen front and centre on stage, even if I do envy their forthright confidence. Even when I am invited up to grab that special shot of the drummer hiding in the shadows I never feel truly comfortable, and can’t wait to climb down (very carefully) and blend into the crowd once more.
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I must admit I seem to be accepted very well by the majority of the festival goers, who often part, like the Red Sea, when they see my camera and realise that I am trying to capture what they are enjoying. One young guy even said: “Hey lady, do you want to get up onto my shoulders?” And he was serious! Of course, after laughing, I thanked him profusely, but declined; preferring instead to creep in front of him, grab that shot, and slink back out again.
I constantly need to remind myself that one of my favourite music photographers, Annie Leibovitz, from New York, has successfully trodden this minefield for more years than me. The difference is that she became famous in her mid 30s, cementing her credibility in this male dominated field.
Fortunately, at the moment, my passion overrides my anxiety on this dilemma. So, hopefully, the day I decide to switch the camera off for good is still a long way away! Note to self: upgrade those earplugs!
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