Shot on the X-Pro2 with 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses
Summer in the city means music, music, music. Witness Hub Festival, a three day extravaganza of rock, indie, folk, electronica - pretty much everything - packed into a little old lane named Womanby Street. For me, Womanby Street is the heart of Cardiff, the very reason why I moved down here. I'd defend it to the pain.
The weekend also saw Pride Cymru, a mammoth three day festival in support of ending LGBT discrimination, leading to a nice bit of cross-pollination between the two festivals. This was good news for the small-but-mighty Hub Festival, as Pride Cymru brought thousands of additional revellers into town, happy to sample the pubs, clubs and tunes of Womanby Street. And naturally I was there too, with my camera and gaggle of lenses, itching to shoot some moody black and white. See below a selection of four bands, all photographs straight-out-of-camera with just a bit of tone curve. Spread across the four rows are from top-to-bottom; Palomino Party who pretty much tore the roof off, the conspiracy-theory laden Wako, the hypnotic fusion of animation and electronica that is 5th Spear and the ever-splendid Maddie Jones. There were a hell of a lot more bands to photograph up and down the street, but in the main I was content to drink, sway and listen.
Time was when I used to photograph bands, I photograph every musician on stage, from support act through to headliner, in a rigorous, leave-no-man-behind fashion. I felt I had to capture everything. But now I'm only interested in capturing the spirit and atmosphere of an event; be it through portraits, dynamic action or even abstracts. The days of shooting every single shoe-gazing guitarist are over, I think. Then again, the sight of a musician truly lost in the moment, carried away by the music they're creating... that's still pretty powerful to me. The play of light and shadow across a face, the capacity for movement and theatre... for grand performance... that can make gig photography worthwhile. But I feel it has to be more than just guys with guitars. I'll have to put some thought into what I want to get from gig photography, what I want to truly capture. I look through Anton Corijbn's work and man... all I can do is stare. It's not about photographing famous bands. It's about making unique images. That's what I want in capturing a gig - but it's going to take a hell of a lot of figuring out. Perhaps approaching it as capturing performance, theatre and dance, rather than music...? I guess that's why Tom Waits remains at the top of my list of people I'd most like to photograph.
Meanwhile, as ever, I'm happiest taking my photography to the bar, the dance-floor and out on to the streets...
Shooting the night up and down Womanby Street, that happy stretch of a hundred yards amidst bustling inebriated happiness. Maciej Dakowicz might have made his name photographing the drunken excesses of the neighbouring St. Mary's Street, but hell, I'm in love with what my camera's finding right here.
And I think I'm beginning to embrace softness and grain more, my framing is becoming more fluid, less rigid. I no longer freak if the eyelashes aren't sharp. I mean sure. Sharpness is nice, yes sharpness is nice, but sharpness can stop you from shooting all the things in life you'd like to...
("Stop that," - ed.)
...spending long summer days indoors; sharpening blurry pics of a shoe-gazing indie gig .
("You're fired," - ed.)
Anyway. The point remains. The more I've seen tedious reviews online obsessing over pixel-sharpness, the more I've wanted to rebel and throw things at my computer screen. I think it's those shelves creaking with photography monographs that have begun to turn me. Henri Cartier-Bresson's 'The Decisive Moment', for example. It's full of soft images. Then there's Daido Moriyama; he wouldn't know how to make his images sharp if Sean Bean delivered a lecture on it. As Cartier-Bresson said, "Sharpness is a bourgeois concept." (That's especially fun to say if you strike an affected pose as you're saying it. Possibly with a cigarette.)
Of course, softness and chaos in an image has always favoured black and white. With colour it can be a different story, where a certain extra deliberation is required. But yes, overall I'm happy to shoot looser now. When it comes to a warm summer's night, feet tripping the tiles with a beer in one hand, moving in time to the music, it's the only way.
I hope you enjoyed this little ramble, this gaggle of pics. But I also hope that you search for that street you love out there, the one you and your mates return to time and time again, the one with all those special memories. And, upon arriving, I hope you take a closer look to see what it is about the place that really enchants you and perhaps... just perhaps... start taking a few pictures. Happy shooting out there, and happy dancing*.
* Not sad dancing like Leland Palmer.