Really great interview of Bob Gruen and Kevin Bacon by Mark Seliger as part of Seliger’s video series “Capture”. Thanks to A Photo Editor for posting this. Hearing Bob Gruen talk about John Lennon never gets old, he really does it eloquently here. A must-see for any fan of music photography.
Photo of the Biters by Jackie Roman/Hell Gate Exclusive- image is copyrighted, not for use without permission
Rarely a day goes by where The Hell Gate isn’t discussing the state & the craft of music photography. We are obviously vested in this very subject, as are the people we work with.
Yesterday we had the pleasure of seeing this in print… A Paul Natkin article The Shrinking World of Music Photography in Elmore ( tagline “Saving Music”) goes through some repeated truths: the rise of publicity & sometimes dumb publicity, the three song rule & the rise of “the contract” & how the bottom has fallen out of anyone ever actually getting paid to shoot a gig. All true, point well made.
But let’s talk about what is music photography, let us offer a couple of thoughts;
What is music photography when most artists we work with would never define themselves as music photographers? They would not define themselves in such singular terms when they understand the landscape (& marketplace) they work in. Great photographers quite often shoot great musicians & frequently produce great, great work. The next week, they shoot great actors, fashion designers & architects. Check out a news stand – Is that Adele or Florence Welch cover from a “music photographer?” – All I know is that its great work.
The people who commission and the artists who seek out that photographer know that too. Lets separate great photography from hagiography & iconography. A great music photograph can be drawn from reportage (Kim Badawi) through to high end portraiture (Danny Clinch).
The volume of print media (yes, print media) covering music has exploded in recent years – As above, the lines have blurred between singular (fashion/design/women’s titles/ general pop culture) worlds. There’s nothing singular about the guys taking advantage of that. Not to say that this democratization hasn’t had an effect on budget. This very pervasiveness (One in 6 Americans use Pandora etc) & an explosion in platforms & digital is, again, a huge opportunity. More artists have an opportunity to be heard & to be seen visually than ever before. Think of one break-out band from recent years & I can pinpoint the 1-3 great photographers who carry the content authority on that band- their “go to” photographer.
The guys at the front at the gig: The world is full of live music material & guess what, the laws of supply & demand apply to photographers as well. If what we produce is produced for a wire, then guess what, it will be subject to wire pricing. If what we produce is no better than wire, then guess what, it will be subject to wire pricing.If that is music photography then I wish it would go away.
Photo by Katja Ruge/ The Hell Gate, image is copyrighted, not for use without permission
Over the coming months The Hell Gate will be using the blog & our sister site, our licensing business, to introduce a series of original photo essays & features built around music photography.
To give you a feel for what The Hell Gate is determined to love & support in equal measure please see below a feature by Katje Ruge – “Fotoreportage23″ – from her book published in 2007 documenting specific places of significance to Ian Curtis/Joy Division, along with portraits of people that were close to him or influenced by him. It is this kind of photo essay that makes us get out of bed in the morning.
We won’t shy away from talking about music photography, the state of the wider licensing business & the realities that go along with all of the rapid changes that have impacted how we do business.
There certainly have been changes to the way labels, management & the wider media appreciate content & are prepared to pay for it. Maybe some of the work clogging up licensing sites in subscription deals is a pale imitation of music photography & should be classified more as “indeterminate shots from indeterminate events” – Maybe our print media is infinitely less interesting because of its use. Maybe a photographer deserves to get paid…
Maybe there was a golden age where photographer income & access was high. Speak to those “golden age” guys though & they’ll tell you they were sharing moments with friends – hungry, unpaid moments in the studio and on the road.
The Hell Gate doesn’t see the music scene as broken & we can absolutely guarantee that there’s still remarkable talent dedicated to this craft doing whatever is necessary to get the shot and tell the story. Their talent will pay them & their work stands up to anything you want it too. We work with these remarkable people every day. Our clients have also been encouraging us to stay true to what we are delivering- you’d be pleased to know that many creatives in high level positions working for well- established companies are longing for something different- something that The Hell Gate is offering and will continue to do so.
We are dedicated to supporting our photographers’ projects. No indeterminate live photo calls, no bland candids & publicity material. Please support their work & please share some of these essays with your world.