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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bryan Sutter: Meet the Best Music Photographers in St. Louis

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 2:55 PM

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What's the strangest thing that has happened to you while photographing live music?

I've found myself in some interesting situations, from angry drunk people lunging at my camera because I won't let them play photographer with my equipment to a hundred or so sincerely strange and angry people rushing the stage at The Firebird during Machine Gun Kelly's set. However, I would say what's left the longest lasting impression was during the Black Lips' set at The Firebird in April 2010 when two very out of place looking middle aged women berated me for turning away from guitarist Cole Alexander when he unbuttoned his pants while on stage. I was successfully pressured into turning back around by these two ladies and I was met with something I'd never seen before and will probably never see again.

The inner fear was that Cole was going to do something involving bodily fluids but in reality he was, well, aggressively scraping the tip of his penis against the fretboard of his guitar, which he had flipped around so the guitar faced his midsection. You could hear it over the PA. This short, sort of muted scraping sound.

I don't think he stole that one from Chuck Berry.

What makes a professional photographer as opposed to an amateur?

Traditionally, when you think of someone as a professional you imagine certain standards when it comes to their work, presentation, and their business sense. Locally, there are music photographers who are professional in the traditional way and those who I would consider to be professional in a way that hasn't been completely defined. Technology and the increasing importance of the digital world in our day to day lives has spread photography greatly and evened the playing field for people to participate. Functional photography is no longer a scarce resource and as this becomes more apparent, we'll likely see the definition of professional change. Perhaps professional will just as easily apply to folks who shoot indie bands for their own blog as it does those who shoot Red Hot Chili Peppers for Spin. It's possible that things will matter less about your tear sheets or who your clients are and more about your output, drive and ability to convey the experiences of others as well as your own. We'll see what happens in the next few years.

Amateur photographers in the world of live music photography, however, will always be the people that shoot with flash. I can all but promise that won't change.


Pick one of the photos you've submitted and tell us a little about it: Where was it shot, who is featured and (most importantly) how did you capture it? We'd love to hear logistical description or technical breakdowns or whatever else you want to tell us.

I'll probably get some trouble for submitting this photo as it doesn't exactly express the photojournalist side of live music photography but I don't ever expect to take The Soiling of Old Glory Part II, so I'll talk about it. This one is from the early days of The Firebird and features Flesh Vehicle. Flesh Vehicle are a garage rock trio from Nashville and are probably best known for being fronted by Tom Pappas from Superchunk. They are rad. They have a rad neon sign with their band name that they put on stage, as you can see. This photo of Tom Pappas was taken with a Lensbaby Composer, which is a selective focus lens where you can change out the internal optic to different types of glass. Selective focus means that I can isolate the part of the frame that will be in focus, while the rest of the frame is not. The focus is a bit off and I lost some detail with a longer shutter speed but this was one of the first shots I took that I knew I had something really interesting when I previewed it on the back of my camera. Sometimes it's good to have something a little different in your camera bag.


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