Nate Burrell: Meet the Best Music Photographers in St. Louis

Photo by Nate Burrell
Photo by Nate Burrell

Before the Thanksgiving break, we introduced you to our ten favorite concert photographers in St. Louis. We got well over fifty nominations, and our judges narrowed the field to these ten folks. Over the coming week-plus, we'll be introducing you to each of the finalists in turn by having them share with you five of their favorite concert photos and answering a few questions about their process and passion. This week is Nate Burrell, whose work can be viewed (and purchased) at his web site,

RFT Music: If you had to guess at the ballpark number, how many concerts would you say you've photographed?

I am not exactly sure how many actual concerts I have shot, but since moving to St. Louis 3.5 years ago I have taking photographs of 300+ bands. That includes headliners, opening acts, and multi day music festivals- which often allows you to shoot 15-25 bands in a long weekend.

What makes a great concert photo?

There are so many ways a photographer can capture a great concert photo in his/her lens. Sometimes it can be catching the "money shot" where the lead singer, guitarist, or other band member is photographed in an extremely theatrical or action oriented movement. Other times, the photograph is full of numerous subtleties that are not reproducible such as facial expressions, the way the lens grabs the light, or capturing performers interacting with the crowd. I tend to like those moments that happen in bewteen when the artist is displaying a bit of the "iconic" presence, as well as unknowingly showing non rehearsed and honest human imperfections.

Photo by Nate Burrell
Photo by Nate Burrell

What's the best thing about live music?

Without a doubt, for me, the best thing about a live show is that it is happening in the here and real time. Each show you see is a completely unique experience that will never happen again as it did the night you were there in the crowd, or in the photo pit. It's a combination of music and performance that, even though the musicians have rehearsed many times, things can still go sideways in a hurry. People often forget that; we expect the performers to be spot on every night, but in all reality things like broken strings, faulty lighting, or a number of other possibilities can cause the artists to have to react on the fly...and for me, those moments of unpredicatability are what helps add a beautiful uniqueness that only those in the venue were lucky enough to be a part of.

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

Being in the pit, photographers tend to see a bunch of wild things on the stage, as well as from those die hard fans who showed up early to make sure they were in the front row. Recently I was at the Pageant and I had a relatively inebriated fella pull up his shirt and start shaking his belly all around. He was doing this funny drunken dance like he was barefoot on hot coals and he was practically begging me to take a photo of his torso, because as he said "music make EVERYBODY move, baby!" Pretty odd behavior for a middle aged man, but funny nonetheless.