Meet the Best Music Photographers in North Texas: Kathy Tran

Earlier, we introduced you to our 12 favorite music photographers in North Texas. We got more than 50 nominations, and our team of expert judges narrowed it down to these 12. Over the next week, we'll be introducing you to the last of our 12 finalists in turn by having them share five of their favorite concert photos and answering a few questions about their process and passion. Next on deck is Kathy Tran, whose work can be viewed from her website, Kathy Tran Live Music.

Kathy, what's the best thing about live music?

I'm an adrenaline addict and love working under pressure. I love being at the shows because there's so much going on that gets my adrenaline pumping. The bass syncs with my heart beat and the venue becomes a play ground for me -- especially when it's a new crowd of fans because I really am addicted to meeting new people. Knowing that I have to capture the perfect moments it pressures me to work with the limited time of the artists performances, so I learned to be a quick shooter and maneuver my way through crowds and manipulate the artist even while they are performing. I tend to shoot smaller shows, nothing too big of a venue, so I am always really close to the stage. I really try to make a connection with the performer.

What makes a great concert photo?

A combination of elements captured in one shot like the performer of course, another band member or DJ, their audience, and the environment they're in. That's why I'm passionate about doing these in-camera double and triple exposures to captures it all in one.

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

I photographed Gun Play from May Bach Music Groups at Trees not too long ago at Trees in January and I guess he "fell in love with me." So his team asked me to hit the road with them and finish out their Texas tour. At 4 a.m. in the morning I had to make these spontaneous decisions. The next morning I ended up at their hotel with my bags packed and hopped into a tour van with six tough looking men. The most memorable part about it was when I arrived to the hotel - imagine this: Rapper, Gunplay is tatted up to almost every square inch of his skin with dreads down to the back of his ass, along with his manager Mass Pike Miles and the driver came out to meet my adopted dad and everyone introduces themselves, but Gunplay soften his voice and introduced himself as "Richard." As we left Dallas it was the joke of the trip and no one could let that one go. My adopted mom's advice for me when I left was: "Keep your legs crossed, don't inhale and keep a dime in your bra in case you need to call us." It was a photo expedition I'll never forget.

What makes a professional photographer as opposed to an amateur?

I don't know anymore. I used to think it was money, but I've just learned the art of persuading people to pay me for all types of gigs that I shouldn't have gotten paid for. So if it's not money and gear then what is it? It's the way you interact with people whether you're handling the subject matter, clients, another fellow photographer, or publications you work for. I guess really a professional is someone who's good with people and getting them to be themselves in front of the camera. I know I am new to this, but people often tell me that they can quickly easily connect with me and that I capture them in a way that others may have missed.

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.

This is a portrait of Paris from A.Dd+ at the North Texas Hip Hop Showcase held at the Granada Theater. Their performance consisted of a boxing ring on stage, which made for great visuals. I almost didn't go because I was tired that night, but I ended up attending the show because A.Dd+ needed to borrow MY boxing gloves for their look. (I feel pretty cool being able to say that one of my favorite local acts needed to borrow my lucky gloves that I train with. Watch out!) The curtains closed. The crowd spilled out of the Granada onto the streets. The curtains open back up and the projector shined this white bright light towards Paris that caught my attention. His back was facing the empty room. It was an intimate moment and when I fired off a few shots creating a silhouette I reviewed it and they were rainbow colors. The image came straight out of my camera with absolutely no post processing. Truth. I love capturing artists before or after their shows more than their live performances. There's something about special moments like that - the intimacy of another human being, which I daydream about all the possibilities of capturing more of those moments.

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Shawn Gadley
Contact: Shawn Gadley