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 two weeks, we'll be introducing you to each of the finalists in turn by having them share five of their favorite concert photos and answering a few questions about their process and passion. First up is Mike Brooks, whose work can be viewed from his website, http://commiebiker.smugmug.com/
Mike, what's the best thing about live music?
In my mind, live music is about an artist establishing a connection with an audience. I love rock music, and when it is best there is an intense tribal, celebratory bonding going on between the stage and the floor. I don't really like EDM, and I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to rap, but if you can get a big crowd up on its feet, then I want to shoot it. Jazz, folk, classical, it doesn't matter. It's the communal buzz that has made live music and performance a part of the human condition since we stopped walking around on all fours. Once that connection is made---zap---go get a picture that captures it.
What makes a great concert photo?
Like any other photograph, a good music shot has to have good lighting and composition. And a really good photograph always has a little mystery or surprise in the details. Live music is about vibe and energy, and that comes at you from all directions ... make sure you are looking in all directions. My basic advice to anyone who wants to have more interesting music photos is to stop taking 500 shoots of the lead singer while ignoring everything else going on.
What's the strangest thing that has happened to you while photographing live music?
You mean like the time I was part of a conga line with Edie Brickell and the Blanco High School marching band?
What makes a professional photographer as opposed to an amateur?
Doing anything professionally brings the added pressure of having to deliver a product or service of high quality on a deadline. There are lots of skilled amateur photographers just waiting for the right break or the right connection. I know cause I was one of them.
When you get paid, you need to bring something good back every time you go out, you have to shoot things you might not have a personal interest in, you have to know how to edit quickly, you have to know what your editor wants and give it to them ... even if it isn't what you want. It helps to have connections so that your editor doesn't always have to make arrangements for you. If you don't want to do those things, there are plenty of others who will. Or if you really want a high-stress photography job, start shooting weddings.
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My son had been telling me for months how great Nick Cave was live. He and a friend got tickets, and I got a photo pass. There was one other photographer there, from The Dallas Morning News. They made us wait around, then told us we were only able to shoot the first song, and led us to the very far right of the stage. I've shot some great bands at the McFarlin, but their photo policy sucks. Anyway, Nick Cave came out, sang the most boring song in his extensive catalog, and did it under the most underwhelming stage light I've seen in a long time ... we were then escorted out.
I was so pissed that instead of hanging around, I packed my bag and headed to my car. Just as I was about to drive away, I got a text from my son telling me I should come back ... everyone was out of their chairs, packing the front, Nick Cave had told security to get lost and was telling the folks up front to "put their fucking cell phones away."
OK, so I grabbed one camera and one lens. A Nikon D4 with an 80-200 zoom. Walked back, said hi to security, went through a side door, and maneuvered to where folks at the soundboard couldn't see me. All in all, it seems my son was right. Nick Cave is awesome live.