The typical “shooting a concert” routine is that you get to shoot the first three songs, no flash, from inside the barricade. Works pretty well, except for the fact that the more controlled these situations are, the less authenticity you find in the photographs. If you look back to all the iconic photographs throughout the history of rock n’ roll, I’d bet most of them were taken during the last song, at the climax of the show. Certainly not the first song. Pete Townsend/Paul Simonon never smashed his guitar/bass during the first song.
The routine seems to be to get the photographers out of the way before the performers break into a sweat. This is no knock on Amy Lee and Evanescence, who put on a good show. I mean, put on a good first three songs. (I didn’t see the rest.)
Waiting for the band to take the stage, I met a photographer who shoots a lot of concerts for local promoters. He told me a great story. He was shooting a concert and a guy starts talking to him, saying, “You photographers must get all the girls!”
The guy then says he has a plan. He walks over to a couple of girls and unleashes this pickup line, “That guy over there is a photographer for the Tribune. And I’m his agent.” Don’t know how that worked out. But I can guess.
The photo above shows Jeff Allred, a former Tribune photographer*, at last Friday’s Skyline vs. Alta high school football game. Jeff is editing his photos on his laptop from Alta’s bench during the fourth quarter. “Back in the film days” is a common phrase we newspaper photographers use when we get nostalgic or when we bitch and moan about our jobs. You know, how great things used to be. Covering a high school fooball game back in the film days, I would have shot three rolls of film, max, and then driven quickly back to the newspaper. I would have had to start developing my film by around 8:45 at the very latest so I could scan in one or two images for the paper’s 10 p.m. color deadline. Covering a high school football game now with digital, I shot 490 photographs of the Skyline-Alta game. At halftime I sent five photos back to the paper from my car over a cell phone at 8:21 p.m. while I relaxed with a box of EL Fudge cookies and the new Hatebreed CD. When the game ended, I photographed Alta players celebrating their victory on Skyline’s field and sent five more photos from the parking lot at 9:36 p.m. Back in the film days, indeed. *Jeff currently works for the Deseret Morning News.This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.
Assignment: University of Utah volleyball player Sydney Anderson, in practice Coach said they would be doing setting drills. The repetition of the drill made it perfect to line up for the perfect shot. Here’s the play-by-play commentary in my head as the shoot progressed:
Okay, this shot is horrible. You need to eliminate the distracting foreground elements. Come on, you can’t shoot her with that big stripe down the frame. Open your eyes, man!
Hey, where is the ball?! Get the ball in the shot. For heaven’s sake!
Okay, now you’ve got the ball, but that background is too busy. Get a better angle to clean it up!
Good. I think that’s it. Good choice to climb up on something. You lined up the school’s logo in the background and waited for a good moment, good expression, peak action. Now crop it and tone it and send it in.
This is the final file? Cool. This should work well.
Went out and photographed Joanne Benfatti this week. She is a resident of the Meadows Mobile Home Park in Cottonwood Heights. The Meadows is in a wonderful location. Lots of trees, a beautiful mountain view, and the neighborhoods surrounding it are very high-end. There is the problem. The land the Meadows occupies is worth big money, even more when you sell it to developers looking to rezone, demolish the mobile home park, and build 30 new luxurious homes in its place. That’s what has happened to Benfatti and the other 274 people who lived in mobile homes at the Meadows– many of whom are poor and live on their Social Security, she told me. Benfatti has found a place to go, and some of her neighbors are moving there as well. For someone being displaced, she’s lucky. Still, she has had to pack up all her belongings and now she’ll literally cut her house in half to move it.
I drove through the Meadows and saw “For Sale” signs on dozens of mobile homes. I wonder where all these people will go, and who would buy these homes? A lot of them were old and worn, and mobile home “parks” seem to be disappearing in favor of modern condos and apartment blocks. With all the construction and development sprawl taking place all over urban Utah, it’s easy to tune out the impact on those in the way of society’s progress. “It’s like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from,” Benfatti told me. Here’s the view looking north, to the future:
Here’s the view looking south, to the past:
Assignment: Heather Armstrong is the writer behind Dooce, one of the top blogs in the world. She writes about parenting, depression and life.
Early on in the process, Tribune reporter Matt Canham filled me in on this story and I spent a couple weeks poring over the Dooce site. After reading pages and pages of her posts, and looking at dozens of her photographs, I was hooked. Dooce posts very candid pieces about parenting, depression and just plain life. Every post grabs you, both funny and tragic.
Matt and I went over to the Armstrongs’ home and I couldn’t have felt more welcome. Heather (Dooce) and Jon Armstrong could very well have been close friends of mine for decades. We live in the same neighborhood, in homes that are small and cozy with beautiful woodwork, well-stocked bookcases and framed photographs all over the walls. We share musical interests and religious upbringings. The more we talked, the more we had in common. I even realized I had photographed Jon’s ska band Swim Herschel Swim in Provo back in 1989.
But there were photos to be taken. I didn’t know how it would end up. My plan was to go in and just shoot a bunch of photos with a 50mm lens using available light- just like Dooce does. We talked and I photographed. Leta, their daughter, watched a DVD while eating lifesavers and chewing blue gum.
After a couple of hours, the energy in the room was dying down. The moments were appearing less and less. I left, worried that I really didn’t have that one image that told the story. I hadn’t set up a portrait as insurance. I had just clicked off a bunch of photographs.
When I sat down at the computer, the real work began. In the editing process, I pieced things together and found images that told the story. In the composite above (which was not published in the Tribune) I captured the people, the story. In the composite, Heather and Jon are talking about how personal (and often embarrassing) her writing is, especially when she writes about their relationship. She seems to be laughing from somewhere within, aware that her writing has often gone off like a bomb on those around her, but she means no harm. It’s just who she is. Jon seems to be reacting with, “please don’t post that unflattering quip about me, but even if you do I’ll always love you.” Leta is being her cute self, up top, watching from her innocent spot, symbolically above it all. Even Chuck the family dog makes an appearance. The lamps illustrate the warmth I felt in their home and the sippy cup and basket of childrens’ books represent the parenting process Dooce is famous for writing about.
The hours I spent editing and building this unpublished composite weren’t a total waste. The layout in the paper mimicked some of what I had done, and captured the interplay between the Armstrong family. But I can’t deny I prefer the composite.
Chuck the dog makes frequent appearances in Dooce’s photographs, often balancing objects on his head. And Leta was so cute watching her DVD and eating candy. She is so used to be photographed (by her parents) that she completely tuned me out. Thanks to the Armstrongs for letting me peek into the world of Dooce. You can read Heather’s wonderful work here.