Photographs from punk rock shows beginning in 1985.
Second Coming @ Ernie Cortez Memorial Show, Gilman Street, April 2005.
When I heard that Joey, Donn, and Jeff and the rest of the band were getting back together to play a show in memory of Powerhouse bassist Ernie Cortez, I knew I had to be there.
When I photograph, I court failure. I like to put myself into a situation where it’s more difficult than normal to come out ahead. The panic of impending failure brings out the best in me.
My usual approach to photographing hardcore shows is to shoot with a wide angle lens and a flash, often holding the camera above the crowd and composing by sheer intuition. It’s almost too easy to get great photographs if you’re brave enough to be up front and close to the pit. Of course, the presence of MHS “Most Hated Skins” and “The Rumblers” is going to weed out imposters.
For this show, I challenged myself by making it hard to get a good photo. Gilman Street is one of the darkest clubs ever, so I left the flash home. The crowd at OBHC shows are always a chaotic frenzy that makes it hard to safely leave your eye in the viewfinder. So I took a midrange lens that forced me to have my eye to the camera.
For the first three bands I tried to make the situation work. It was completely atrocious; I wasn’t getting anything. I was shooting at 1/60th of a second wide open at f1.4 (at ISO 1600!). As you can see from the above image, I was almost getting good photos, but not. It was so dark, and my 66mm lens was way too tight to capture the crowd.
I could tell that all the other photographers were getting better images. I had this fancy-ass camera but no flash and the wrong lens. I was even envying the point and shoot photographers who seemed to be getting all kinds of great stuff. Of course, Dayton (above left) is always at the top of his game. If that guy had a website…
But by the time Second Coming took the stage, I had figured out what to do. I’d make a huge composite. By shooting photographs of the entire stage, I was able to widen the view of my lens and show the entire stage, where a mural in tribute to Ernie was painted.
I’ve shot and constructed literaly hundreds of composites now. The amazing thing is that each one comes together magically. There is always something that you never noticed and never planned that shows up in each one.
This is the left side of the larger image. The cool thing that came together in this composite was capturing the way Joey prowls the stage. If you’ve seen him perform, you recognize it in this photo.
The full image (at the top of this post) is a 75 megapixel image made up of 37 photographs, which I edited down from over 300 shots.