When I think of the past year, I think of a lot of things both personally and professionally and it’s been a rollercoaster ride on a lot of counts for various reasons, but one constant that’s always there – and always on the up – is the fire in my belly for picking up that camera (or two) and aiming it at a huge variety of talent – from established acts filling arenas and stadiums to up-and-coming musicians who give it their all in smaller, more intimate venues.
I can’t quite remember the past two years in that much detail as things have developed so fast, but what I can always recall is that feeling I get when I’m primed and ready to try and deliver something new with every shoot. That feeling of elation when I check the viewfinder and realise I may have just caught something special. That feeling I get when people praise my work ethic and tell me how much of a pleasure it’s been to have me on board – something I value so much more than “wow that’s a great photo” because capturing a great image is only half the goal. Being able to do it professionally in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable is another thing altogether.
2014 brought me some familiar assignments – C2C Country to Country in the UK, CMA Fest and the CMA Awards. What it also did was broaden my reach of clients. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working closely with the BBC (Radio 2) over in Nashville for the big nights as well as directly for the CMA during their March Songwriters Series and Marketing Summit here in the UK. There have also been some great ad hoc performances that I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot such as Taylor Swift, Black Sabbath, John & Jacob, The Shires, Roger Daltrey, Eric Church, Brad Paisley’s BBC Taping and Old Crow Medicine Show to name a few. Regular appearances in Maverick Magazine – including a cover – along with being published in CMA Close Up and the BBC website was so exciting – seeing your work in the medium it was meant to be viewed in gives you a real buzz!
I picked up an official label for the C2C 2015 announcement in October along with Lady Antebellum’s intimate performance in London. Did some stuff which brought me closer to the point I’m aiming to get to such as shooting various legs of The Shires’ tour and running amok backstage, doing some portrait work with local artists for EP and album covers and the big surprise, which came in December, where I was recommended to – oh you know – just Disney – and spent 5 days in Madrid over New Years’ Eve shooting officially for Disney on a stage production – their Latin American phenomena Violetta Live! This was completely invaluable to me as running with full AAA on a grand scale like that meant I was given complete freedom to capture everything the client wanted. I took on the Adam Elmakias mindset – no spot is too dangerous and contort yourself at will – just GET. THE. SHOT. It felt great to be able to focus on thinking more creatively because I didn’t have the constraints of 3 songs, left of stage and all that. And again, as I mentioned earlier, the feedback from Disney “you were a great fit for us” and making me feel so part of the Violetta family during my stay – was priceless. Oh and a last minute request to shoot Scott Borchetta earlier this year in London which turned into breakfast with the great man was extremely humbling and insightful to say the least.
Another highlight of 2014 was the whole lead up to CMA Awards week which involved working very closely (and very early) with the BBC in Music Row – shooting artists in session with Bob Harris and Patrick Kielty, such as Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, Lee Ann Womack, Little Big Town, Kip Moore and Kristian Bush. This was again, awesome. Shooting and editing on the fly put me under pressure, but that’s how I thrive. Being acknowledged by the artists and their management as a pleasure to work with is something I’ll take away and keep working on going forward. Also being interviewed twice by Gig-photographer was a real treat so thank you to the guys for considering me!
On the exposure side, I’ve actually been quite stunned at times. Social media has grown – Facebook shooting over 20,000 fans late last year and my quick brand evolution during the year to “Get Flex’d” seems to have really taken off (huh, t-shirt orders?). But seriously, I really value the strength of branding which I’ve elaborated in an earlier post this year. With so many absolutely brilliant live music photographers out there in the world today, getting that additional exposure while you’re establishing yourself is invaluable. People know my brand now – and it’s worldwide, and that just feels strange. Whether it’s standing outside Bridgestone Arena waiting for credentials and being recognised by some American guy who works for Gibson Guitars, or getting one of those subtle looks of acknowledgement from Kip Moore or Miranda Lambert – something I’ve done seems to work, so, right or wrong, I’ll keep doing it.
Everyone pretty much knows my ultimate goal – and are probably sick of hearing about it – but the experience of getting that exclusive behind the scenes shot, or that artist portrait, or living and breathing an artist’s set from a completely unrestricted perspective – is something that can only really be achieved in shooting officially for the artist on a tour. I know this takes time and I know it’s all about trust and finding that window of opportunity. Hopefully I’m making significant inroads and am building up a reputation that warrants such a role – irrespective of my geographic position.
People I’ve met and worked with in 2014 (both online and in person) have made the journey so much more enjoyable too. Travelling and shooting (yes even in the pit) can sometimes be a lonely experience – but knowing I’ve made some sincere and lifelong friends along the way (see Eric Church ‘Those I’ve Loved’) has just left me feeling so grateful and blessed to know that people out there do care – not just about what I do – but about me. Yes, that means you Dusty, Kelly W, Natasha, Laci, Kelly & Chuck, Kayla, Christian, Bobbi, Sara, Caitlin, Jessica, Josh, Mike M, Randy, Jimmy D, Richard W, Coxy, BJ, Shawn, Matthias, Ivor, John & Jacob, Crissie & Ben, Donn, Erica & Rob, Sukie, Annette, Andy Watson, Christie & Patrick, Nacho & Lega, Natascia, Florencia and Mark, Bob & Al from the BBC and loads more. Special moments that I’ll cherish forever.
So what’s in store for 2015? I have my own goals, but what I’ve learnt last year is to not put so much pressure on myself in realising these goals so much as to keep doing what I’m doing. From feedback, it seems I’m doing all the right things and in the right manner, so I plan on just focusing hard on bettering myself at every shoot – really pushing the envelope and raising my own bar every time I pick up the camera (or two), selling some Flex-branded gear would be cool and meeting some more great people on the journey. The most important thing for me is retaining that magical buzz that I feel when I take the walk to the pit, backstage, soundboard, sidestage, dressing room – wherever the camera takes me – because that’s what this is all about. It’s far from glamorous – it’s a hard slog and long hours – but make no mistake, the passion makes it all worth it.
Rock on 2015 and more exciting projects, more Starbucks and gettin’ Flex’d!