With the continuing decline of music magazines, possibly due to the rise in the number of music blogs, as well niche zines and, of course, social media, where music fans can see gig photos of varying quality almost instantly, it seems that there is also a rise in the number of music-related photo books. Of course, being a music photographer, this perception could be slightly skewed as it is an area that is of particular interest. These books mostly tend to be monographs based on the photographer’s whole body of work. Some come from traditional publishers and others are crowdfunded, self-published projects.
Music photographers are a weird bunch, and usually fall into two camps: those that shoot big name bands at decent-sized venues up to stadiums, and those that shoot unknown bands in grotty local venues (I fall into the latter). For the prior it is all about getting photos of the biggest names possible, and usually come with all sorts of restrictions thrown up by egotistical artists, band and venue management and PR gatekeepers. Media accreditation (photo pass) is your entry into the pit, then there is the “first three songs, no flash” rule and the increasing number of contracts, and not to forget an increasing number of photographers of varying abilities all vying for the killer shot of their idols that will invariably be similar to everyone else’s. For the latter group it is a matter of turning up at a local venue with a camera. There is no pit (for protection from the crowd – if there is one) but also no restrictions on what you can shoot. There will also probably be almost no light to shoot by, or red light (the enemy of photographers and digital cameras), but if you know what you’re doing you can get fantastic shots of up-and-coming bands that have a lot more “artistic” merit than those shot under brilliant stadium lighting. That’s why my motto is “shoot iconic photos rather than photos of icons”.
Whatever camp the music photographer falls into, it’s all about trying to capture a moment and an emotion from the gig/concert, and once you are hooked on trying to get that shot you will go to almost any length to get that shot. Julian David Stone is a perfect (and extreme) example of this. Throughout the early 1980s, and unable to get media accreditation, the Californian photographer found ingenious ways of getting his camera into concerts with some of the biggest names at the time including The Ramones, Prince, Talking Heads, Joan Jett and many more, and to capture some unique shots that the pros didn’t get.
In No Cameras Allowed, Stone recounts his adventures of smuggling his gear into venues and his close calls with management and security, and a few less than lucky escapades. The stories will probably have more appeal to other gig photographers than to music fans who will be more interested in the photos.
Creatively and technically these photos are no match for the rock photography greats such as Jim Marshall, Baron Wolman, Neal Preston, Danny Clinch and so on, who were given unfettered access. However, as a record of some of the biggest names of the ’80s, it is a unique body of work and is definitely a welcome addition to the library of any music photographer or music fan.
The 250-page book is available directly from www.juliandavidstone.com or from online stores.
Review by Chris Patmore