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LFI.GALLERY PHOTOGRAPHERS

02.12.2022

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Loud, hot, dark and confined: taking pictures in music venues can often be a challenge. The US photographer Peter Herrick takes on the challenge every time he wants to portray his favourite bands, and produces stirring, atmospheric and energetic snapshots. He spoke with us about the tricks he uses when he is out front.

LFI: At what point in your life did you start photography?
Peter Herrick:
When I was 13 years old, I was obsessed with snowboarding. While at a snowboard camp I learned about a photography workshop led by Andy Wright, who was the photographer whose work covered the majority of my walls, and I immediately decided I wanted to start shooting. I spent the rest of my summer on YouTube watching tutorials about photography. After a few weeks, I eventually picked up my mom’s old Minolta while on a day trip to New York City. I shot two rolls of film that day and even managed to reasonably expose many of the frames. Thanks to my online studies, my first day shooting wasn’t a disaster and I ended up with two photos that I really liked. I was hooked from that moment on, and saved up to buy my first DSLR a few months later. Once I had a digital camera I started documenting everything in my life and the rest is history.

As a concert photographer, what are the biggest challenges you face?
The most common challenge is dealing with concert lighting. Some venues are incredibly dark and require ISOs upward of 32,000, while others have dynamic lighting setups where your exposure can change by 2-4 stops every few seconds. The next biggest challenge is probably the physicality of shooting concerts. Many of the angles I'm interested in are from a lower perspective, and so I usually end up crouching for 75% of a show. Beyond that I also have to move quickly to get multiple angles throughout a band’s set.

Do you have a particular approach when shooting live gigs or does it vary from band to band?
My approach can vary quite a bit based on the venue, the band, and the shooting conditions. My favorite type of show to shoot is one in a familiar venue with a band that I'm a real fan of. Knowing a venue well allows me to move about as quickly as I can between strong angles. When I’m photographing a band that I’m familiar with, I'm able to anticipate and plan for shots based on their song selection and performance. Generally speaking though, knowing a band’s music and the culture of their fan base, gives me the best possible reference point for accurately documenting the mood, energy, and experience of the live show.
In the case of photographing a band whose music I've never heard before in a venue I've never been to, I follow a general framework for managing risk: I arrive early and think of a plan to move about the space efficiently to get a range of shots from angles I think may work. For the first few songs I tend to shoot as close as I can to the stage. Bands often open up shows with high energy songs, and so I want to be ready for those moments with a wide angle lens to capture the band and the crowd. During the first few songs I also try to take some tighter shots isolating each of the band members before moving about the venue. At this point I will generally move to the farthest location from the stage and begin working my way closer, song by song, often through the crowd to capture a range of perspectives.

What is your preferred camera equipment in this kind of environment?
Definitely my M10-P and Elmarit-M 28 f/2.8 Asph.. This is the setup that I carry everywhere I go, and 28mm has grown to be the focal length that I prefer to view the world in. That fact, combined with the speed and simplicity of the M system, makes me feel like I'm in full control of my camera. In the darkest of venues, when allowed, I enjoy shooting with a flash tethered to this setup. I do also use my Summicron-M 50 f/2 on my M10-P, but I don’t like swapping lenses often during shows. My dream setup is probably two M11’s with a Summilux-M 28 f/1.4 and a Noctilux-M 75 f/1.25… maybe one day. (Interview: Danilo Rößger)

All images on this page: © Peter Herrick
Equipment: M10-P with Elmarit-M 28 f/2.8 Asph., Summicron-M 50 f/2
© Peter Herrick

Peter Herrick

Peter Herrick is a photographer from Albany, New York. He has been taking photos since he was a child, and has always found himself documenting the things he enjoys most in life. He likes to photograph all sorts of sports, live music, friends, family, and strangers. He draws a lot of inspiration from street photographers, and he enjoys the meditative nature of walking and documenting daily life in contrast to shooting hectic concerts or sporting events. When he’s not shooting, he’s usually making music, rock climbing, playing hockey, or working his full time job in the power industry.

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