World Photo Day is but a day away. Now, I could have strung together a thousand or so words about our society’s ever-expanding lust to have a day set aside for every single fucking demographic, pop culture icon, and hobby. But instead, I thought it’d be best to, you know, talk about actual photography. As such I got in touch with five Australian photographers who are doing some great things in the photography scene; James Kilian, Andrew Bromley, Bethany Mafrici, Owen Jones, & Thomas Savage.
So in no particular order, let’s dive in.
Andrew Bromley – Andrew Bromley Photography
Up first is Melbourne photographer Andrew Bromley, who is a predominant user of Canon & Sigma products. For Bromley, who also snapped that Parkway Drive shot used above, this art form is something that just comes naturally to him.
“I wanted to do photography because I saw so many photographers from around the world shooting incredible artists and shooting these insane moments. I wanted to give it a go since I didn’t feel like anything I tried was working for me, but photography came naturally”, admits Bromley. “Mainly, it’s been music photography, but I do try to do more types of photography, like landscapes, portraits & I sometimes help out the Star Wars 501st Legion with photos when they raise money for charity.”
Right on! Now, sometimes you go to shows, both small local shows or bigger gigs for international bands, and you sometimes see countless photographers. Often more than there typically should be. This oversaturation is a big discussion piece of this feature, and Bromley offers up his two cents on the topic.
“At times, I’ve noticed it becoming quite crowded. I shot a local show recently with nine other photographers. It’s great that so many are giving it a go, but it absolutely is getting quite saturated. I find it fun to get shots others might not get & create my own unique style. As a short 5’3 guy I can shoot right in the crowd & real low. I’ve shot on barriers, friends shoulders, & almost literally in the face of a musician to get a specific shot.”
Well, hey anything to make that get great shot work, right?
The recent tours that Bromley was a part of were The Girls Being Girls Tour, with The Beautiful Monument & Liberties, as well as the recent national run of Incentives, alongside Taree’s Diamond Construct and Adelaide’s Coves. Speaking to me before those two tours went down, he tells me why he enjoys heavier music styles and about his excitement to be a part of stints.
“I really enjoy heavy bands, there’s a lot more energy and with Incentives & their crowds, I’m expecting a lot of movement with these bigger venues. My camera is always with me so there will be plenty of candid moments to capture. I will be filming quite a lot too, and have a few things planned with the guys in regards to video content.”
Well he made good on that last part by capturing some candid on-tour shenanigans, in the form of a My Chemical Romance sing-along performed by all three bands while in Newcastle.
“A few weeks back on the Dusk EP Tour, we had a show in Newcastle & after that show, the venue turned into an electro/gay bar with karaoke all night, so the tour package decided to give it a fair crack….while very intoxicated & singing an MCR classic.”
It’s absolutely beautiful, I assure you.
And while he is on tour, no matter the size or scope, there’s always that sense of adventure. But alongside his drive to travel the globe via his profession, Bromley has also learnt what he thinks is not only the most crucial thing as a photographer but also as a human being.
“The most important thing to learn is how to take criticism, no matter how nice or how harsh it is. It’ll make you a better person learning from any feedback you get, good or bad, it’ll help!”
Damn straight, Now, we’ve all seen the hilarious memes on social media about people who buy a fancy phone or tablet and think that they’re instantly the next Kane fucking Hibberd. While Bromley hasn’t had any clients choose another’s…basic phone photos over his own (which you know, were shot with an actual fucking camera), he says he’s seen fellow photographers use the, shall we say, inferior products at shows.
“You know, I have seen people do that in photo pits in which they use an iPhone or even an iPad, which is always a sight to see!”
God help us all.
James Kilian – James Kilian Photo
Finders drummer and Perth photographer, James Kilian, like many, got into this profession for simply wanting to try and capture that single grand moment in time.
But if a close mate of his had never of lent him a camera, his passion may have never materialised.
“A friend lent me his DSLR for a few months, and when I started out I definitely didn’t think about the vibe or the composition, because I was so caught up in just shooting the moment. After shooting handfuls of shows I decided to buy a second-hand Canon off Gumtree and start shooting more often and it just progressed from there; secured a club-night opportunity (shout out to Amps), quit making coffees, and just tried to take on as much photography-related work as possible.”
One can’t but help appreciate the hustle there. The Perth shooter, who I must say has one very solid CV, states what he thinks is most important thing to adapt with and focus on when starting out as a photographer. Take note, people.
“[It’s] definitely building relationships with your clients. There can be a tonne of repeat work, and holding a good relationship with a band means you’ll (hopefully) be hired again. Regardless of local, national or international bands, making an impression with a good work ethic and images means you’ll be harder to forget in the future. Sometimes all it takes is one gig…”
Exactly right! That was the case for Australian photographer Sammy Roenfeldt with his terrific shots of Paramore a couple years back. All it can take is just one gig and just that one shot to “make it”. But that can be hard when bands do not credit you or your work.
See in the past, bands like The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Hundredth, among others, have landed themselves in hot water for not crediting or for not even paying photographers for the use of their photos. In Kilian’s experience, he has had that happen, but never in a very extreme case and overall, he has a very composed view on it.
“I’ve definitely had artists post my photos without crediting, of course, but for most of those events, I was fortunate enough to shoot just for myself. A tag would be nice, but I don’t hold anything against the artist as they don’t owe me anything.”
He continues, “I don’t think I’ve ever been drastically undermined by a client before. There’s the odd occasion where I’ve had a miscommunication, in terms of the work provided, but the best way I’ve found to deal with a situation like that is to simply chat it out with the client until you’re both happy. Sometimes you have to suck it up and shoot an extra thing here or there to keep a relationship with an artist, but that’s life.”
Compromise can sometimes be necessary, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a business one, sometimes you have to let the other party have some leeway to keep things on the rails.
Finally, Kilian says that when it comes to photography, much like honesty in music and all art, it’s the people that really want it and stick with it who are the ones that’ll go far, NOT the ones who are there for superficial reasons.
“There’s a difference between photographers giving it a real try and the people who use photography as a means to get a door spot/closer to a band/etc. I’d say that the people who want to shoot to create and take it seriously are obviously the people who keep at it, and those are the photographers that should be shooting at shows.”
Bethany Mafrici – Bethany Mafrici Photography
Melbourne photographer, Bethany Mafrici, started out on account of her love for concert photography, as well as a lover of all things motorcycle.
Mafrici who also does a lot of good work for fellow Australian music publication, HEAVY Music Magazine & Website, ran me through her “rig”, and it’s a whole lot of Nikon products. For as she herself puts it, “I’m a bit of a Nikon fangirl”.
“These days I use a Nikon D750, paired with a 24-70mm 2.8 as my workhorse, whilst still using the D810 and other assortments of Nikon lenses so my tastes haven’t really evolved.”
Ain’t nothing wrong with a Nikon, though!
Now, some clients are easy to deal with when they don’t properly credit you. A simple email clears things up and it’s all hunky dory. But other times, things can just drag on for weeks just for you to ensure you’re actually paid for your work. What a crazy, out-there concept, right? Sadly, Mafrici has experienced this first hand.
“A photo of mine was posted from a magazine onto a Facebook page. I’m a pretty relaxed person so I was quite chill about it, I just emailed the manager and I was credited along with the magazine it was shot for, which I was fine with. Until it got used for a rather large commercial reason. After that, it was a three-month long email battle to gain payment for the image! Eventually, I got paid and all is well now.”
While that story ended with her actually being paid, when dealing with the right (or rather, the wrong) client, sometimes you never see the money for your time and work. Which is shitty, but it’s how some businesses and some clients work – simply trying to outlast you so you give up and they never have to pay. It happens in other areas of the music industry and it’s a sad fucking reality if you ask me. (Seriously, get your shit together people!)
Now, while I’d be happy to have spoken with countless other photographers, I chose these five individuals because of their talent and skill (which hopefully you also notice through their respective photos). Becuase let’s face it, there’s a metric fuck tonne of photographers across Australia, all within the realm of alternative & metal music. In fact, almost, too many. For Mafrici, this is actually why she’s moved away from shooting concerts.
“There’s also a lot of photo beef around these days”, she says. “As a side note, I went to a show a few weeks ago just to see a band and there were more people taking photos than actual punters. I know everyone has to start somewhere, but that’s crazy!”
That is crazy, and I think a lot of people can attest to that. Especially when it comes to the smaller local shows, where there were almost ten photographers among crowds of 80-100 punters. Of course, when out shooting, sometimes things can go badly. From having you and your gear covered in beer to having “enthusiastic” punters use you as a literal stepping stool to get up on the stage (usually with dire results). But ambitious audience members and being drenched in copious amounts of alcohol aside, sometimes, you can get more than you bargained for.
“I feel like the cake topper was actually an accident. I wanted a particular photo of a vocalist, I was standing almost centre stage at the barrier, all ready to take the photo – everything was lined up, I take the photo. Then I look at the photo. It looked good but then I saw something and zoomed in… And well, little did I know he had a rip in his pants and he wasn’t wearing any underwear. It’s safe to say that was not the photo I was after!”
No, probably not! Unintentional dick pics aside, Mafrici ends with what she thinks it really means to be a professional in this industry.
“There are many ‘iPhone’ photographers these days, which is cool because everyone has to start somewhere, but, it doesn’t suddenly make them a professional. To be a professional, you must be paid for your work. I see a lot of people calling themselves a ‘professional photographers’ these days. I believe that anyone can become a professional or real photographer if they take the time to learn and put in the hard yards”.
Owen Jones – Digital Beard Photography
Also residing in Melbourne, Victoria is Owen Jones AKA Digital Beard Photography, who does a lot of work in the local music scene as well as the Melbourne wrestling community.
Starting out by running a music reviews website, Jones first picked up a camera because he was approached by a few mates who asked him to shoot one of their gigs.
Of course, he said ‘Yeah, why not!?’
“They supplied a camera, I took some pretty good shots. The next day I bought a camera and Melbourne’s Okayest Photographer was born”, states the bearded photographer.
Like most photographers, there’s more than just one hobby or interest that gets put in front of the lens. Other hobbies that Jones loves to capture aside from music and wrestling, are portraits & even go-karting (this is starting to sound like a dating website, isn’t it?)
But with so many interests to capture, there’s plenty of chances to snag that handful of shots that give you an immense feeling of pride; that make you remember why you’re doing this in the first place.
“There’s definitely some photos I’ve taken that I look at and go “This is why I still take photos”. Especially when I’ve shot bands like Being As An Ocean or Vices or a really intimate gig. That’s the best part of my job; I capture memories for myself, but also for the hundreds of kids at each show.”
Of course, in order to get those photos, it can just be a matter of timing and simply being in the right place, at the right time. But other times, it is simply a matter of creating those opportunities for yourself.
“Live shoots are where you can see me do some crazy things. I’ve climbed speaker stacks, drum fold-backs, and balanced my camera on audience members’ heads, with permission of course! You just gotta do what you gotta do for that one shot!”
Amen! Jones also told me one really handy tip for all of the newcomers out there, and that is to bring your own internet with you when shooting. It may sound simple, but it can really help you out.
“I actually take my own internet to shows, just so I can do live uploads from gigs on my own social medias, and that also helps my clients out too.”
Also on the topic of newcomers, Jones tells me of his welcoming perspective towards the local scene and the ever growing population of photographers it has to offer.
“I will definitely not complain about the amount of kids picking up a camera and taking photos of their favourite local bands. It’s always great to see new faces chasing their dreams! But more photographers means more bodies at the front, but you just learn to deal with it. Melbourne shows are usually packed so it just means that a few kids have cameras in their hands.”
Much like with live gigs, being on hand to shoot a wrestling match can be just as high-octane and thrilling. Just as a band plays a song through once per set, a wrestler may only attempt their signature move once per match. That means there can be next to no room for error, and the Melbourne photographer tells me he’s had those “backfire” moments.
“More recently I have [had it backfire], since moving into the pro-wrestling scene. I’ve had many photos of high-flying moves or important moments where the shot has been out of focus or I’ve just missed the shot. That does hurt because you’re not only letting yourself down but also the people hiring you. You just gotta make up for it in the next big spot!”
Of course, it’s how you handle your failures and how you subsequently learn from your them that really counts, photography or otherwise. Now by this point, you’ve scrolled past one of Jones‘ personal favourite photos already, with the second being to your right. I asked him about these two photos in particular and he was happy to elaborate on them.
“The first is of Dan Lambton of Real Friends. This was the first interstate show I shot so it’s very sentimental. The second is of WWE legend Diamond Dallas Page performing his signature “Diamond Cutter” move. This was a one-off appearance he did that day, so if the shot wasn’t in focus, I’d never have another chance for the rest of my life!”
Goddamn, that sounds stressful! I mean, I defeated The Abyss Watchers in Dark Souls 3 on my first ever attempt, so I imagine I know how Jones felt in that exact moment. Well, kinda.
Thomas Savage – Savage Photo/Film
Now, if Thomas Savage’s rather kickass name rings any bells, that’s because he produces a lot of work for a whole host of bands, especially one of his big returning clients, Thy Art Is Murder. As far as TAIM is concerned, he’s edited the band’s recent video for ‘They Will Know Another‘, was the assistant cameraman on the ‘Light Bearer‘ film clip, and filmed and edited their music video for ‘The Purest Strain Of Hate‘. It doesn’t stop there, as he also worked on the artwork for their last album, ‘Holy War‘.
Obviously, he didn’t start out in that position with existing clients, and Savage tells me how he began, which also explains the title of his business.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had an interest in films and while I did begin to pursue video, I began with shooting stills first. I have a deep adoration for silhouettes from Scorsese’s films and love implementing them into my live photography work. I bought my first camera in 2011 and started shooting because I felt that life has so many moments passing by, it’s impossible for your brain to recall them all.”
Now, what Savage says there really sums up why we as a society ensure we have photos of so many specific times in our lives; birthdays, weddings, seeing your favourite band live, & of course, your funeral (though, that last one isn’t really for you, is it?) But regardless of what he’s capturing in a single instance, the ideology of it remains the same for him.
“With a single image, you can create a story for yourself & others that’ll last forever. What inspired me most to pursue it, was the ability to document your life in whatever creative way you deem appropriate.”
Now, much like an audio engineer not hitting record in the studio as the band smashes out one of their best ever performances, or like yours truly forgetting to hit record right before an interview (which I have only ever done once might I add), sometimes Savage is also let down by those small personal oversights.
“There has been several times where I’ve gone to shoot something, only to forget that I left my battery in the charger! I’ve recently had some lovely moments flying my drone in an attempt to photograph some sunsets in Brisbane, only to realise I’ve not got the memory card inside and missed the golden moment. This will be my undoing.”
Well, let’s hope not!
With having so much touring experience and work internationally, there must be a lot of unconventional photo shoots over the years, surely? In actuality, it’s not as crazy as some may initially think.
“I’d say the most unconventional photograph I’ve taken would be the artwork for Thy Art Is Murder’s Holy War album. It was actually my first time shooting in a studio environment, which caused enough nerves, and also my first time shooting a record’s artwork. The band & I worked on the visual theme for the front cover a few weeks prior to shooting, and the final image ended up with a hooded boy with bombs strapped to his chest.”
Of course, die-hard and casual fans of the Sydney outfit should all know how that one went down. Prior to its release last year, a handful of outlets would not sell or stock the album in stores due to its “controversial” artwork, which as stated above, featured a child in a bloodied garb with a suicide bomb vest strapped to their body. However, when I asked about his thoughts on having his own work censored, Savage wasn’t phased at all, as he still got to work with the band once more for the second album cover. Can’t really complain there, can ya?
Now, we’ve spoken a lot about the rising trend and popularity of photography in this feature, especially within the music scene. But Savage sees the biggest issue as not the numbers of people coming through, but rather where these hordes of new photographers place their time and efforts.
“A lot of people seem to have the mindset that touring in the local scene is the biggest achievement for a photographer, rather than focusing on improving their craft. While I’ve met some lovely creatives around, it seems that the majority of the time, people are incredibly competitive and sometimes disrespectful, especially in the music scene.”
There are, of course, a few bad apples (read: dickheads) in any industry and line of work, but what’s important is how you deal with them and how you carry yourself with your thick skin intact. And of course, being the kind of person that attracts like-minded individuals. Savage more or less agrees with me, saying that it’s the art that should come first and foremost.
“I try and keep an open mind about other people in the same field, as most of the time, I just want to talk about cameras & movies for hours. I can’t honestly say I have too many camera friends, but the ones I do know, I respect & look up to greatly. But there are a lot of people that don’t wish to collaborate or to be friends because they see you as a threat. While this is a business, I’ve always felt that the artistic side is of the most importance and nothing is more joyous than creating with friends, no matter the outlet.”
Spot on, mate. And with that, we reach the end of this feature. Congratulations to everyone who made it this far, this was piece was long as almighty fuck.
So to cap us off, I’ve decided to now cast off my editor/writer shackles and throw my hat into the photography ring by presenting you all with a photo of my cat wearing my Endless Heights beanie (which totally wasn’t taken via the sacrilegious format of a mobile phone). Also, do I get any bonus points for him being a cute motherfucker?