live music

Alexander Wolfe – Zigfrid Von Underbelly – 16th December 2014

Photographing with mild concussion is an interesting state to be in.

I collided heads with a Year 8 student prior to going and photographing Alex, I now have a lump the size of an egg on my forehead, and it hurts a LOT.

BUT … I wanted to see Alex play, it’s been a while.

I know Alex through Officer Kicks (yup – that band has enriched my life quite a lot!) and I’m glad I do.  His music is beautiful, plaintive and induces goose-bumps and tears at the drop of a hat in this over-emotional photographer.

Before the gig we did an interview for an ex-student of mine. She’s creating a documentary for college about the music industry and we plumped ourselves on a dimly lit staircase and chatted for a while.  Hopefully we got something useful for her!

Anyway – here’s some photos I took on Tuesday evening with a bump on my noggin.  The rest, of course, can be found on my site here.

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PLEASE go and listen to his music – you won’t be disappointed!

http://www.alexanderwolfe.co.uk/

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“It’s not easy to ask … asking makes you vulnerable.” – Amanda Palmer

Asking was something I learned to do very early on when I started photographing.  For someone who is actually fairly unsure of themselves and very self-concious this was an extremely difficult thing to do.  It still is – whether I’m asking on a professional or personal level – asking basically makes you naked in front of the recipient.  You are waiting for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and must be prepared for both.

With regards to my photography I’m finding it easier to ask … after all my livelihood doesn’t depend upon it.  I don’t pay my bills with my photography, I simply enjoy myself and hopefully connect with new people.  Probably because I’m fairly confident in my abilities as a photographer, I have lots and lots to learn still, but I know I am a fairly decent photographer.

On the personal level it’s much harder; it always will be.   I spent so much time asking my ex for the truth, for honesty, for transparency but if I was faced with silence or lies, it made asking the next time much harder.  Since I spent so much time before that relationship hiding my true self I made a promise:  I would ask.  Whatever the answer I would always ask. Sometimes it makes me come across as pushy or ‘forward’ but … as my students say … ‘YOLO Miss!’.

‘Will you …?’

‘Would you …?’

‘Can I …?’

‘Could you …?’

‘Why …?’

‘How …?’

Sometimes I just wish people understood how hard it is for someone like me to ask. I live my life second-guessing every nuance of speech and text, which is a hard habit to break. I’m learning to but without that communication between those involved, how could I do anything but?

I’ve been having long conversations with a friend about this.  He’s in an open marriage, something I find difficult to understand, but their relationship fascinates me.  He said that without ‘asking’ they would never be happy.  By asking permission from his partner, and vice-versa, they are really bloody happy.  So why don’t more people ask?  Why don’t more people answer honestly?

So why is this blog about asking?

Firstly I’m reading Amanda Palmer’s ‘The Art of Asking’.  Anyone who knows me knows I’ve had an up and down relationship with Amanda Palmer.  I fell in love with her music and her passion 8 years ago … then I fell out of love with her.  But, Amanda, I’m sure you’ll be over-joyed to know this, but I’ve fallen back in love.  Deeply.  The Art of Asking is a beautiful book that, for women like me who lay themselves bare, allows and empowers.  So firstly, this is a ‘thank-you’ to Amanda.

Secondly, I’ve found myself asking, asking, asking people for different things over the past few months.  I’ve demanded time, shoulders to cry on, partners in crime, patience, help and friendship.  I’ve not asked without giving though. I will always give more than I ask for.

Finally, it reminded me of the first time I ever asked to photograph a band.

I’d photographed The Dresden Dolls at The Roundhouse and wanted to see if I could photograph other bands so I went to The Dirty South in Lewisham to photograph a band my students were in.  I turned up with my Minolta 5D, my kit lens and a few quid in my pocket to buy some Dutch courage.

I heard a band sound-checking and liked their energy.

I approached the guitarist at the bar after they’d finished and asked if I could photograph their set.  He was very charming and said ‘of course’; and so I met James Fisher. So that conversation was my downfall.  I was tied (in a good way) to the highs and lows of Officer Kicks for the next 4/5 years.

I found the photos I took that night earlier in the week … I thought I’d share them.  They’re not great, after all this was before I knew about fast lenses and low lights. But I’m still proud of them – after all I would never have gotten them without asking.

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I remember that Dirty South used this on their Myspace (oh those were the days!) for well over a year … the first photo I ever took of Jamie, I was just trying out the light!

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Up the nose shot – natch!

 

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Sharing the mike.
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Number 3 Live Sessions #1

There is a large warehouse in SE8 that has become a hub for the creatives in South-East London.  It’s called Number 3 and it staged its first live sessions on Friday 5th December.

I took some photos that night …

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You can find the full gallery here of James Fisher, Jean-Genie’s Massive Hugs and Rhiannon the Nightmare – South-East London’s finest!

See my previous post: https://pollysshortattentionspan.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/the-zine-chapter-3/ for links to the artists.

I also did a little photoshoot with James Fisher … can’t post yet … but keep your eyes peeled.

Is being drunk conducive to taking good pictures? …

This is indeed a question that, as a gig photographer I ask myself a lot. After all I’ve photographed a lot of gigs and been drunk at many of them. Not fall over, vomit in the corner drunk, but a wee bit tipsy drunk. So why would I do that knowing that I’m there to take photos? Well, partly my chronic shyness. I know (to those that know me) I don’t come across as chronically shy but I do, still, get horrendously nervous photographing. So – is being drunk conducive to taking good photos?

This all stems from a line from the The Rock ‘n’ Roll Diaries, a book by Jamie Scallion, once (still?) the lead singer of Officer Kicks.

This wonderful tome is a “series of novels … (which) … follows the journey and rise to fame of four teenage boys from South London.” for that ever increasing market of young adults!

But there was one line that stood out for me as I spent so many evenings travelling to various parts of London to photograph Jamie and the other Officer Kicks boys:

“Egg wondered if being drunk was conducive to taking good pictures.”

Well – you tell me!  I thought I did an ok job and most of the time I was a few drinks down.  To be honest, I always felt that being a little bit tipsy (not catatonic – I made the mistake of doing that before a Charlatans gig and forever regret it) helped me with my confidence.

So onto my recent outing with my trusty prime lens for another foray into photographing a gig in a lowly lit venue.

I do like Bad Wolf – have you noticed?

They played on Friday at Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green, hidden downstairs.  Unfortunately I can’t tell you too much about the gig because I was a wee bit drunk and can’t remember what they played. But I had fun!

Here’s some of the photos, and here’s a link to my website with them.  Enjoy and let me know, is being drunk conducive to taking good pictures?

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Going through the archives #1

Yes, insomnia strikes again.  This week seems to revolve around 3am starts.

Yesterday on a drive home I was talking to a colleague again about how different my life would had been if I hadn’t have started photographing gigs.

Why not start at the beginning?  The first gig I photographed was The Dresden Dolls at The Roundhouse.  My dear friend Pixie was coming to the UK with them and was staying with me in London.  She got me AAA passes and this is how I did on my first ever nights of photographing bands.  I think I might have been spoiled by the the experience and the lighting!!!! After that it was mostly back to small venues, red lights and pushing my film speed to its highest limits.  But the whole experience was just crazy, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I didn’t know really what the limits of my camera were, but I just gave it a go.  I wish I hadn’t ‘over-edited’ these photographs and hope one day I can find the originals, but it was a massive learning curve (and one which I’m still on).

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I’ve got better ones but I need to do a bit more hunting!

And then I found these (I thought I’d lost them!). Brian used one of my photos on his Myspace and we got chatting.  When he came over to London with Jesse Malin we met up for the first time:

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(I think I was doing the ‘trout-pout’ ironically – at least I hope I was).IMG_0418 IMG_0419

He was sucking my brains out and squishing my face up!

Since then we’ve met up every time he’s been to the UK and indulged in tapas, noodles, oysters and paddling in the sea in Brighton.

And then this one is from the last time when he was over with the Violent Femmes back in June this year.

This time we ate … oh yeah … noodles again!

14423343016_6f971ab0f8_oMy, haven’t we both changed a little bit in those 7 years!

Photographing The Dresden Dolls seriously changed my life.  I became friends with Birdeatsbaby because of it (in a roundabout way via Mister Joe Black) and believe me … my life would have been VERY different without those guys.

I wouldn’t have started photographing gigs, I wouldn’t have met Officer Kicks, Caffy, Tristan, Marrizles, Deptford Army, World/Inferno Friendship Society, Rachael … arghhhhhh how different things would have been if those two nights at the Roundhouse had never happened.

some photos I have taken …

I have 1720 photos to go through from Rome … I’ve only tackled some of the Cimitero Monumentale del Verano photos so far.  I couldn’t wait to photograph the Gilulio Monteverde sculpture on his family tomb there.  It took ages to find but with the help from a chain-smoking, Ray-Ban wearing, turtle-necked, leather jacketed Italian guide we eventually found it.

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It’s going to take me a while to go through the rest of the photographs.  I’ll be posting them here: http://polstarphotography.smugmug.com/

(I really can’t seem to write coherently at the moment)

I photographed a gig recently (well about 3 weeks ago).  My friend, Jamie, was playing at Alleycats in Denmark Street, so I went along to get depressed!  As always, he was excellent:

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You can find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/fissicella and hear him on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/fishstudio

Then we had the splendidly happy Jean-Genie’s Massive Hugs.

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I love this woman – she’s one of the happiest people I have ever met.

They were followed by Nina Baker:

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I’m a sucker for the sound of a woman with a piano … I must check out more of her music.

And then Son of a Lumber Jack who rocked!

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Finally it was Bad Wolf.  I’d chatted to Simon and Matthias before they went on and really liked the guys … I hate it if I meet a band before I hear them play and then don’t like their music.  I’m not very good at covering my real feelings!  My facial expressions are way too expressive.

Now I’m not going to gush, but I really did love them.  I love having band crushes where I just want to listen to their music and enthuse to everyone and their dog how brilliant this band are (WHY hadn’t I heard of them sooner?).  Caffy (from Rocklands), Sam and I all agreed that it was like the old days with Officer Kicks (where we all met).  The lyrics, riffs and just energy spoke to me – especially the lyrics (although I wasn’t really aware of these during the gig, continuous play of their first album has opened my ears!).

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And they’re playing again next week! WHOOP!

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Anyway I really can’t seem to write at the moment (still too early in the morning) so I’ll leave this now.

Go to: http://badwolfband.net/ and download their album (give them some money for it too!).

Love live music.