28.10.2015

The Photographers Gallery

Our fave festival photographers share the stories behind their pics

Getting a press pass to a music festival is like being beamed up to another world. There’s rubbing shoulders with your heroes backstage, having well-oiled revelers line up to gurn for your camera, and then, once you’re in the photo pit, it’s like a war zone with drunken teenagers lobbing their empty beer cans at you. But a festival is so much more than simply shooting the band during their first three songs. We spoke to a handful of our favourite festival photographers and asked them to dish the dirt on one of their party pics. 

Where was this photo taken?

This photo was taken on a Sunday in December of 2014 at the Psych Night Temple. On a day when some rest and repent, others praise the dark lord of rock 'n roll and watch the Night Beats and chug beer. 

Tell us the story behind your image. 

I had eaten a casual amount of mushrooms and all that wavy hair was really giving off some good vibes. 

What’s your favourite festival?

Ag, you know, hey, there are a bunch of slick events and big and bright festivals, but I would say it is a combination of the Psych Night gigs in the Cape and the Park Acoustic events in Pretoria. I truly appreciate the sincerity and passion the individuals behind these projects have for what they are doing. And their productions are still smooth operations. 

Which band/act would you most like to tour with?

I think LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads would've been amazing acts to tour with, but neither are performing. Arcade Fire will also be exciting, for both sonic and visual reasons. But in my heart, I would just want to follow Deerhunter around because they're my best.

What tip do you have for taking better party photos?

What is this, we-are-awesome circa 2008? No one takes 'party photos' anymore, let alone refers to them as 'party photos'. But if I really HAD to give advice on better 'party photos' I would say you should use a disposable camera and just zonk that thing around and make sure the flash is on so it looks all paparazzi and shit and then when it looks like you're having the best time other people will grab 'party photos' of you and if you're lucky that photo will be photo of the week cos lank people viewed it because you have a span of connekies online and then you share the fact that your photo was 'Party Photo No. 1' and your status as c-grade small town hero making it in the big city gets puffed up cos you're an enigma but you party like a f**king mal naaier.  

Where was this photo taken?

I shot this with an incredible hangover in my bedroom the morning after Allah Las played The Assembly earlier this year.

Tell us the story behind your image. 

Ever since I first started going to shows I used to steal the set lists of bands straight from under their feet while they were playing. It started to get a bit easier to get closer to setlists when I had a camera around my neck. I toured with Allah Las and Vans when they did their South African tour with Psych Night and I got to know the guys, told them about my collection, and at the end of the night they all signed Miles' setlist and gave it to me. 

What’s your favourite festival? 

South Africa's festival circuit is pretty damn epic... From Splashy 10 years ago to Oppi to Daisies they all have there own hook. I would have to say that I have had my best musical experiences at Oppikoppi, and some of the best times with friends at Splashy Fen. But really there are so many and I have done so many that things start to blur into one big outdoor mess!

Which band/act would you most like to tour with? 

I could easily go back 10 years and get on the "up in smoke" tour bus. But then if I was going back in time I would love to have run Jimi Hendrix's Instagram account! 

What tip do you have for taking better party photos?

Get close, then get closer. Timing is everything. Out here no one stops for a second. 

Where was this photo taken?

This photo was taken at Vortex Phoenix Festival of Fire. It was actually the first trance party I have ever been to. I’m not really into trance music but was keen to take my camera and see what all the hype was about. It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed the décor and energy of the people attending, however, I think I was the only soul not on something.

Tell us the story behind your image?

Not much to tell, I bumped into Chloe on the edge of the dance floor as I was heading back to my car and snapped this photo. I liked her faux jacket.

What’s your favourite festival?

I love all of them. I always try to get to as many as I can, just packing up my gear and a bag of clothes and heading out for a weekend of dirt and dancing. Special mention must be made to Ramfest, Oppikoppi , Synergy and Rocking the Daisies. 

Which band/act would you most like to tour with?

Internationally - The Foals! I got to see them at Ramfest two years ago. One of my favorite live acts I have had the pleasure to see.

Locally – PHFat. Who doesn’t love them! Also Mike and Narch are highly entertaining together. Al Bairre is a close second.   

What tip do you have for taking better party photos?

Try to engage with everyone and everything happening around you, have your finger on the trigger and look out for things happening. Try to capture people off guard. Most people are open to having their picture taken. Don’t be scared to point your camera at anyone. If you're looking at taking better photos try investing in a Speedlight and some nice lenses, look for fixed lenses with low apertures. It’s also a good idea to buy a wide-angle lens.

Where was this photo taken? 

Rocking The Daisies 2014. 

Tell us the story behind your image. 

I think this was the second day of the festival and I was in the Electro Dome and probably not sober when I saw my friends, Joseph and Mavuso. I forced them to leave the dancefloor to take this, or maybe they forced me - either way they looked great together so I'm not complaining. 

What’s your favourite festival? 

Rocking the Daisies because it's pretty much the only festival I go to every year, and because I've been for the past five years and it's never really let me down.  

Which band/act would you most like to tour with? 

Kanye West, so I can become besties with Kim. 

What tip do you have for taking better party photos? 

Take the photo a second before the person is completely ready for it. I hate photos that are too thought out so if you do it before they're ready it almost looks natural.

Where was this photo taken? 

This image was taken at my spiritual home and the top destination for 'Brown Lung' The infamous Oppikoppi. 

Tell us the story behind your image. 

I think this was taken in 2012. I was shooting for Red Bull with the incredible Tyrone Bradley and I had this plan to shoot a properly lit portrait of each act like I had been doing for Mahala in years before​. The Oppi anti-productivity forcefield put a stop to my grand schemes on the first day but I managed to get Eve Rakow from The Frown up that deathtrap of a hill and lit her with a speedlight in some or other form of large modifier. This shot happened while I was testing the light, but I liked this moment more than the posed ones. It represents that weird festival fatigue you get at sunset, right before you drink a bottle of tequila and shit yourself.

What’s your favourite festival? 

Oppikoppi every time. Maybe I love it so much because I've been so many times that I know a lot of people and get to reminisce about past deviance while making filthy new memories, but I do think there's something special about that place. Thorns at every critical height. Worst roads ever. A big koppie with loose rocks. Enough dust to cough up mud for months. European festivals are just too safe. I like a bit of danger in my celebrations.

Which band/act would you most like to tour with?

​It could never happen and to be honest the photographs might not be very exciting, but Tool, just so I could watch every show they play. I saw them in 2006 with my third eye properly squeaky and it blasted any religious experience I ever had up to that point back to hell. ​Also I'm fairly sure Maynard would f**king hate me.  

What tip do you have for taking better party photos? 

I like to be at least 78% as intoxicated as the people I have to photograph. There's nothing worse than dealing with drunk people when you're sober. Other than that try new things: get some sort of concept involved. At festivals I use the first day of shooting as information as to where I want to go with a series of portraits. I like to find one word or emotion and find people or situations which mirror that. Obviously if you're shooting for a client you're going to be limited to what they want but if you've got creative freedom find a narrative/do something new/f**k it up. Then drink a bottle of tequila and shit yourself. 

Where was this photo taken? 

Oppikoppi 2015.

Tell us the story behind your image. 

After having been on a road trip with Kevin Goss-Ross earlier this year shooting portraits of South Africans, I decided that for my annual Red Bull photo story I would continue with the portrait theme. Everyone knows the real stories and creatures reside out in Mordor so thats where we (myself and Jono Jebus who kindly put his camera down to assist me with lighting) headed. This viking was the last portrait we shot on the Friday. He and his Mrs were getting ready for the evening and were most accommodating. He said they would be conceiving at this event as Marlow sung Babies Breath whilst making eye contact with him the whole time.

What’s your favourite festival? 

Afrika Burn is my favourite of festival. It's a place egos go to die. Being surrounded by such inspiring/witty/thought provoking concepts executed so thoroughly, and all designed to enhance one's experience of participation, is a full experience for me.

Which band/act would you most like to tour with?

I'm going to say Lady Gaga. Not for the music, obviously, but of the rest of the package. If they were still around I'd say Gwar though. 

What tip do you have for taking better party photos? 

If you're going to shoot the party you have to be on the party.