A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a four-part series. The first installment is here.
In the world of concert photography, no one is more neglected than the drummer.
Music websites and magazines are chockablock with epic images of guitar-faces and frontmen flipping the bird, but you rarely see drummers outside of Modern Drumming.
There are at least two reasons for this, and the first is practical: It’s really, really hard to see drummers from the edge of the stage — that beer-soaked (and sometimes farty) realm where photographers lurk. There are innumerable obstacles between the photographer and drummer, including monitors, mic stands, cords, guitarists’ legs and, well, drums.
The second reason is more sinister. This is conjecture, of course, but it’s possible that most photographers dismiss drummers as uninteresting. Drummers just sit in one place, after all. They don’t jump around, point at the audience or drop to their knees. They just park on a stool for 30 minutes or so, right?
In reality, drummers offer nonstop action. More importantly, they’re indispensable.
A band can have the best songwriter, singer or guitarist on the planet but, in the heavy world, it won’t make a shit-bit of difference unless you have a fantastic drummer to back it all up. In our experience, the drummer is the one element that separates good bands from truly great bands.
From a photographic perspective, the relative stillness of drummers is a good thing. Concert photographers are usually working in low light, so we need to open our apertures all the way. That means the depth of field narrows to mere inches or less. This is a tricky proposition for capturing sharp images of singers and guitarists. For example, if a guitarist takes the slightest step forward, they’re suddenly way out of focus. If they’re rocking back and forth, the chance of us capturing a sharp image is nearly zero. With drummers, on the other hand, we can set the focus once, then rattle off a few dozen sharp images with relative ease and pick the one that’s most compelling or shows the drumsticks at the height of action.
For this reason, some of our best work has been capturing drummers. In fact, it’s yet another reason we decided to do four “best of” lists: A single list would have been disproportionately focused on these beat makers and dragon slayers.
If you’d like to see other examples of our work, here’s a Best of 2014 collection culled from The Forecaster and elsewhere.