Live stuff

I haven't done any live gig photography for a while. So when my mate Buddy asked me to help him out documenting a showcase gig for the Bath Studio School BTEC end of year show, I was happy to oblige!

Not knowing anything about any of the bands beforehand, I was definitely jumping into the dark. I've only used my Olympus for gig photos once before whilst I was still learning its quirks. But this one was going to be a bit more full on - the gig was in Bath's Moles club which tends to be a bit dark (not that I'd have it any other way). And I didn't have time to experiment during several songs for a band as some were only on stage for five minutes. So I was chopping and changing lenses like a loon. But I'm always up for a bit of pressure!

I used four lenses throughout the night:
Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6
Sigma 19mm f2.8
Panasonic 40-200mm f4-5.6
Olympus 50mm f1.8

Because of the dim light, I was manual focussing most of the time. And it was really keeping me on my toes! My Oly 50mm (an old manual lens from an OM10) was a godsend in those conditions. But I loved seeing how far I could push all my kit. I had to whack the ISO up a bit which made things a bit grainy; but I quite like that. It gives it a bit of a 90s indie feel.

It was a fun night; I learnt a lot in the space of a couple of hours about how my camera works with different lenses whilst trying to capture a lot of movement in low light.

And it was also great to see kids of a variety of ages getting up on a stage and playing decent live music. I just hope I've made images to do justice to the effort they were putting in!

Thanks to Bath's Music Workshop for asking me along.


So, an odd thing happened yesterday as I was out shooting. And this hasn't happened to me before, although I have heard about others experiencing it.

For the first time, someone I took a photo of was confrontational towards me.

Now, I know that not everyone wants their photo taken when they're out and about.  I've never had anyone say that they'd rather I didn't take their photo; and to be honest, if someone did have a major issue then I'd happily delete it. (Well, I say 'happily' - if it was the shot of the year then I'd be reluctant!)

The guy yelled at me in no uncertain terms that he wasn't happy, and demanded to know why I took his photo. And even warned that "I know your face", although I'd hazard a guess that he probably wouldn't notice me next time I pass him.

I didn't interact and just kept walking. Safe in the knowledge that I was quite a way up some steps for him to catch me up.

However, one thing did occur to me afterwards. And that is one of how I choose my ethics.

I have seen this guy around before and he's usually murmuring to himself in a slightly drunken way. Now, I personally draw a line at taking photos of certain things: homeless people sleeping rough in doorways is one. It's a cheap shot, it's not making any statement, and I think it's actually quite offensive for me to be shoving a camera that costs several hundred quid into a starving person's face without their say so. I'm also not comfortable with taking shots of someone who is noticeably mentally ill - once again, it's not big or clever.

But what of this guy? Is he just a bit of a slurry drunk? Or maybe he has a mental illness that I don't know about? And further to that, what of any other quirky, eccentric characters I might take a photo of on the streets? I don't personally know these people, so how do I know?

I think my approach needs to be the same as it has always been. To take the shot and then worry about it later. If I'm looking at it after the moment has taken place and I decide that actually, maybe the shot is a bit patronising to someone... then I need to let it go. There is a slight humour in much of my photography, but there should be a line drawn at poking fun.

Sergio Larrain

Sergio Larrain is a photographer who I've only discovered relatively recently.

He was born in Chile in 1931 and came to Europe in the 1950s at which point he was spotted by Henri Cartier-Bresson who invited him to become a Magnum photographer. He was only really active professionally for about 10 years before giving it all up.

© Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos

© Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos

It has been said about his work that there is a great poetry within, which I'd agree with. But there is also something very unique which I'm drawn to, even though I'm still not quite sure what it is.

© Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos

© Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos


I find there is a sense of stillness in a lot of his work.

Whereas a lot of 'street' photography ( a term I always use loosely) tends to capture a faster, busier pace within an urban setting, Larrain's work seems to capture the calmer corners of life. It feels like he's actually stopped to take in his surroundings.

It's almost like watching a film in slow motion.

© Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos

© Sergio Larrain / Magnum Photos