Charity, Celebrity and Not Mentioning Angelina Jolie

The bass player from the band “Us” takes to the skies…

A lot of photography work is about seeing opportunities and taking them – whether that’s an opportunity for making money, for making contacts or just for doing something that’s worthwhile. A couple of years back, I was taking photos for a couple of bands, and was invited to take photos of one of them at an event called Busking Cancer. Sadly, the band was unable to make it to the gig, but I’d gone anyway, and took a load of photos, and went into networking overdrive mode, giving out loads of business cards, and making a whole load of new acquaintances. Arguably, this was a major point in my live music coverage, for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, it was my first experience at shooting outdoors. At the time, I was using a Nikon D70 with a 24mm-120mm zoom. Due to some seriously bright light, I chose to close up the aperture quite a bit (f/11), and tried to use the flash to even out the light on the performers. As the day got darker, I opened up a bit to let more light in, and was shooting as open as the zoom would allow (which is to say, not very). To be honest, I’m not altogether sure this was the best use of my equipment, but I got some cool photos, in spite of this. I’ve seen some better shots from the event. But at the end of the day, the settings youused are the ones you used – or to put it another way, there’s no point in crying over spilt milk – especially if you enjoyed drinking it. Nowadays, I’d probably try something like f2.8 or f4 with an ND filter on if I wanted to use the flash for fill in. It’d be something to try – or I could just swap the ND filter and the flash for some incredibly harsh mid-day shadows. Or perhaps for a glamourous assistant and a reflector?

Secondly, while it wasn’t the first time I’d covered a showcase gig, it was the first time I’d made the decision to photograph everyone performing. In fact, at the previous showcases I’d covered, I’d been there only to take photos of particular acts, and the promoter, G-d rest her soul, had been very particular about photography. At Busking Cancer, having already introduced myself to the organiser, I decided from the start that I would introduce myself to every act after they’d done their soundcheck. Not only did this give me a chance to swap business cards, I regarded it as a courtesy. It’s something I still like to do, though it’s not always possible.

It’s also something that takes alot of getting used to, especially when it’s something you don’t usually do. Shyness? A fear of rejection? I don’t know. But essentially, to overcome those barriers, you have to believe that you are there to do a “job” and that you have every right to be there. If someone doesn’t want their photo taken, it’s cool. But most performers do. And when you do find yourself in the position of taking photos regularly, and realise that people are generally fine about it, your self confidence grows. So it’s something I’d recommend for any photographers looking to overcome shyness. Hey, bet you didn’t think you’d be getting amateur psychology lessons when you started reading this blog, did you?

There’s something about covering these sorts of events that gives you a real feel-good buzz, especially when you’re able to give something at the same time (in my case, I sent JPGs of all the photos, gratefully received). I’m not saying I would never accept payment for shooting a charity event – it would depend on the charity, the circumstances, who approached who, but in this – and a few other situations – I’ve been happy to do my bit to help out.

Dane Bowers, performing live at a Live Gems showcase, 2011

Out of this event, aside from that warm glow, I made quite a few contacts. Some of these led to some very strange conversations around various conspiracy theories, and opened my eyes to a level of paranoia and negativity that continues to astound me. But on a more useful note, I met a music promoter, Gem Allen, who ran showcases in London at a variety of nightclubs (Chinawhite, McQueens, the Pigalle Club for example). A few months after the Busking Cancer event, I began covering her showcases, which expanded my network, led to meeting a close friend, Melody Boytoy, and also enabled me to add some more celeb photos to my portfolio (ok, still no Hollywood A-listers, but hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere) such as Dane Bowers.

Not that I’m particularly fussed about “celebrity”. I’m not one of those people that get all excited about having my photo taken with one. I’m pleased about taking photos of celebs if they’re doing something, and yes, I do rather like the fact that I’ve taken photos of people that other people have heard of. Does it really mean much in the scheme of things? Not really. Other than the fact that some people might read this blog because it mentions people like Mr Bowers, Mo George and Katie Green. Now since I mentioned Angelina Jolie too, perhaps that might get more attention. Except I won’t, because I haven’t photographed her. Oh, too late, I already have, haven’t I?

So moving from people who are famous, and people who are obsessed with fame, back to people who are trying to raise money for good causes, and whose interest in publicity is more about anything that will help them raise said money for those causes in which they passionately believe, let’s mention a few of the other charity events I’ve covered.

Not a strip show. Well not that kind of strip, anyway.
The organiser of the event, Simon Wilkinso.

Actually, there’s a couple that spring to mind, one of which was a pub gig in aid of Help For Heroes at the Cock Tavern in Ongar, which involved some fun and frolics with musical entertainment being provided by some friends of mine, Sharron Shaw and Ian Leigh Foreman, and other, less musical entertainment being provided by a chap having his chest hair removed. Ouch. All in a good cause, though. Again, I provided my photos free of charge. Whatever you think about whether we should or shouldn’t be in Iraq or Afghanistan, or indeed anywhere else, I’ve got alot of respect for anyone who has the courage to place themselves in harm’s way, and I’m proud to have been involved in this gig.

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