Graham Smith Interview
We here at Independent Clauses love pictures. Just love ‘em to death. That’s why we get excited when we find photographers that not only excel at shooting musicians, but make it their specialty. That’s why Graham Smith has us hooked- his talent for shooting musicians is only rivaled by his love for music itself. You can check out his work at www.grahamsmithphotography.com.
Independent Clauses: How long have you been shooting bands? What did you start shooting on?
Graham Smith: I have been shooting bands for around 4 years now, but only 2 years taking it very seriously. My first decent camera was a Canon D60 which served me well until countless nights being battered around finally took its toll and it “died” a few months ago.
IC: What do you use to shoot with now?
GS: Mainly with a Canon 350D. Its a very light and compact SLR which suits the way I like to work.
IC: About how many pictures do you shoot per concert to get that one fantastic image?
GS: It really depends on the gig, anywhere between 25-150.
IC: How many shows do you attend a month?
GS: It changes all the time but right now about 20 shows a month and then on the other days I may be documenting a band in a recording studio, practice room or taking portraits on location.
IC: Do you prefer shooting in color or black and white?
GS: I change my mind about this all the time. It depends on who I am shooting and the situation but I do have a fondness for black and white.
IC: Do you like shooting live shows or portrait/press photos better?
GS: I prefer to shoot portraits but in a more documentary style. I like to spend time with the musicians I work with, hang out with them, chat to them or remain in the shadows, all the time snapping pictures. When I take “posed” shots of a band I try to keep it all as relaxed as possible, hopefully this comes across in my images.
IC: Can you explain one of your favorite shots you’ve taken?
Although it may not be the most interesting or dramatic photo I have ever taken, I have always been very fond of the above shot. I was on the road for a few days with Jetplane Landing, who I had also worked with the previous year. This was taken in the car park of a TV studio where they were due to record two songs for a music program. After a particularly energetic gig the previous night Andrew (the lead singer) was a little worried about his voice. He came out to the band van and was playing a very quiet version of one of their songs, basically just to test out his voice. Jamie (bass player) can be seen wandering around in the background. Its just one of those shots that needs the trust of the artist, to be able to sit and calmly strum a song and not be bothered by the camera. I like shots like this, something a bit different, the calm moments that people rarely see.
IC: Are there any bands on your ‘wish list’ to do a photo shoot with?
GS: I really want to shoot Smashing Pumpkins when they start touring again, ideally I would love to document a few weeks on the road with them.
IC: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to beginning photographers?
GS: I only cover music, so I can only give advice to aspiring music photographers – If you are doing this for a love of photography…then you will not get very far. In my opinion a love/obsession for music must come first, a wish to be around musicians, a wish to want to document this.Forget photography books and courses – read music books, listen to your favorite albums, go to gigs, hang out with musicians, love what you do.
IC: When can we expect your book? What info is finished about it? Tell us about that. GS: For various reasons the book has been delayed twice but it will definitely be coming out in late 2006 with a small exhibition to accompany it. I am planning to do a new book approximately every 2 years. Because of the expensive paper used these will not make any money but I really want to have something solid to document my progress. The books will simple be called “Book One”, “Book Two”, etc. I will be mixing up some of my more known shots of large bands with photos of some smaller unsigned acts.
IC: What is in the future for you and your work?
GS: To be honest I am not even certain what I am doing this week! I have learned that you have to be very flexible in this “job”. Over the next year I hope to spend a lot more time on the road with bands. I never want to be the sort of photographer who goes to the same 3 or 4 venues over and over again to just take a few live shots of whichever band is passing through.
IC: Do you have any predictions for the future (personal, musical, fashion, politics, life in general)?
GS: I try not to think about the future too much. I am more of a nostalgic and reflective person (maybe that is why I do what I do). Obviously I have my own basic plans and goals, but I try not to put too much into detail into it, I think this is dangerous. Whatever will be, will be!
IC: What are some of your favorite bands?
GS: I listen to a lot of music, but right now some of my favourite bands/artists would be: Cathy Davey, Editors, Fighting With Wire, Ben Folds, System Of A Down, The Beat Poets, Tegan and Sara, Mojo Fury, Oppenheimer, Smashing Pumpkins, Presidents Of The USA etc.
IC: What are you listening to now?
GS: Right this minute I am listening to the Best Of Matthew Sweet at a very loud volume, window wide open (beautiful sunny day here), drinking a cup of coffee and being very thankful I am not stuck in some soulless office!