Sunday, 21 September 2014

Don't you point that thing at me, pal #5: Wayne Fox

“At the end of a performance, there's probably ten or fifteen seconds, the golden time – that's the best time for a photographer to get their shot in.”

Photo by Bianca Barrett  
A posse of snappers? A clutch of smudges? 

Moseley Folk, Friday afternoon. Wayne Fox comes barrelling down the hill, loaded down with kit, firing off shots of me and Richard Shakespeare having a natter. Between the three of us, there must have been close on a five figure sum's worth of Canon camera goodness. Me, I was packing a three year old Ixus - probably worth 40 quid tops. I know my place.

We have a rich crop of snapper talent in the region. Wayne's been shooting with the best of them for some years now. Running though the costs music snappers have to fork out, and the competition they face, I'm amazed. 

This post isn't about music; it's about musicians and the people who take an interest in them, visually and personally. Snappers deploy different skills, but the challenges and the risks are the same. 
Wayne Fox: I didn't really start intentionally. I was indirectly connected with the music industry, and I'd shot a few sessions, round about 2007 I think. People kept saying nice things, so I made the decision to step up a level. I decided to save up over a year, to see if I could afford a (decent) camera. 
Decent kit is, still, hellishly expensive. You knew exactly what camera, what model...? 
I went for Canon. My father had a range of brands – some of those weird eastern European makes. They smelled great!
I had a Halina...
Yes, that's the general area! But I went for Canon. Lots of buttons! But really, it was about being around music. And a lot of local promoters, like Carlo Solazzo, were very helpful in letting me get started. 
  Free School, 2012

What about your first shoot?
The first one that I felt I had enough skills, that I was pleased with, was the LaRoux gig at the Rainbow warehouse. She was on a crest of a wave at the time. It was quite dark, and I think I went home with about 400 photographs. Loved every minute of it. And obviously I've adjusted the shots since then. 
LaRoux - Wayne's most-copied from Flickr

That's a bit like collecting too much interview audio. You've got to think how much edit time you're letting yourself in for.
I've cut down a lot. Each shot takes me a lot of time, when I get it home and look at it with image editing software.
That's digital for you. And a world away from what Pogus Caesar does with his old-school film cameras. Festivals generally have a very relaxed vibe; lots of room for you guys. Surely it;s not always that way?
No. Etiquette is almost unspoken, though. You don't throw yourself about if you're in the pit; somebody will have word with you if you do. I try and keep as low as I can, in the pit, and that gives me a certain style. Others stand bolt upright. There are things you just learn. Sometimes, people are kind enough to tell you. And in very crowded situations, you don't obstruct the paying customers if at all possible. 

Violet at the Flapper, 2011

Wayne explains: 

This poor guy in Violet had an accident on-stage at The Flapper and Firkin, when his guitarist smashed his guitar neck into the guys face. Ouch!

What do you try to capture? Emotions? A startling composition?
When I started, because I wasn't producing for any form of editorial, it was definitely, definitely from the artistic point of view. I'd make sure there was space, just to make you wonder when you looked at the photograph. Now, I'm filling the frame a bit more. But I like to put the artist in a sea of nothingness. Those are the ones that get talked about. 
First sale?
Ninety percent of the things I've sold have been to parents of the acts! The very first one was to a very nice lady who wanted a photo of her son playing the guitar. She'd bought the guitar – a beautiful blue guitar, it came out very nicely, perfectly lit and exposed, I was lucky – she didn't really care that her son was in the photograph. She really cared about the guitar!
Toy Hearts, 2011  

You do something because you love it, and you're really passionate about it. It's the same as with musicians. Then at some point the possibility of making some money arises. How do you transition to that?
It's difficult. I don't really get involved with sales. It's a time-honoured thing: anybody who's creative struggles with seeing that there's something you can monetise. And it's a reflection of your soul, at the end of the day. You don't rally want to charge for it, but – you have to, you have to. I didn't mean to spend so much money on equipment, but I have. I'd love to give away everything that I've done, but it's not going to be possible.
Crystal Castles, 2011   

The web has produced an economy where people are expected to give everything away for free.
I contribute a lot to a site called Gig Junkies. They used to be very West Midlands-oriented, now they're National. Have done for years. And that's for free. 
But following the music analogy, does the exposure that you get lead to commissions and other paid work?
I guess it does. A lot of people get in touch with me and name-check Gig Junkies.
Is it easy to name a price?
No! Not at all. Trying to strike the balance is really tricky. 
The web puts a downward price pressure on so many freelances and creative people; there's no regulation and there's always someone who'll work cheaper. 
At least I have a massive back catalogue of material now! But yes, in the photography community, you do notice people wandering into gigs, gigs with a very restrictive policy, that there a people with iPhones in the pit. It doesn't really bother me, but if a professional has been excluded – or one of his mates – and there's someone with an iPhone in the pit, it can get awkward. 
Tip and tricks?
At the end of a performance, there's probably ten or fifteen seconds, the golden time – that's the best time for a photographer to get their shot in. Often, they've given of themselves, they're spent. Sometimes they're quite vulnerable, and surprised by the response they get. And that's difficult for me; I love being where I am. It's quite a privilege. I've probably put my camera down, and I'm applauding too!
Boat to Row   
Favourite bands?
I like local bands, who I know: Boat To Row (shown at left), Goodnight Lenin...
Yes. Young, photogenic, very good looking, and talented. I hate them all. But good looking - or interesting looking - must really help from the snapper's point of view.
It does. I really like Free School and Victories at Sea – lovely looking guys, and they generate an amazing sound. I took in their first gig, and they sounded good then. But supporting the Editors – it was like someone had flicked a hundred switches. 

Wayne's flickr stream
Wayne Fox Photography
Gig Junkies

See more posts on photography on Radio To Go


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