Sunday, 17 May 2015

Don't you point that thing at me #7 : Sam Frank Wood

Catch that moment... sometimes under exacting circumstances

St Vincent at Birmingham Institute  
There's a pic on facebook about how crazy musicians are to put their five grand instruments into a car worth maybe five hundred, and drive a hundred miles for a fifty quid gig. They're not alone - decent cameras don't come cheap, and yet we often see two or three snappers at gigs, all with seriously costly kit, looking to capture something worthwhile - which they might not even get paid for. At least I can bash this stuff out on a three hundred quid laptop, or do my radio stuff on kit which hardly cost me anything. But musos and snappers? Mostly, they fork out a lot. But they clearly love it all, the same way all the people in a local scene do.

About six months ago, I was happily settled at Ort Cafe for a Cadbury Sisters and Katherine Priddy session. Sam Frank Wood was busy shooting away, in cramped conditions - the place is a tight squeeze, with even fifty people in it. At the Ort, you kind of get to know people fast; intimacy does that. I've been following Sam's work since then. He works across a wide range of acts, and clearly loves it all. But then, I don't know a snapper who doesn't.

How much do you shoot in one session?
It really depends! Some bands catch me slightly off guard, they may come out guns a-blazing, and before you realise it you are in action mode. However as of late, I probably shoot around the 400-600 mark in a 3 band listed night . For want of capturing that facial expression, I'd rather fire a few more shots out there to capture it. After all the technology allows it, and your composition is as 'set' as it can get. You kick yourself when you get home if you know you missed it.
BobLog III : Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath         
"I love the angle of this shot, how the balloons seem huge and their shiny string attached to it doesn't catch all the light on the way down. I think he gives off a spaceman vibe in this, just taking off. This was at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. Getting to see Bob Log III around the corner from where I live was pretty awesome."

Are you an 'invisible' snapper?
I doubt I'm invisible! But I do like to pretend I'm subtle. I prefer the gently gently approach - this can take you out of the crowd equation and most likely the musicians minds. I have been told by a fair few bands, though, that they didn't know I was shooting, so that's half a win at least.
How do you feel about giving away rights to your material? Do bands expect this? Is this a going worry, or do you shoot for the love and hope that maybe something may come out of it all?
I'd like to think you get credited every time, but everyone knows that doesn't happen. However, the major establishments I have shot for/with seem to credit you properly. In music scenes I don't think its a major issue. I've always had the approach that everyone's sort of in the same boat, you help them with exposure - they help you with exposure. Why, after shooting, would you want to keep all the edits locked away digitally? Definitely throw them out. 
 Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, Sunflower Lounge.        
"This was their ep release show; I'm a big fan of how this image splits in two but with Andy and Dave going AWOL to the one side. It's just got a good vibe, and that box Pete's stood on looks sketchy as hell."

Tom and Matt at This is Tmrw let me shoot all their shows. I worked with Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam when I first moved here, and I have some promos coming up with Mutes and Hoopla Blue, so I can't complain. It's more about just having a good attitude to it all. I moved to Birmingham 18 months ago; I knew a handful of people and bands from the city, and through it I now know and work with more people, probably all from pictures.
How do you feel about only being allowed to shoot for the first few songs of a set?
Never really bothered me. But it would be really cool to get 3 mid way with a sweat on, or even the last 2. I heard the other day this is a thing because of Bruce Springsteen?
It’s a crowded field. Do you get on with your fellow snappers? Is there an etiquette? 
There are a lot of photographers but you do see the same few at certain shows, probably like me at This is Tmrw really. Everyone on the Birmingham scene seems great. I think everyone's there for the same deal, and what's not to like really about that? I'm always excited to see other peoples approaches afterwards too.
Andy Oliveri
 Do you have an long-term relationships with bands - or promoters? Is that a help or a hindrance?
It's more long term relationships than contracts with most bands. I pretty much shoot all of Andy Oliveri's photographic promo, for example. Even if other bands use somebody else, after you've shot them, it's not a problem. And why wouldn't you want to see someone else's approach to the same brief?
What about big contracts? Do they exist? 
There are venue orientated things in terms of contracts but as a whole I'm not so sure on that. Had a friend get herself a sweet gig at the Docklands 02 a year or so back, that looked amazing. I had a term or two with Mobo, doing their awards and website shoots/interviews but mostly its all freelance!
Charlotte Carpenter : The Yard Bird, Birmingham.       
"I think I'd missed Charlotte play loads, but I finally got my chance in the last months of the Yardbird. I asked her for a portrait, did that, had a chat. We talked about doing a video or something, and when I asked where, she said Ringstead (my home village). Turns out she recorded in a building there around the corner from me that looked like an old chapel, I walked by it for years never fully knowing it is a beautiful studio. I brought a few friends to help shoot a performance in it a few months after this shot."

Favourite shots and subjects? 
Loads! The ones I always like shooting SFL, that sunflower lounge shot has to be one of my faves of them, still think I can get a better one. Off the top of my head, live, its Oliveri, SFL, Boat to Row, Hoopla Blue, Bob Log III, anything in Scruffy Murphys...
What kit do you use? 
I grew up shooting on a Minolta 7000, and that died recently so film wise at shows I use a Minolta x300 and 3200 film. Digital, its my nikon d7000, mainly a 35mm lens but also an 18mm - and I just bought myself a 50mm - which I can't wait to use at a show. 50mm has always been a 35mm film thing for me!
Electric Swing Circus, Birmingham Botanical Gardens       
"This was a great setup for a gig, everyone was just jiving on the green of the the gardens. I think this shot has a lazy feel to it, nothing seems serious especially the dancing. And I don't think Laura on stage could look cooler for this shot too."

Does the day job overlap? 
I got a staff photographer job only 8 months ago, the past 9/10 years have been a freelance bar job world. I didn't hate it but I'm finally happy to have a job where I shoot and get the chance to be creative everyday now. Sometimes knowing you may have to edit when you go home too, that's long... worth it, but long.
Tell me about your very worst shoot?. Name-naming is optional 
Worst is difficult to think of...maybe at an amazing festival that had a bit of a downpour year 3 years ago. The line ups were awesome but the rain had turned the photo pit into a bog. Genuinely picking up people that slipped over and wading through photographing in the mud was... a memorable experience. 

Sam Frank Wood website

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