Last Tuesday night, as the house lights were going down for Sigur Ros' concert at the Lawn at White River State Park, I jokingly leaned over to my wife and said, "Watch out, Indy, your Instagram and Facebook feeds are about to be inundated with artfully filtered Sigur Ros photos." Sure enough, as the band members walked on stage, hundreds of arms shot into the air in what has become a regular ritual at shows - smart phones casting a glow across an audience the same way that Bic lighters used to.
Full disclosure: I lit up my own Instagram feed with a shot of the show.
iPhoneography has sparked a backlash from some bands - The Yeah YeahYeahs urged fans not to watch the concert through a phone and to "Put that [stuff] away." The Rolling Stones followed suit, forbidding smart phone photos at a pop-up performance in LA, and even dark-rockers Savages have banned the practice. It's distracting, some people argue, and it takes away from others' ability to immerse themselves into the concert and have an experience they want.
Photography plays a huge part in our musical experience, creating an extra layer of memory and documenting some of the most evocative moments in rock history. Annie Leibovitz, Anton Corbijn, Jenny Lens and many more photographers have captured the defining images of performers and some of the most thrilling live performances. Today, digital photography and our pocket camera-phone-web browser devices make just about everybody think they can do the same. (And maybe they can.)
But here, in Indianapolis, we have a number of great photographers documenting our local music scene and visiting musical stars, and maybe, just maybe, we can keep our iPhones and Galaxies in our pockets, secure in the knowledge that they're capturing all the moments we'll need to remember great concerts. Or, at the very least, when you're at a show where smart phone photography is verboten, you can check out their work after the show.
With that in mind, here are 5 local photographers worth paying attention to:
Lora Olive - Lora can capture perfect moments across a wide range of musical genres. Any die-hard fan can look at Lora's concert photos of their favorite acts and almost hear the music. From Chris Isaak to Kiss, Lora's work showcases the personality and passion of great musicians. Seriously, when I look at her photos of headlining acts, they make me even want to see bands that I can't stand. She's that good.
Andrew Hutchison - Hutch normally specializes in skateboard and motorcycle photography, but over the last twenty-some years, has been bringing a camera with him to punk, hardcore, metal and rock shows across the Midwest. If you look through his concert shots, you can find pics of a fresh-faced Green Day in 1991 and current SNL star Fred Armisen back when he was a drummer in Chicago's Trenchmouth - both playing in a tiny building in Broad Ripple Park. Hutch also has the only photographic evidence of one of my favorite musical moments from the 1990s - Unwound playing in the basement of my house when I lived in Bloomington.
Mark Sheldon - In a city that loves its Jazz history, nobody has been more important in documenting the last two decades of Indiana and Midwest Jazz and Blues than Mark. He's a nationally recognized Jazz photographer and educator. His A Great Day in Indy project has gathered 100 Indy Jazz musicians together to re-create the famous Great Day in Harlem photo from 1958. The Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University has an exhibition of his work up through October.
Nora Spitznogle - Nora's a great champion of all things local, and she photographs a lot of local shows. Still, the concerts that she's most excited to shoot feature the performers who she idolized in her younger years. So, while you can read her written take on the local music scene in the Broad Ripple Gazette, NUVO and her blog, you're more likely to see national-level performers in her photography. She regularly shoots festivals well beyond Indiana's borders and has a special ability to capture older rockers.
Greg "The Mayor" Andrews - Greg is one of the most enthusiastic music fans that I know, and his joy of seeing live music is captured in his photography. In fact, he captures it so well that one national low-cost fast-fashion chain might just have used a concert photo of his without attribution or pay, after modifying it just a bit. Never fear, the artists featured on the t-shirt, Matt & Kim, used the same image, with attribution, on their own version of the t-shirt, restoring his photographic honor. His photos pick up the raw, gritty details of both seeing and performing concerts. He also shoots models regularly and, fair warning, his beautiful flickr feed is not necessarily safe for work.
Those are my favorites. Who would you add?
Or do you think that we should all just be aggregating our Instagram and Facebook feeds into some giant digital archive?