High Fives 2020 (07) – Allan’s Photos (1)

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We like to have a visual element to our High Fives, and we like to feature the work of as many gig photographers as we can, not just our own resident snapper. We’re hoping to feature some guest photographers later this month but, in the meantime, we’ll start with five from Allan because he’s got five ready to go. Here’s what he has to say about this year:

There was a time earlier this year when I wondered if I’d have enough pictures for this feature. This was supposed to be a great year for gigs and January, February and the first half of March was living up to the promise; loads of gigs around London, a weekend mini-festival in Fife and my first shoot at the legendary Fairfield Halls in Croydon. A week after the Croydon gig, we were in lockdown. I was lucky enough to squeeze in a few gigs between lockdowns but let’s just say I won’t be doing a calendar this year. I normally shoot a lot of portrait-style shots with one person in the frame, but for various reasons, including avoiding brother/sister fallouts, I’ve shot a few group shots this year. Here’s a few of them:

The Velveteen Orkestra

I photographed Dan Shears at a John Lennon 79th birthday gig at The Hard Rock Café in 2019 and following on from that, we arranged to do some shoots at upcoming gigs in 2020 with a variety of Velveteen Orkestra line-ups. The second shoot I went along to was an early evening gig at Jamm in Brixton with Dan and violinist Sarah Boughton. I got lots of good solo shots of Dan, but having Sarah out of focus in the background gave some depth to this shot.

Amy LaVere & Will Sexton

What could be better than dashing around between venues in Hackney for two nights at the end of January. This was the annual Americana Music Association UK showcase 2020; it needed careful planning, stamina and shoeleather, but there were good shots to be had if you were fast and lucky. Amy LaVere and her husband Will Sexton were individually photogenic, but I was keen to get both of them in the frame. Amy draws the attention by staring straight at the camera, as Will plays the supporting role. If you want to know why this was a black and white shot, it was down to some flat and not very colourful lighting.

Belle Roscoe on a barge

I love shooting Belle Roscoe. They’re a brilliant band and, like the Velveteen Orkestra, they play in a variety of configurations from a duo format to full rock band. Whatever the format, they’re great to listen to and always interesting to shoot. Coming out of lockdown, I shot them at The Bedford in Balham and a few days later they announced a series of guerrilla outdoor gigs on a barge on a Saturday afternoon starting at Hackney Wick. After mistaking the River Lee for the canal and getting totally lost (and horribly late), I finally found the location for the first gig just as the band moored the barge to set up for the gig. As always, the band rocked and there were a lot of interesting shots there for the taking. I think the shot captures the strange setting, the cold and windy weather and the rock star quality of Julia and Matty Gurry.

Dean Owens, Hannah-Rose Platt and Rab Noakes

This was a couple of weeks before lockdown. I had train tickets booked months in advance and fingers firmly crossed that the UK wouldn’t grind to a halt before the event. It was a weekend at The Woodside in Aberdour curated by the fabulous Scottish singer-songwriter Dean Owens celebrating Johnny Cash’s roots in The Kingdom of Fife. The weekend featured a wide variety of artists including Fay Fife and my favourite crime novelist, Ian Rankin.

My favourite session of the weekend was a songwriters’ circle on the Saturday evening featuring Dean, Hannah-Rose Platt and Scottish folk legend Rab Noakes. They complemented each other perfectly and I was positive that there was a good shot coming at the end of the set, so I got myself into position and waited.

Georgia and the Vintage Youth

Just before the first lockdown again, this was a bit closer to home, at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney. The gig was an EP launch and Georgia had the full band for this one. I have to say now that this is probably my favourite shot of the year. It was almost at the end of the set and I’d packed away the zoom and just kept the 35mm lens ready for any close-ups that might happen. It got interesting when Georgia sat down on the stage, got more interesting when guitarist Charlie Manning got in on the act, and absolutely perfect when Georgia flicked the ‘V’. It’s not technically perfect, but I love the Sid and Nancy/Kurt and Courtney feel of it.