High Fives 2021 No.6 – Allan’s Shapes and Shadows

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Here’s a few more of Allan’s pictures from 2021. These ones were all shot in conditions that weren’t particularly suitable for gig photography, but we’ll let Allan tell you all about that.

It’s probably my most over-used phrase – “I like a challenge”. It’s code for “How am I going to get a usable image in these conditions?” My answer is usually “shapes and shadows”. All of the images here were shot in venues with similar challenges. In fact, three of them were shot in the same venue, The Crypt at St Martin in the Fields, just off Trafalgar Square at a new series of events, Jazz Lates and Folk Lates promoted by Talentbanq. Along with usual problems of low lighting levels and cabaret seating, The Crypt has another problem; the huge pillars which hold up the church. Sightlines aren’t very good at all and when people are for a view of the stage, it’s not good etiquette for a photographer to block that view. Anyway, on with the show.

James Sayer @ St Martin in the Fields 06/10/21

After grabbing a few average performance shots, I started to look around for something a little bit different and stumbled across an idea while trying get a full band landscape format shot. Looking at the shot on the camera screen, it was suddenly obvious that the subject was the building itself and the band on the stage was just context. The penny had dropped and all I had to do was find the right viewpoint to capture the symmetry and the sense of perspective created by the receding arches. All that was left to crop to a square format to create a nice atmospheric shot.

Iago Banet @ The Old Joinery  04/09/21 Iago’s a good friend and brilliant Galician finger-style guitar player (he’s a great rock player as well), so when he invited me along to his headlining show at The Old Joinery in September this year it was a no-brainer. The performance space is in a cellar (my theme tune this year should be “Going Underground”, which wouldn’t be a bad thing) and has the classic combination of cabaret seating and low-level lighting, which isn’t always in helpful colours. Usual story, grab a few shots where things look about right and start to look around for a new angle to create something a bit different. I’m a big fan of looking away from front and centre for interesting things going on. It worked; on the wall behind the stage, was a shadow that was recognisable as Iago, apparently stealing his beer. An interesting image and one that we still have a laugh about.

Tom Holder @ St Martin in the Fields 17/11/21

Another night in The Crypt and I’m thinking of changing my name to Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett. After the successful launch of the monthly Jazz Lates, Talentbanq launched Folk Lates with the brilliant Dunwells supported by Hollie Rogers and Tom Holder. I’ve photographed Hollie and Tom loads of times and they’re great photographic subjects on stage, but the usual challenges apply. So get a few usable shots and find something a novel. Tom was particularly badly lit at the side of the stage and after a couple of circuits of the room and backstage, the realization hit me. Tom has very distinctive hair and a shot from behind the stage with Tom lit from the front would work. I think it did, and it also highlight the architecture of the building.

Jackson Mathod Pizza Express Dean Street 16/09/21

Pizza Express has a long-standing reputation for live music, particularly at this branch in Soho and I was particularly happy to be invited along by So Live Sessions to shoot an evening featuring jazz trumpeter Jackson Mathod. There are many things that make the venue congenial for music fans; the intimacy, the low lighting and good food. The waiting staff are incredibly efficient. Combine that with the venue’s intimacy and you find that every time you find a square foot to shoot from, you’re dodging 80 mph Margheritas coming from all sides. I like a challenge. Looking around for some context to help create something a bit different, I discovered a mural that had potential. After a bit of shuffling around and high-speed pizza avoidance, I found an angle and this was the result.

The Tom Seals Band @ St Martin in the Fields 03/11/21

Back in The Crypt again and the same challenges as above. The sax player in the Tom Seals Band (and I’m sorry but I didn’t get his name) was standing in the same place as Tom Holder did two weeks later but this time the lighting was a very Miles Davis/John Coltrane kind of blue. It took a while to realise that that the contrast meant that I wouldn’t get the player let perfectly but that I could create a decent moody silhouette from it that would have a jazz feel. It needed a bit of work at the editing stage, but I was pleased with the end result.

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