After my day job on Monday night I hopped the first bus back to West Broadway, quickly grabbed my camera gear, and hopped another bus to Chinatown. I was feeling electric because White Lung, a killer punk band from Vancouver was playing at Negative Space, an equally cool art studio that doubles as a jam space and hub for resistant culture.
I first heard about from a couple friends living in Vancouver. This past summer I picked up a copy of Sorry on vinyl, it was one of those albums where the cover caught my eye and then I remembered the good things I had heard about them. I wasn't disappointed when I put the needle down on the grooves, nor was I disappointed after Monday's show.
I got off the bus at Main and James and wandered towards Princess. Chinatown is a lonely post-apocalyptic scene on a Monday night, even by Winnipeg standards. But as I approached the unobtrusive building that houses Negative Space I could hear the telltale signs of an underground punk rock show. It's about as grungy as you expect from an underground art space full of twenty and thirty somethings drunk, on drugs, or just having a good time. There's no security, no asshole bouncers, and as long as you aren't being a dick no one seems to give a shit.
As someone who grew up going to basement shows, listening to punk rock and hardcore music, venues like Negative Space are everything I'm looking for. However as a photographer hoping to make some cool images I was less impressed that the entire jam space was being lit by a pair of 60w lamps located BEHIND the band. I usually start by assessing the lighting, where my subject is, look at where to position myself and how to frame up some shots, and then fire off some test frames to get a sense of what ISO/aperture/shutter speed I can use, but when I looked at corner of the room where bands had set up my first reaction was "Fuck."
Given that I was at a punk show I figured it would be ok to crank up the ISO. My 5D Mark II can handle it pretty well, and who gives a shit if there's grain, all those black and white photos of 80's hardcore bands that I love are all grainy as hell and low key. So I accepted my situations (and the fact that I didn't pack my flash), dialled up the ISO to 3200, set the slowest shutter speed I could get away with while still being able to freeze the majority of the action, and tried to avoid pointing the lens directly into the lamps.
Salt Lick, Breath Grenades, and Systematic started the evening off. Unlike most shows I go to, there was actually a decent sized crowd in attendance for the openers. White Lung capped off the evening with a short but energetic set, with songs from Sorry and their self-title album. Although I enjoyed the opening bands White Lung really stole the show. Mish Way, singer and front woman for the 4 piece has an incredibly commanding presence. Her golden hair was in luminous contrast the sea of black clothing and the high contrast lighting. I decided to take advantage of this by trying to shoot silhouettes, framing the lamps behind Mish's head in effort to get a sort of halo effect.
Although I would have liked the lighting conditions to be better I enjoyed the challenge. I discovered ways of working with terrible lighting, and tested the limitations of pushing exposures. Next time I might go early and ask to set up a few more of my own lights.
The evening got me excited to shoot more music. Hopefully people enjoy my music photography as much as I do, because it's such a blast to shoot.
If you want to check out more photos of White Lung you can see them on flickr.
If your band is playing, or you're promoting a show and want photos please shoot me an email, I'd love to work with you.