I’ve not posted in what seems to me like years but perhaps to you seems a delightful age of peace and quiet. Well, rejoice no longer!
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It’s been my observation that photographers are an extremely varied bunch and that it’s difficult for any potential customer to know exactly what they’re getting when they look at partnering up with an artist. Most people who go in search of photography services seem to think of the standard school pictures photographer who tells you to tilt your head in such and such a way and smile just -so- and only takes a picture once you’re positioned just how they want you. I am not that sort of photographer. In fact I might be more properly called a hunter than a photographer if that’s your standard of service.
As example I give you the shot to the right. This photo of Stoop Kids in their Square Cat Vinyl show last November represents my hunter philosophy when it comes to shooting. The entire show and their interaction with each other is summed up very neatly in this one photograph. They are one of the most dynamic bands I’ve seen on stage and I was giddy to capture their souls. Lead singer and bass player practically nose to nose while the saxophonist peaks out under the mic stand.
Philosophically, I truly believe that posed photography represents more of the photographer than of the subject. When I shoot I want to capture the reality of what’s going on in a spontaneous and creative way. Not cast my own thoughts and opinions on what should be onto the situation. Your photos should be about you and who you are, not some aesthetic that some photographer prearranges for you.
Next we have Breezy Peyton of Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band from the HiFi in March of this year. For this show we were packed in like sardines and couldn’t move without getting in the way of a lot of other people so we dutifully stood our ground just to the left of center stage for the whole show. When I’m shooting, my absolute #1 priority is to make sure I’m not disturbing anyone else at the show or distracting from the entertainment. If you’re lucky enough to get into a show then you’re a guest and you should act like one. I refuse to use flash or supplemental lighting of any kind because frankly, flashes are annoying as hell. If I can’t get a shot without getting in someone’s way then I don’t get the shot. Simple as that.
I’m also not a fan of fancy post-processing. There are some amazing tools out there that will let you make your photos look like just about anything. But that is, frankly, a fraud. The world is more than nice enough just as it is without a lot of augmentation. Get the shot that’s there and if the light’s blue then bloody well make the picture blue. It’s the photographer’s job to capture the moment, not create it out of whole cloth.
The last point I’ll make is about capturing pivotal moments. As example I give you this shot from last year’s Parkour demonstrations at the State Fair. I love the expression of the guy who’s not literally walking up a wall. This whole show was filled with amazing moments and you almost couldn’t click your shutter fast enough. For me, this is the essence of “hunter photography”. Grabbing that perfect moment out of the air at exactly the right time and bottling it up for all to see is, in my mind, the whole point.
So that hopefully gives you a bit of a sense of my own personal philosophy on photography. If you’d like to see more of my work please visit my site at RobSlaven.com or on Facebook (IndyLivePhotography | Rob Slaven Photography).
Contact me for photo ops in the Indianapolis and surrounding areas at IndyLivePhoto@gmail.com or in the comments section.
The Tow Yard represents to me the point at which… well, the cascade of knowing people began. I was introduced to this event because of a connection that I will refer to as “Jon”. I know Jon because I met him on my very first foray into the Indianapolis music scene. He and his fiancee Hollie were at the first open mic that I went to in Irvington and, because Jon is one of those people who just automatically endears himself to people, connected with me. He is, as I’ve said, the nexus of Indianapolis music. At any rate, to summarize, Jon introduced me to Steve…
Steve does a very impassioned open mic at Tow Yard brewing each Thursday. He inherited it from someone else and frankly… well, frankly I’m disappointed in the city at how poorly it is supported. Why in the heck aren’t we supporting local artists just getting out and doing their thing? It’s an abomination. There’s so much of it on Thursday alone that I can’t possibly cover it all and yet we’re all sitting at home watching TV. Grrrr. I mean come ON! How much more sincerity do you want?
He’s laughing outside… but inside… he’s crying because you don’t support the local arts. Just saying.
So believe it or not, it’s not just a bunch of white dudes. We have some level of diversity. This particular not-white-dude was hilarious. Why didn’t you come out to see him?
As a photographer, I … well, honestly… I don’t hear much. You could be screeching at the top of your lungs about … well, anything, and I would’t give two shits. But visually…. well, this duo rocked it.
OK, so moving on from that particular amazingness… there is more amazingness.
Remind me again why you aren’t going out and hitting the Indy scene and supporting all the awesome this that’s going on….?
So seriously…. why are you sitting at home watching NetFlix? I’ll admit that I spent a LOT of time not understanding what Indy has to offer but now… now you can’t possibly be in any doubt about what an amazingly rich and diverse universe awaits you. I expect to see YOU out and about the next time I hit the streets. And just to be clear, the next time I hit the streets will be tomorrow. So get out there or be forever branded lame and unhip. Indy is where it’s at… but where are you?
Morty’s is a local comedy icon in Indy that, to me, reeks of legitimacy. They’ve been around for what seems like forever and they are pretty well established. Because of this I was over the moon when they answered my random Facebook message about photography. I’m still in that timid stage in which I feel my photos are good… better than the average dude with a cell phone… but not all that great. So it’s hard for me to feel like I should actually get a response to my inquiries.
Here’s our opener. Nice enough dude seemingly.
This dude was the epitome of comedic poses and expression.
This young woman played her part well…
This gentleman was exceptionally hilarious. Despite his obvious physical shortcomings he had a lot to say about the culture as a whole.
And so many more followed…
The thing I regret is that I had not nearly the guts to approach each of these people to at least hand out my card. As I heard from the owner later, many of them would love a good headshot for publicity. Sadly I couldn’t quite bring myself to approach any of them at the time. At least in part it was because of uncertainty about the lighting situation. (They had quite a bit of trouble getting the spot to work). Next time I’ll charge up to the front and greet the lot…. maybe…. if I don’t totally chicken out.
As of late I’ve tried to make my way into more and more new venues to get a sense for what’s going on every day of the week. As it turns out, on a Tuesday, things are pretty quiet but there was at least an open mic night at Liberty Street on Mass Ave. That said, it was a REALLY low key event. Just one guy who worked at the bar:
… and one gentleman that I’ve shot a few times before…
I have to say that shooting one-on-one this way was pretty awkward. My subject was very tolerant of my attempts to shoot at odd and interesting angles but I can’t imagine he was any more comfortable than I was.
The awkwardness and the very poor lighting made this night one of those in which I look back and say to myself that at least I got out and shot SOMETHING. Definitely not my most inspired work but it all counts towards my 10,000 hours towards competence in this realm. The locale did have some nice random baubles, however.
The painfully low light doesn’t do photographers any favors, however.
Today was the occasion of the 2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival. This was a totally free event and people wandered in and out throughout the afternoon. I was lucky enough to be invited by the mastermind, who shall be referred to as “JJ” throughout this post to protect his anonymity…. though in retrospect I don’t know how much anonymity he actually wants.
The festival was held at the Irving Theatre on the near east side of Indianapolis. My attention was first drawn to the Irving because of the monthly screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since that time I’ve realized that they are the epicenter of an incredibly diverse cultural community that includes music, poetry and movie screenings. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to Austin, Texas in the Indy area. It’s obvious that they really work at this stuff.
Alright, to the photos!!!! In no particular order….
Gordon Bonham made an appearance. This was one of the few acts that I realized I had heard of before. He gives you a whole new perspective on the concept of don’t judge someone by their appearance. He looks pretty minimal but he can totally rock the house all by himself.
Since the last time I wrote, I have come to know that this gentleman as the right Reverend Charlie F. Edmonds. I stand by my word that this guy is profoundly awesome. His deep, resonating voice commands immediate respect. I’d listen to him read the phone book.
This is…. well, sad to say that I didn’t apparently quite catch their names. They were voted one of the top Blues bands in the city. Have I mentioned how terrible I am with names? Images I remember forever but names escape me. Typical photographer.
OK, so this photo…. well, it’s the Martinez family and all that needs to be said is that it embodies everything that I care to capture in the world. For the record I am a photographer and I have been paid for photos in the past but frankly I give no shits about photos beyond wonderful stuff like this. This is the real reason to take pictures. The interaction that was not captured between audience and performer was amazing….
So the dude with the guitar in the background is our mysterious JJ. I always love his expressions of support. I hope that his partner knows just how much he obviously adores her work. It’s written all over his face.
So these two…. They’re in the middle of everything and they’re one of the very few people who have requested that I take their photo. I feel rather bad that their photo has a bus in the background. One of the primary directives of good photography is to “clear the background” and in my haste to take their picture I totally did NOT clear the anything. I’ve approached them about a real photo shoot which is something I could never have done a year ago. Kinda excited. Can’t deny.
So that’s more or less the evening. I do, however, want to take a moment to talk about an issue that is near and dear to my heart and it is addressed to my fellow photographers.
You are there to OBSERVE. You are NOT there to PARTICIPATE. If there is a photo that you can’t get unless you use your flash or stand in the way of other people… go away. Do not take the photo. Let the moment evaporate into the ether of the universe.
Today at this event there were half a dozen photographers. Some of them were really good. I saw them but I don’t think anyone else did. They were like wind over the hillsides. I kinda want to meet them and buy them a beer and get to know them. Others were loud and made themselves known and spoke loudly so that everyone couldn’t help but see them. I kinda don’t care about them.
Here’s the deal. If you’re a photographer then your job is to go in there and document and to make as little impact as possible. If you’re shooting with a flash in a dark room then you’ve failed. If you walk in front of another person then you’ve failed. My philosophy is to make as little impact as possible and to you who were flashing all over the place….. well, you did the wrong thing. Sit down, figure out how to work your camera in low light and decide how you can “lay low”. You’re here to capture the world, not contaminate it.
As I look back on the photos of 2016 I realize that I’ve picked up a theme. In previous years I’ve chased a lot of birds around and taken thousands of photos of buildings but this year my work reflects the very real fact that there are other humans in the universe. And, if you were to judge the human race based on my small sample just about every single one of us has a stringed instrument at hand at all times. On one hand this shift can be attributed to a new-found appreciation for humans but more probably I’ve just learned to be slightly less afraid of them.
No survey of the the music of Central Indiana would be worth its salt if we didn’t start with this gentlemen. He’s been hanging about Lafayette playing on street corners for as long as anyone (maybe even he) can remember. When you think of local musical icons, this person defines the term.
When the spring came, so came music to Eagle Creek. This gentleman is a member of the Blackberry Jam Folk Band. They play a fairly relaxed variety of music from cowboy to Cajun. They’ve been playing around the area for 20 years. Full coverage on Facebook.
Graciously Departed is a Grateful Dead tribute band out of Lafayette. I had the pleasure of catching them three times this year in various venues. They do their tribute great justice. At this point in the year I was still struggling with how to handle the low-light conditions in after-dark concert venues. Full coverage on Facebook.
Mosey Down Main Street is a monthly festival in Lafayette that occurs during the summer months. They boast a huge variety of local and regional bands who, as demonstrated in the photo below of a band that I didn’t recall the name of, have great passion for their art. Full albums over on my more or less abandoned Lafayette Photography Facebook Page.
What remains of Kansas followed Ms. Decker; despite the fact that what remains of Kansas is basically just the name Kansas, Laura and I both walked away from that of the opinion that it was the best $10 concert we’d ever been to. Full Album, but even at 146 frames it doesn’t do the band justice.
An Innocent Band is a Billy Joel tribute band out of Fishers. At 350 frames this was obviously a concert I REALLY got into. They played at the Nickel Plate Amphitheater in Fishers and if you’re a photographer this is a location you want to check out. Great lighting, great bands, easy access and a pretty decent piece of pizza. Exceptional locale. I will also note that this is the first gig I ever shot that actually turned into a paying gig. After seeing the photos on Facebook the band absolutely INSISTED on paying me for the photos despite my repeated statement that I wasn’t in it for the money. Maybe they’re a little bit crazy.
New Augusta Bluegrass Band is, as you might guess, a local bluegrass band. I always tell people, quite repeatedly and quite emphatically that I’ll be happy to take pictures for them but New Augusta is the first group to actually invite me out to shoot them. Full Album.
Ah yes, now we move on to Creed Bratton. Creed is that dude, you know, the one from The Office… named Creed Bratton? We saw him in concert twice; the first time in Irvington (more on that place later) and the second time again in Lafayette. I emailed his publicist about a ‘photo comp’ ticket and managed to get two for the Lafayette show (first time THAT’s ever happened; may never again) so I took myself forthwith with camera in hand. The Lafayette theater is a converted movie theater so if you’ve got the moxy you can creep your way up the sides and down into “the pit” in front of the stage. I could have reached up to untie the guys shoes if I’d wanted too. Full Album here but this was a cool night. And if you’ve ever wondered if the show changes much from one stop to the next? Nope. At least not in this case. Just about verbatim. But good nonetheless.
OK, so moving along chronologically, we come, of course, to Irvington. I won’t belabor this too much as I did JUST write another post about this place but suffice to say I like it. I’ve wandered into… let’s see… one… two… three… four… five… (all links to the full albums) musical events of some sort there in the span of a couple weeks. I expect at some point the locals just MIGHT start getting a bit creeped out.
This gentleman is worth some mention. He was the opening act for The Icarus Account and seems to be the front man for a local band. This night he was playing on his own for a very select crowd. They knew his songs and could ask for them by name and they bantered back and forth for about 30 minutes or so. The point of all this though is just how relaxed it was. He was doing his thing, the crowd was asking for songs and it was just as casual as it could be. In my little version of the world getting on stage is a tough thing to do but he felt supported enough by those around him that it just wasn’t a thing. Sure there were mistakes and forgotten lyrics but the place just resonated with love and the spirit of togetherness and support.
So here’s The Icarus Account. They played at Irving Theatre a couple weeks ago to an intimate crowd of maybe 30 people. This is the venue in which I learned to really embrace the dark. Photography is about light, right? Can’t take a picture without light! But during this hour or so of taking pictures it clicked with me that the dark is your friend too. Lighting in here is pretty minimal, a couple of small spots and that’s it. You have to crank your ISO up painfully high to get good exposure even on the lightest bits. But as it turns out, that totally works. The darkness allows you to drop the background completely to black and these two really POP. Instead of fighting the darkness I allowed it to take over and the results are, I think, brilliant. Full album (conflated with the Open Mic night immediately previous)
You go to a few open mic nights in a row and you start to see the same people over and over. This gentleman in particular, however, I could listen to for hours. His song selection is over the moon. Laura and I both looked at each other a couple times and said, “I haven’t heard that song in years!” Well chosen and well rendered.
I didn’t make a personal connection with this gentleman at a recent open mic but he exemplifies well, I think, the individual spirit of Irvington. He’s wacky, energetic and isn’t afraid to darn well show everyone else that side of himself in public with guitar in hand.
Another example of the peaceful spirit of the place…
What’s also encouraging is the youngsters who show up to events. Though nervous and a little bit shy, they march up and do their thing.
And everyone just seems so giddy. This artist writes all his own material (I believe) and if Dr. Demento was still alive his music would fit right in.
Turning a bit serious for a moment, some people come to the mic almost as an act of therapy. But when the vibe starts to turn down the crowd responds to lift them back up and while they can’t solve the problem, they can show that they understand and support. And, they don’t mind a little carnal yelling. Everybody’s got to shout at a crowd from their deepest guts once in a while.
It was about this time in the evening that the local denizens carted out a light to blind the performers and help with the photography. I didn’t ask for this; it’s just that I’d been there enough times that they decided it was a good idea. I’ve never been to a venue in which people were more friendly or accommodating. Such an amazing sense of community in this place.
And as this post (and the the daylight) draw to an end, we find ourselves back in the dark.
Taken to its extreme, embracing the darkness, we’re left with just a crescent moon of this artist. I adore this shot despite the fact that really there’s so little to it. Adding a bit to the story I’ll say that when this guy first spoke it thrilled me to the core. He’s got a marvelously deep voice almost like he’s got gravel in his guts. Reminded me strongly of John Lee Hooker and that smile is infectious.
So there you have it, the year 2016 in music so far. I will admit that it’s been a really varied ride. I started out in the pounding sun and ended up in the dark of night. I’ve learned quite a bit and have a new attitude and approach to light and how it interacts with subjects and how sometimes it’s just not quite as necessary as you might think.
Frankly, I don’t really know where to go next. Irvington has been very accommodating but I’m not sure how much more there is to glean here. Continue the deep dive or find other fields to play in? In many ways ending this thread here would be somewhat appropriate, especially given the last shot. Likely I’ll just flip a coin when the next Open Mic night comes. Which, unsurprisingly, just about every day of the week. Go check these great venues: