The People I Got To See From Behind My Lens

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“Grab your shit, you’re getting on stage with Springsteen.” “Excuse me?” “Take your bag, we need you on stage to take a photo of Springsteen with that rainbow before it disappears.” 11 February, 2017. I was photographing Bruce Springsteen for the third time, my fifth concert in total. This time I was actually asked to take photos for the man himself. I had taken photos from him a week before in Melbourne too. The show was at Hanging Rock, a beautiful natural amphitheatre about an hour out of Melbourne. While waiting for The Boss to appear on stage, there was a sprinkling of rain for about 10 minutes. He arrived on stage, solo with an acoustic guitar, during the sprinkling. There were four of us photographers standing in a pit at front of house, by the sound desk and behind the GA standing. Springsteen never allows photographers in the front pit. In fact, Springsteen is the artist that invented the “three songs, no flash” rule (these days a standard rule for concert photography). During the second song, the rain stopped and a rainbow poked through the clouds. Springsteen pointed at it and said something about it being a blessing. “It’s gonna be a good show,” he promised as his band joined him. It was during the third song when one of his staff came to get me. I got up on stage, fumbled to change my lens and started walking up the stairs next to Max Weinberg to get the shot. Springsteen’s guy grabbed my shirt and said “no, not from the top of the stairs, take it from here.” I took four shots. The third one was the one of the rainbow with Bruce and Little Steven. The fourth one, sans rainbow, was of Springsteen surveying the crowd. “Did you get it?,” his guy asked me. “I think so.” I checked the back of my camera. Yep. I got it.

The first time I photographed live music was in October 2003. I was working for a CD retailer at the time, and they had invited Arno Carstens to perform on the roof of the shopping centre. They asked if I’d take photos. I’m not sure why, as I didn’t even own a camera. I borrowed my sister’s simple “point and shoot” and took hundreds of terrible photos. I thought they were great, though. Nonetheless, I’d found something new and exciting to do. I launched a magazine a year and a half later, and as budgets were tight, I became the self-appointed staff photographer. I borrowed a camera from our publisher, and started teaching myself how to take photos. Kind of. I didn’t know what the settings meant, but I felt professional, so I’d press a few buttons, aim and hope for the best. Eventually a friend gifted me his old camera once he’d bought a new one and that really pushed me to learn. I saved up and bought from first “professional” camera in 2009. I continued to take hundreds of thousands of photos learning my craft as the years rolled on. Fourteen years down the line, and I’ve photographed artists I’d only dreamed of photographing. Along the way I’ve been fortunate enough to have been published multiple times in Rolling Stone Magazine, National Geographic and Billboard, as well as having a photo used in a national campaign for Telstra/Apple Music in Australia.

Below is a small selection of some of my favourite photos.
Marilyn Manson.
Soundwave Festival, Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne.
2 March 2012.

Manson came to the edge of the stage right where I was standing, crouched down, stared straight down my lens and reached out trying to touch it. He stopped just short of putting his fingers on it, but I got the shot.

Chris Cornell (Soundgarden).
Soundwave Festival, Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne.
22 February 2015.

This was my second time photographing the late Chris Cornell, first shooting Soundgarden. During ‘Outshined,’ as Cornell sang “as I’m down on my knees today” he literally got down on his knees. The pit was filled with about 30 photographers but Cornell was right in front of me. I slowly edged to my right to get the shot in focus. As I took the photo, my lens accidentally touched the photographer next to me who proceeded to let me know how unhappy he was with me. Turns out that that photographer was well-known international photograper, Ross Halfin, who was there taking photos for Soundgarden. He spent the rest of our time in the pit giving me the evil eye. This would be the last time I’d photograph Chris Cornell.

Lorde.
Festival Hall, Melbourne.
15 July 2014.

This photo was taken during Lorde’s meteoric rise. I managed to capture her with hair in full flight. A few weeks later her mother posted the photo on Instagram asking who had taken the photo as she loved it. One of Lorde’s fans recognised the photo as being one of mine and tagged me.

Jared Leto (30 Seconds To Mars).
Hi Sense Arena, Melbourne.
28 March 2014.

Unlike most gigs, 30 Seconds To Mars invited photographers to stay and shoot their entire show, as opposed to first three only. A lot of awesome things happened during the show; giant balloons, confetti, fans were invited up on stage and Jared Leto decided to take a walk around the arena, getting in amongst the fans.

Slash.
Rolling Stone Live Lodge, Workers Club, Melbourne.
1 October 2014.

Slash was invited to Rolling Stone’s pop up bar in 2014 for a Q&A session. Predictably the 300-capacity venue sold out instantly and Slash spent 2 hours answering fans’ pre-approved questions (including one of mine about working with Michael Jackson).

Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters).
Derwent Entertainment Centre, Hobart.
2 March 2015.

My fifth time seeing Foo Fighters, but first time photographing them, something I’d always wanted to do. They were playing to 70,000 people a night at stadiums across Australia, but in Tasmania they played an intimate show to 6,000 people. I especially flew to Tassie to shoot this. We were told it would be a sound desk shoot, just as the others were. At the last minute they allowed us into the front pit. Dream come true.

Mike Patton (Faith No More).
Soundwave Festival, Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne.
22 February 2015.


On the 23 February 2015 I was working in my office when a voice behind me said “I heard you took some photos of me. Come on, show me!” I turned around and Mike Patton was standing there. I showed him the photos from the night before, he said “yep, that looks like me” and walked out.

Brandon Boyd (Incubus).
The Forum Theatre, Melbourne.
25 February 2015.

I love the scope of this picture. Brandon Boyd was giving it his all. I don’t have a specific story about this, other than I love the photo.

Ed Sheeran.
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.
28 March 2015.

It would be remiss of me to not include a photo of the biggest artist in the world. It still amazes me how he can command a whole stadium by himself with only the help of his looping pedal.

Shirley Manson (Garbage)
The Forum Theatre, Melbourne.
27 February 2013.

I met the band for the first time after this show. The first member I met was Butch Vig. My boss said to him “Butch, this is Brett, he works for you.” Butch said “nice to meet you, Brett, would you like a beer?” My boss told me to show Butch this photo of Shirley and he said “wow! Shirley’s gonna love that, has she seen it yet?” I said “no,” and Butch ushered me to the dressing room next door. “Shirley, this is Brett. Look at this photo he took!” Shirley walked up to me and said “wait a minute, are you the young man that I’ve heard about?” She kissed me on the cheek and said “thanks for everything. Now let me see this photo.” I showed her the photo and she exclaimed “OH MY G-D! I FUCKING LOVE IT! You have to send it to me.” I’ve photographed Garbage two more times since, getting a lot of photos that I love, but this is the one.

Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys).
Palais Theatre, Melbourne.
3 April 2016.

Brian Wilson is one of my favourite musicians of all time. I was so lucky to be able to see him live and take his photo. These days his band does most of the work on stage. It was still a huge honour to be able to see him live and photograph him. I also bought front row seats for the concert, except what I didn’t know and only found out after taking my seat, is that I was so close to the stage that Brian was obscured by his piano for the entire show. I basically spent 2 hours watching the top of his head.

Chris Isaak.
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne.
13 April 2016.

I was hired to shoot a meet and greet with Chris Isaac before his show in Melbourne. The man is a true Southern gentleman. Every single time before putting his arm around a woman for their photo he’d look at them and ask “may I?” He graciously spoke to each fan, giving them their money’s worth. I asked if I could get a portrait of him alone, to which he obliged. He then said to me, “want a photo with me too? Come on!” It’s not something I usually do, but he insisted and his manager pressed the button after I’d set the camera up for him. Chris grabbed my hand and said “let’s do it like this,” flexing his arm and mine. It kinda looks like a bad buddy-buddy cop show.

Rudimental.
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne.
10 May 2016.

Rudimental were one of the most fun bands I’ve ever photographed. Very animated on stage. I do love a good jump shot!

Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day).
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.
5 May 2017.

Green Day are definitely up there as one of the best live bands around. They’re so genuine and gracious to their fans. I got this photo from the pit as Billy Joe ran down the end of the catwalk. There really were a lot of great photo opps that night.

Paul Stanley & Gene Simmons (KISS).
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne.
5 March 2013.

KISS really ham it up for the photographers. There were about 6 of us in the pit that night and each band member posed for each photographer while seamlessly playing their respective instruments. Great band to shoot. Of course I had to share a photo of Gene Simmons’s tongue.

Joe Newman (alt-J).
Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne.
20 October 2012.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with alt-J from day 1. This photo was taken on their first trip to Australia when they were still playing 300-capacity rooms. The show sold out in less than 2 minutes. They’re now headlining festivals and playing arenas internationally.

Rick Allen (Def Leppard).
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.
22 October 2011.

I’ve long respected Rick Allen, from Def Leppard, who tragically lost his arm in a car accident but continued playing drums following the accident. I specifically went to his side of the stage to get a photo. He noticed me, looked at me and smiled.

Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath).
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.
29 February 2013.

Before the show we were warned that Ozzy likes to throw buckets of water on the photographers and that the promoter wouldn’t be liable if our equipment was damaged. They were also filming the show and a cameraman was up and down on a dolly. The pit was full and it wasn’t the easiest to shoot, but Ozzy was just so great to photograph, it was impossible to not get a good photo of him. At one stage he picked up the fabled bucket of water and tip it out over his own head.

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