As the year draws to a close Louder Than War photographers select two of their favourite shots taken this year and talk about what they are looking forward to in 2019. The main photography team in 2018 are Melanie Smith, Paul Grace, Naomi Dryen Smith, Svenja Block, Mike Ainscoe and Neil Johnson.
Melanie Smith: It’s so hard to select two of the best images out of the 50+ artists I have shot this year. However, the ones that stand out for me are those which have that spine-tingling moment. This shot of Patti Smith, taken at O2 Apollo, Manchester is special to me as I actually caught her attention for a fleeting moment and having been a fan of Patti’s music since 1978 it was something extra special – we held a connection and that is what all photographers are aiming for.
Anna Calvi is one of my favourite performers and it was particularly special as during this ‘Hunter’ tour at O2 Ritz, Manchester she really let her hair down (literally) and was in total wild abandon, filled with passion and drama. This was shot from the crowd after the first 3 songs. I was even more thrilled when later she chose this shot below to share on her social media which was viewed in the 1,000’s.
I could share loads of my favourite photographic (bucket list) moments – there have been many, such as Billy Idol, Halestorm, Avatar, Bryan Ferry, Florence + the Machine, Janelle Monae, Arctic Monkeys, Lenny Kravitz, Hollywood Vampires and the Lemon Twigs, who I enjoyed shooting this year..
Next year I am looking forward to photographing The Struts again, seeing how they compare to the band who got my interest back when I first shot them in 2013, to the band who conquered the USA in 2018 supporting big rock bands.
Mike Ainscoe: My first one is Jim Kerr of Simple Minds at their album launch at the Albert Hall. Great to shoot and really tested his leather kecks!! However, with the height of the stage and him kneeling right in front of us, this was a nice one to grab despite him mic hogging… “Let me see those hands.”
Richard Hawley was the subject of my favourite shot (and from one of my favourite gigs of the year). I’d managed to get on the list for the second of two rapidly sold out shows that the man was doing at my local venue, The Met. I queued up to get to the front as there was no pit but it proved not to be a great vantage point but eventually got this one by standing on the slightly raised stairs at the back, with a converter on the 70-200 lens and just about held it still long enough while leaning over and on tiptoe to see over the heads and grab this shot which seemed reasonably decent for the circumstances. He’s a bit of a hero who I’ve interviewed a couple of times and seen countless shows so it was great to get a nice shot of him.
Paul Grace: My first photo (below) is Nick Cave at All Points East Festival in London in June. Not the easiest of artists to photograph as he only allows photographers access to the photo pit for the first song (we usually get three), and only from extreme sides of the stage. So I slapped on my 70-200 long lens knowing that it would cover most bases in this type of scenario, and during the short time we had he jumped onto the barriers and started interacting with his adoring fans. It’s an emotional scene with Nick Cave preaching the lyrics to Jesus Alone, one fan tightly grasps his hand while another holds out a red rose, bathed in the glow of the setting sun.
My second photo is Nine Inch Nails at the Royal Albert Hall, again in June. This shot took me slightly by surprise as initially it hit the cutting from floor, but I kept on returning to it as there was something about the composition that drew me in. It’s the triangular symmetry of the lights hitting Trent Reznor that makes it work (oh and Nine Inch Nails were well and truly at the top of my bucket list of bands to photograph!).
Next year I’m particularly looking forward to Hellfest in France. The line-up is mind-blowing with Kiss, Gojira, Slayer and Tool who are all pretty much on my bucket list. Shooting three-day-long festivals is extremely hard work but sooo much fun!
Naomi Dryden-Smith: The first one for me is Brett Anderson of Suede at Hammersmith Apollo, easily one of my favourite shows this year. Keen to shoot them since I saw them a few years ago at Kenwood, and a fan back in the day, my pass wasn’t confirmed until just a couple of hours before the show when I’d all but given up. We had just two songs to shoot, but the man does not stop moving with so much energy, passion and commitment to the audience, and I managed to get shots from so many angles. I’d had a tip off from a photographer friend that he would jump three times – the first two I missed completely but was really pleased to get this, especially as he is looking across in my direction.
My second is Keith Flint from The Prodigy at Alexandra Palace just last month. It was the most hectic gig I’ve shot so far – relentless strobes alternating with pitch blackness, incredibly loud bass almost pushing us back against the barrier, and a pit lined with more security than I’ve ever seen, who I kept tripping over. Plus the stage at Ally Pally is uncomfortably high for me. So I was happy to find this shot in my stash, pretty typical Keith pose but not having shot them before it was a welcome first for me.
Next year I’m hoping to head into a couple of stadiums to shoot The Eagles and P!nk, and might even get round to a couple of festivals for a change.
Svenja Block: Mr Dave Vanian of The Damned twirls and dances like a dervish and I love capturing this punk rock gentleman. The sold out show at Koko Camden in February was a memorable night and this particular photograph has become a personal favourite since.
Lauren Tate of DIY alternative grunge rockers Hands Off Gretel is an extraordinary talented singer and guitar player and the band’s live shows have become a firm favourite with Louder Than War photographers and writers alike for their intense high energy performances. I obviously have a thing for rock stars on the floor and Lauren is a true master. As a photographer I thrive in hostile environments; give me an elbow pushed into my face or two 6ft 2 men who won’t show any compassion for slightly smaller human species and I’m likely to walk away with a classic shot in 2019…
Neil Johnson: It’s been a great year for live music. I kicked off the year with Steel Panther, which was insane. I also got to see a few bands that I’d been waiting a long time to photograph, Gun and Europe. I got to chat with Doug Aldrich from the Dead Daises backstage at Rock City and also caught The Amorettes show just afterwards. The highlights for me were Slayer, Anthrax and Def Leppard, the old timers really doing the business this year!
My first favourite is Randy Blythe – Lamb of God. Jump shots are always nice to get, but this has been my favourite over the year. Randy was on top form supporting Slayer and was bounding around the stage for their entire set. I knew I wanted to get him high up in the air, but the lighting was really low with heavy red backlight. I decided to head over to stage right and wait for him to jump off one of the risers where the light was the best. I took 6 frames but this was the only one that was in focus!
Robb Flynn, Machine Head is my second favourite photo of the year. There is just something about this image that captured the Machine Head performance that night. The rage coming from Robb Flynn was immense. Again, a tricky shoot with dim lighting and a lot of movement, so nice to get something in focus and dramatic!
What am I looking forward to next year? Hopefully, I’ll get to see Ozzy, who I haven’t seen for a long time and also Thunder are rumoured to be out touring their new record. Tool are playing Download, which will be epic and The Struts are at Rock City in Feb, which will be amazing. However, the thing I am probably most excited about is long overdue new record from The Wildhearts and them hitting the road again!.
Thanks to all our photographer for all their hard work in 2018. Photos (front the top) by Melanie Smith, Mike Ainscoe, Paul Grace, Naomi Dryden-Smith, Svenja Block, Neil Johnson