The Barbican is a fantastic venue for pretty much anything they want to do, so a series of gigs in their arts space sound like a fabulous idea, in theory…
Electronic Sound asked me to go to the Barbican to take some pictures of LoneLady, who by her own admission is not really an electronic artist, she sounds to me like a mix of Joy Division and, well actually I don’t really know. She was resident in a small studio space near the gallery and in there she had been recording and practicing. The space was packed full of recording equipment, laptops and a big analogue synth. This belonged to another artist on the bill that night, Wrangler, who Electronic Sound asked me to shoot as well.
When I arrived I met the PR and she told me Julie (LoneLady) was pretty tired and could I make it as quick as possible. When I was introduced to Julie she was quiet and clearly tired and probably nervous about the gig that evening. The lighting in the studio space was just how I like it, low and ambient and there was also a lovely red desk lamp which helped colour the mood too.
We started by shooting Julie in front of the massive synth which Neil from Electronic Sound had specifically told me to make sure I get a good one of. It’s a beautiful wood panelled machine with loads of inputs and knobs and lights so fabulous to shoot someone in front of. I’d been taking pictures of it on it’s own and had pointed the red lamp over the top of it to alter the look and when Julie came in to be photographed I left it where it was so it was pointing over her shoulder at me.
Once we had a few shots in the studio I took her out the the foyer area where there were loads of amazing concrete pillars and rough textures, we shot by the lifts and in front of big signs using the available light. I still need to work on my directing of subjects, I’m so used to getting one or maybe two opportunities to shoot on the street that I forget that with portraiture I can take my time!
After that Julie went off to rest and Benge from Wrangler came in to be interviewed and I took the opportunity to take some shot of him playing with the synth and a couple of portraits too.
Once the interview by Danny Turner had been done it was time for their sound check. The space was truly a gallery space with white walls which had projected movies on and in the centre a square plinth which the artists were going to play from. All the equipment was set up and while they were doing their sound check I got some great shots, these turned out to be much better than the actual gig.
When the evening came around the people started milling into the gallery space something became abundantly clear, this is a gallery and not a music venue, which means there were hardly any lights. Also the PR told me that Wrangler has specifically asked for the lighting to be low. The result was that despite my best efforts I didn’t get a single live shot of Wrangler I was happy with. When Lonelady came on the lighting was slightly better meaning I got one or two usable shots but I really wasn’t happy with them. In retrospect I should have taken my tripod and in future I will because if I had I might have got something I was a little more happy with.
The result was that I was very happy with the portraits but not at all happy with the live shots. I should have been more prepared, I am so used to thinking that both my Sony and my Nikon can handle anything that when they can’t I am taken by surprise; not next time!