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Covid-19: Why Are Concert Photographers Forgotten?

It's been a disastrous few months for everyone in the music industry.

Musicians are without concerts. No concerts mean no live shows for artists to perform new songs, which then in turn means audiences are unable to hear exciting new tracks and go home and download them. That also means no merchandise can be bought at the shows and a huge loss of earnings for the record labels for ticket sales.

Music venues are suffering from a shortage of concerts, putting a strain on the lives of the people that work there. No work for the staff at concerts, no ticket sales for the venues to receive a cut from and no food and beverage sales.

Music venues are suffering all around the world, the smaller ones in particular. We've seen plenty of campaigns to help raise awareness about the decline of the music venues during this pandemic and how we are all being asked to help and I'm on board, I'm with you... I want to help.

But did anyone at all take one second to think about the photographers?

Family pub, Malmö.

The fans, the artists, the staff, the security... then the photographers. In this order.

Are we really just seen as the guys and girls that get in your way for the first 3 songs or hang around like paparazzi after the gig, snapping the artists against their will when they just want to get home after a concert. There is much, much more to this than meets the eye.

Let me just expand your minds for a second and let you in on a few things that might help you understand where I am coming from.

When an ad campaign to raise awareness about a music venue that is on the brink of closing, or a musician that has no concerts for the next few months and is asking the government for funding to support them through the crisis for 'loss of work', what image do you see?

... an image taken by a photographer.

Before the pandemic, when you wanted to flick through a music magazine or scroll through websites of your favourite artists to see when they are on tour, what do you see? yes, an image taken by a photographer.

Every single moment of the day, on social media, websites, advertising billboards on the streets, magazines, newspapers... I see images taken by photographers. What the everyday person does is just flick through or scroll down, without a care in the world.

I think about the image. Where it was shot, how it was shot and who it was shot for.

So why have photographers been forgotten during the pandemic? Why is no raising awareness about the decline in photography and the impact the pandemic has had on these people's lives?

Maybe my story is different to most, but I'll give you an insight into my life as a concert photographer and you can make your own assumptions about whether it would be good to campaign for photographers to get some kind of recognition or support.

Impacts on family and social life

I decided I wanted to do something exciting with my life, rather than be stuck behind a desk, grinding out the days until the weekend for the rest of my life. I always loved photography and decided to go out and buy a camera. This is something I wanted to do and something I would put all my energy into doing.

Cameras are expensive. Awesome. Good start. Still, I managed to get one camera and a lens and get out there and learn every day. New techniques, new angles... be creative.

I spoke to professionals, worked alongside them and kept learning, trying to better myself. I still worked full time at a hotel in Copenhagen (I live in an 80km round trip away in Malmö) and after shooting an event in Copenhagen with a couple of live bands playing, I realised this was the type of photography I loved and wanted to continue.

Summer 2017. I apply to get a press pass at a festival in Lisbon. After shooting the festival, I had enough images to start a website. The website cost me and still does, around 2000 sek (€200) per year to run.

To get more content for my website, I applied to other festivals around Europe, to get as many images from as many artists as I could within a short period of time and before the venue concert season started again in September, with the hope of shooting for a venue as my main aim for the future.

I flew to Krakow and Prague for a 2 day festival, travelled up to Stockholm for another one and then hit a couple of festivals around Copenhagen and Malmö.

(Press passes 2017)

I stayed in hostels, hotels, camp sites and received '0' money from all of the concerts I covered. I sold '0' images, because at that stage, I had no idea how to sell images.

I saw the investment I gave now would be beneficial in the future and the content I was able to gather was invaluable to my future aspirations within the concert photography industry.

Once the website was up and running, I was able to use it as a portfolio to find concerts at venues. I was lucky enough to be asked to join the VEGA photography team which then led to becoming a photographer for K.B. Hallen arena and then Soundvenue magazine and Glasse Factory.

Now, striving to be one of the best concert photographers in Scandanavia doesn't come cheap. Photography is a rich persons game and I'm not blessed with an inheritance from a rich aunt or a treasure chest from a long lost uncle.

I'm proud of that fact. Everyone in my family has done everything they can to support my dream and am thankful every day for their support.

I've had to make my own way in this business and build my photography armoury with every cent I could get my hands on. If you want to take the best pictures you have to work hard at learning the skills of photography, be a creative and hard working, but have good equipment, which unfortunately, doesn't come cheap.

I've taken photography as a serious career, so of course, my equipment has broken the bank for me over the past few years, but it is something, no questions asked, that had to be done in order for me to succeed as a photographer and as a business.

But that's what brings me to the subject of costs and whole point of this blog.

I lose money

I don't get paid to be a concert photographer. I don't get any money for shooting concerts. I lose money!

I'm lucky enough to be a part of a photo agency, which sells my images online to medias around the world, which annually, brings in a bit of cash for me.

The prestige of working for the best editorials or venues is good enough for me, in order to enhance my profile and shoot the best artists out there, but it comes with serious drawbacks and money constraints as a result.

I spend around €20 a time to get to a concert from my home in Malmö to a concert in Copenhagen and then I have to sometimes take a separate train or metro from there which adds on more costs.

Add onto this the cost for a drink, cloak room for my equipment (which I find astonishing a photographer has to pay for when they are providing a service for the venue in one way or another through promotion) and then a snack at a venue or at a store before or after the show. I go home, my daughter is in bed sleeping, my dinner is waiting in the microwave and my head is spinning from looking through a camera lens for 2 hours and the crash of the snare drum thumping my skull.

The financial and social impact is hit hard, day after day after day... why?

Because it's the best job in the world!

I make money from other photography work and of course, as some of you will be well aware from following my project, In This Together, it has been a difficult past few months with a lot of these jobs being cancelled too.

(Image of Caroline Karlsson, taken as part of my 'In This Together' project, supporting local businesses and freelance workers #inthistogether)

This is just a blog to try to make people understand what a concert photographer has to go through to be the best they can at the job and industry they love with all their heart and with the realisation that there has been serious neglect for concert photographers during the pandemic.

I've heard many stories of already wealthy artists receiving funding from governments for thousands and thousands of Euros, for loss of earnings, but I can't get a single penny for all the jobs I've lost or any help or advice to give me hope that someone out there is supporting freelance workers during this nightmare situation.

I feel quite sad that perhaps some music venues or editorials have not showcased the photographers and the effort they make each and every time they step into a venue to capture images to be remembered through the test of times. It's just been about the venues, which I accept. Without the venues and concerts, there is no need for photography. I get it.

However, without the live concert images of Queen playing at Wembley stadium during Live Aid or Jimi Hendrix holding his white Fender Stratocaster aloft during his set at Woodstock, we wouldn't have grown up with the idea that one day we could buy a festival or concert ticket and get close enough to the action front stage, so that we could smell the sweat pouring off the brows of our favourite musicians.

The images inspired us to one day be musicians ourselves. To adorn the clothes and fashion dictated by the time of the image. It's no coincidence that images are used to promote so many things in life that stick in the mind for years to come.

It's been silent

Maybe a profile post of a photographer and a donation page to help sponsor freelance photographers in exchange for some live concert images or future collaboration would be a nice touch. Just an idea, but one I would've hoped other people might have had and not just me. It's been silent.

We can't do the thing in life we love the most and we can't get out there and capture those images you see on billboards or in magazines.

I just hope there are other photographers out there that feel let down by the industry and governments (everywhere) for the lack of support to our art and personal lives during these times. It's just sad, plain old sad.

A special mention to any other photographer who has suffered as a result of the pandemic and not felt as if they were getting support or help. I wish you all the very best in the future and you have my support and backing whatever you shoot and wherever you are. I wish there was something I could do to help.

(NOS Alive, Lisbon)

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