It's that time again where everyone not only prepares for the New Year but take time to reflect and evaluate the one they are leaving behind.
2017 has been a year of mixed emotions, from enjoying the limitless highs to battling some serious lows. Thinking back over the last week however, I've thankfully realised that the good have seriously outweighed the bad.
From a more personal perspective, this year has taught me that valuing your family and friends can never be overstated or taken for granted. With time being commonly considered precious, I find this only to be true when using it to enrich your own life and to embrace as many memories as possible with the ones you cherish. I've also continued to learn that unfortunately not everyone can be given your trust and that there are individuals who can act like leeches to friendships and work relationships so again, use your time wisely to fill it with people who only have your best interests at heart.
From a work perspective, I have progressed through each month completing a number of my goals including working as a photographer at Reading Festival and currently working for two fantastic venues that not only host some of the wildest shows but have introduced me to people in this industry who have made me feel very welcome. Yes, there have been setbacks of self-doubt, financial struggles and moments where I did not know if I would reach the end of the year with the same targets in mind. Much to my relief, they are now more focused than ever before.
Feeling empowered for the new year, I have decided to share one of my favourite images from each month of 2017 starting with:
The first time I caught A Day To Remember live was back in June 2008 when they passed through Cardiff's Barfly music venue playing the majority of their "For Those Who Have Heart" album. Missing them countless times after, I finally found another opportunity to see them live years later and caught this shot early in the set. Jeremy McKinnon and this band were a major influence on me and I will never forget this night.
I worked a couple of Jazz events for Cardiff's Millenium Centre in Bar One and one happened to be hosting an artist from New York called Gabriel Garzon-Montano. Having no prior knowledge of the artist, I went in not really knowing what to expect. After his performance, I immediately asked him for a portrait and raced home to look through his catalogue of music. His new album 'Jardin' is now one of my selected albums of 2017 and he was an absolute delight to watch dancing around the bar, interacting with his audience and performing pieces from his R&B/Soul/Funk collection that you couldn't sit still for.
In the lead up to this particular show, my grandfathers health had unfortunately began to deteriorate. He had been moved to a nursing home where I visited him before heading into Cardiff to photograph Craig David. The show was incredible and made me forget my grief for a brief moment before I awoke the following morning to hear he had passed away in the night. The last thing I told my grandfather was "I'll see you soon" and if I had known what was to transpire, I have no doubt I would never have made the show and likely would have had alot more to tell him than "see you soon". This photograph however, does not remind me of his death but reminds me of the good times we shared which is why I relate this photo with the warmth of his love and not the pain of his loss.
There had been a lull in the entertainment I gained from photographing shows during this month but decided to work an event that a few friends from Bristol were attending in Cardiff's Y Plas. I expected no real surprises from the support acts but nothing could have prepared me for the absolute powerhouse that is Crossfaith. This Japanese heavy metal act came out and from the word go, had everyones attention. Each member proving to be serious players in their field but nothing/no-one surprised me more than the anamalistic energy that keyboardist Terufumi Tamano blended with his onstage performance. The man was a powderkeg of intensity and admittedly captured most of my attention throughout the night/my time in the photo-pit. If you are a fan of the genre, then I could not recommend seeing them live enough.
May is one of the hardest months to choose an image for as I was lucky enough to work a large number of amazing events during this month including The Kooks at Colston Hall, a very intimate Al Stewart show in Swansea and Boston Manor's Slam Dunk festival warm-up show in Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach. The Image I had to choose however was in fact from this year's Slam Dunk Festival which I also worked. Slam Dunk is a great festival and I've always been happy working the Midlands date due to the amount of outdoor stages. This year while photographing Counterfeit, I caught this moment of frontman Jamie Campbell Bower leaning in to the photography pit. Unknowning to myself, the microphone stand blocked out Impericon's slogan "Live Your Music", editing it into "Live Our Music" and that mixed with the dramatic and emotion-packed stance of Jamie, gave me a real sense of achievement that I had created a real decisive moment that reminded me of the unity that music forms between complete strangers.
Making my way down early in the morning via megabus, I arrived with enough time to meet up with friends, enjoy London and shake off the nerves of photographing another band who grafted my music taste. We had been told prior to the day that the photographers would be shooting from the mixing desk (which is common practice for a number of venues/shows) but as predicted, we found the space to be very cramped in comparison to the number of photographers sharing it. In a last minute attempt, me and a colleague went to the pit barrier to try and negotiate a way into the front only to be met with embarrassment. Instead of pit security, we had accidentally grabbed Tim McCord (Evanescence's bassist) but once we had both agreed that we did not know any reason for us to be withheld pit entry, he contacted the head of security and granted all of us access. Although I had to leave after five songs to endure the 3-4 hour bus journey home to Wales, I could not have been happier with the results of the evening.
I had been hired as one of two official photographers for Swansea University's summer ball and although I thoroughly enjoyed all of the acts during the day in the baking sun (including a crazy set from Charli XCX and RAYE onstage together), It was Ben Verse and El Hornet who cranked the atmosphere up to 11. As well as a great showman, Ben proved to be profoundly humble. Feeding off everyones positive vibes, he would often circle the stage giving high fives and sweaty hugs to the crew and stage guests before literally leaping into action and rounding the ball off in his own magnificent way.
August gave me some of the largest highlights of the year as I was sitting on my hotel room balcony in Crete with a cold glass of beer and my girlfriend sitting opposite me when I received a confirmation email for my photography slot in this year's Reading Festival. Ecstatic was an understatement. Moving over the site from one stage to another, I remember thinking how happy I was to be achieving one of my career goals. The last day of the festival was understandably a busy one and as I waited, a huge flood of photographers suddenly crowded the entrance to the Dance stage pit (much to my surprise). As the artist stepped out, a large portion of photographers rushed in but I saw the opportunity and waited back patiently for the inevitable Co2 cannons to fire. Sure enough they did but what I didn't consider catching was a colleague with his image on his display or another photographing the crowd or the random attendees finger directing the viewers gaze towards Charli. Because of this completely unplanned depth, the image became one of my favourites from the festival and a strong conclusion to an unbelievable experience.
Held in Cardiff's gorgeous Bute Park, the day spent at the festival was undeniably (and unprecedentedly) long. With the rain coming down, no where available to rest other than under the stage tents themselves and a series of events leading up to the day that had left me exhausted, the only comfort was knowing a good friend/fellow photographer from Orchard Entertainment was there to suffer with me. The comforts of the day included stage accessability and a number of energising acts including a set from Sigala with his hype man Joe Unknown. I can only assume all photographers feel the same way at some point but eventually the boys stage charisma won me over and helped me forget my fatigue. Flattered to be asked to photograph Sigala with the crowd, the original image left me slightly deflated but after returning to the pit, both leapt down to pose for another photographer and I happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch a more unique second of the set.
I had never seen Emeli Sande perform live so there was much anticipation behind this job. The moment the stage exploded with light and she opened with "Hurts", the hairs on the back of my neck rose and I found it increasingly hard not to lower the camera and simply watch her hypnotise her audience. Borrowing a 400-500mm lens for the event, I had little love for the images I took of her on her opening podium but once she had joined her backing musicians down front, I was able to take this and thought it reflected the class and poise she exuded with every note sung that night.
It's a safe bet to say that we should all be expecting huge things from this Norwegian singer in 2018. Discovering her the same way most did (with the release of her single "Don't Kill My Vibe" in March), I was delighted to catch her at this year's Reading festival and even more delighted to catch her on tour with Oh Wonder. The ironic thing is is that I hadn't even checked the line-up for their tour so travelled to Bristol with every intention of Oh Wonder being the show highlight. Imagine my surprise and happiness when one of my current favourite electropop musicians walked out with no warning whatsoever. I've photographed very few artists who can keep me smiling throughout their entire show but Sigrid is certainly one to fall under this category and this photograph in particular reminds me of that very warm sensation.
May was hard to pick one image for but December was worse. Although shooting music like Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Stone Sour and Shaggy were endlessly entertaining, I decided that an image of In Flames on their tour with Five Finger Death Punch would be more suitable. Silhouette photography is not my strong point and have failed multiple times in the past when attempting to integrate the style with live shows but after one final endeavour (using the large lightshow to my advantage), I was able to snap this of Niclas Engelin and their keyboardist.
In Flames have always claimed a large portion of my Ipod for a number of years and I was also lucky enough to interview frontman Anders at this year's Download Festival. They are one of many bands that prove regardless of the period in which they have been involved in the music industry, they can still perform to the highest ability and continue to demonstrate that 12 studio albums and 27 years together that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Congratulations, you made it to the end of my very lengthy blog post! Apoligies but its been one of the busiest years as a freelance photographer and I'd by lying If I said I wasn't a little proud of what I have managed to achieve. Thank you for reading and I hope everyone has a wonderful 2018, I'll see you there.