Matthew Alexander is a now Atlanta, GA based photographer who's work spans from portraits to live shows and events. He took his camera and a boatload of film to Warped Tour and shot the last round of the acclaimed pop-punk and rock festival. We got to showcase his photos from the tour as well as speak with him about his experience.
Hi Matthew, welcome back to the magazine, can you tell us a little bit about what projects you've worked on since we last spoke?
I’ve been insanely busy with my move from NY to Atlanta, so this was the only thing I’ve been able to touch for a little while. I’m actually out of film at the moment and still exploring Atlanta, so that’s definitely the next thing I’m going to work on. There’s a network of photographers here I’m trying to work my way into so I can get some insider tips on the area.
Warped Tour has been a staple of the music industry, and now with it coming to end, what do you think this means in terms of effects in the music industry?
I’m pretty optimistic about what’s going to happen here – they’ve been pretty clear when they announced that this is the “last warped tour” that this would be the last full country wide tour – but I have a feeling they’ll do some new things. They may have a weekend festival instead, or continue the “Warped at Sea” thing that they did for the last few years. The brand is too big to just end. But even if it does, the music isn’t gone – those bands are still around. Someone will start organizing something similar soon. It’ll take a few years to get traction, but I’m certain there will be a new Warped Tour in a few years.
What have been your experiences shooting music festivals in the past?
This was actually my first full festival that I’ve ever shot. I’ve shot outdoor and indoor shows up the wazoo, but never a full festival. This year they opened it up to photographers, even without a press pass, so I was able to just waltz in with my Minolta and 8 rolls of film and have no problems at the gate.
What gear to you like to have with you at these shows? How do you protect the gear?
Normally, I take my Sony A7III and I have a waterproof bag for it to protect it from beer and any random bodily fluids that may go flying while I’m not using it. For warped, I pretty much went commando, and since I was taking an SLR camera that I bought used for pretty cheap, I wasn’t incredibly worried about it getting damaged. It was a punk fest, it’d be pretty punk if the lens got punched or something. But normally I’m incredibly careful and spatially aware – looking for crowd surfers or a random airborne beer cup. If you have a press pass, and security is any good, they’ll usually protect you. I’ve had security pull people off of me when I’ve shot inside the barricade. They’re usually pretty good at keeping the media folks safe.
Have you ever shot with film at a live show before, if so what was your experience?
I’ve shot instant film at shows before, but never with my 35mm camera. I always worry about the low-light, but with Warped being outside and all day, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity.
What is your approach to shooting live shows?
Shooting Warped wasn’t like any of the other shows that I’ve shot – my objective at Warped wasn’t to capture the performance of the band, my objective was to capture the mood of the festival. Normally at shows, I get all my settings right on my digital camera, and follow the targets and take shots periodically. It’s hard to predict a band’s movement, so once I just have the framing I’m looking for, I shoot bursts and then review them later to find the shot I like.
You shot from the crowd, what tips or tricks can you share with us about shooting with such a massive amount of people?
Line the shot up the best you can and pray someone doesn’t knock you over. I shot all of these way above my head, so I wasn’t looking through the viewfinder at all, and I was totally relying on my focus to be on point – most of it was. My SLR autofocuses a little bit, but it’s not very good, so a few shots came out fuzzy, but most came out so well. It’s about waiting for the right moment and not being too trigger happy. A lot of shots will be bad. It’s okay, just bring more film.
What general advice can you give to photographers going to these types of festivals?
If the festival doesn’t explicitly state that they’ll allow your type of camera, don’t bring it. Don’t try to sneak it in. Get a press pass. There are probably tons of local magazines that would love for you to go shoot a show for them. Don’t overstay your welcome, your camera isn’t a VIP pass, and don’t question security or the bands.
Ask another concert photographer questions if you have them. Network with people. Don’t be mad if you can’t bring the camera, it’ll happen. Your time will come, just be patient and respectful.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m going to be shooting a ton of shows in Atlanta, both film and digital, and looking forward to growing my reach in the Southeast again. Hopefully you’ll see some cool new stuff when I get my Diana Instant Square too!
More of Matthew's photos are on his Instagram.
written by sarahlindsayk on 2018-08-23