Underground and DIY culture has always been a haven for expression and experimentation. Artists on the fringe side of the spectrum have much more space to try out things that might not be accepted right away by the mainstream. These cultures also have a strong sense of community, where everyone comes together, whether it's through volunteerism, crowdfunding or even just simply supporting and looking out for each other.
Bird has been documenting their own scene in the United States which revolves around DIY shows, independently released music, and a strong community where everyone is welcome. Armed with whatever equipment they can get their hands on, they shoot shows and artists with a dream-like and colorful atmosphere. Today we talk to Bird about how they shoot these events and hear all about their independent label, Knifepunch Records.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started film photography?
I'm Bird, also known as "Crimebird", and I use they/them pronouns. I started in film photography as a kid by taking disposable cameras to summer camp. By my early teens, I got into the punk scene and started finding cheap cameras in thrift stores where I got my clothes. I never took any classes, I just grabbed whatever I found and started experimenting in very spontaneous ways. Anyone I knew that took photography seriously did not like what I was doing and I did not find any encouragement.
I switched to digital for a while but eventually completely lost interest in that because it really didn't feel like it was for me, and I returned to film full force in 2020. By 2021, shows came back and I started bringing film cameras with me and found so much joy in that.
What gear do you usually use? And what’s your go-to setup?
I have no budget so I use whatever I find and whatever people are getting rid of. With the exception of an LC-A I bought at a market in St. Petersburg during a trip to Russia, I don't choose my gear with much intention. That said, here's what comes with me to shows lately. I usually bring my Canon AE-1 or AE-1 Program, LC-A with a cute custom skin and Instax Mini 7.
My favorite film to use is the Lomography Color 800 but any color film works. Besides this, I also have a Colorsplash Flash which is super key, and I've had the same one since its original release! I have learned to repair it many many many times. Finally, I also have with me kaleidoscopic and star filters, and a little repair kit.
How would you describe your photography style?
Chaotic, energetic, and dreamy. Color and movement as sound and emotion. Lots of double exposures. The ephemeral nature of the underground music scene is my biggest inspiration. I'm not trying to document a moment so much as I'm trying to share how it feels to exist in it.
What are your techniques or tips to get good shots at gigs?
High risk = high reward. Sometimes you have to be on the very edge of a hardcore pit and just watch out for getting your gear knocked around. Don't try to get the perfect shot, take a lot of shots and get really weird with it. There's not much to it, just lean into what makes you feel excited!
What are some of the hardest things about shooting gigs and nightlife?
Lighting. Basement shows almost never have a good lighting setup and it's hard to see what you're focusing on. I just use the flash and hope for the best. In general, there are a lot of people pushing and moving around fast so my camera or flash gets dropped a lot and I have to fix things as I go. It's not a place for delicate or expensive gear. I've been wrapping pieces in tape to protect them.
Do you have any rules or etiquette when shooting music events?
Yes! Unlike larger spaces, DIY has no separation between the band and the audience. No barrier and no one telling you to stop after three songs, so you have to do your best to not take away from anyone else's experience. I keep to the sides, shoot for a few songs, then put my camera away and just have fun with the rest of the crowd. If something crazy starts happening, I'll pull out the camera again and catch that. Most of these people are my friends, so there's never been any conflict, but I'm extremely mindful of the space I take up. Don't come into it with ego, you know?
What's it like using the Lomo LC-A and using Lomography Color Negative 800 during these gigs and night shoots?
I don't use the LC-A as often as my AE-1 because it's more limited with filters, but its huge plus is that it's a pocket-sized camera and stays safe in my hip bag. It's very freeing to be able to jump around and dance and not worry about carrying gear. The focus is much more of a gamble though and you end up with some aesthetically blurry atmospheric shots. It's a good exercise in letting go of control. Lomography 800 film is amazing, you'd think it was made just for concerts. The results are crisp and the colors are so vivid. It's super easy to work with.
As a queer photographer, how important is it to document your own scene and community?
Very! There's plenty of photographers at big concerts, but for most DIY shows I might be the only one. It's a world people don't pay as much attention to because they don't know the bands that are just starting out and everything changes fast. The crowd might be 5 or 20 people, but it's the beginning of someone's story. With everything being online and digital, our history gets lost and entire decades can disappear. Archiving is important to me, I got into making zines again to give people physical reminders they can hold onto.
I wanted to talk about your label Knifepunch Records. How has it been running an independent label?
Knifepunch Records is a DIY tape label my friends started and I got involved a little later. A lot of independent labels are run by one or two people, and many of us connect through Twitter and Discord to share resources and support. It's a big effort to make everything happen and to build a community. I'm simultaneously overwhelmed by and really really proud of the things we pull off.
What are some plans and goals for Knifepunch Records this year and for the future?
Same as always - help small bands, help our local scenes, do cool things, and more live events! We're working with a lot of interesting new bands this year and have some very fun new releases planned already.
What is one achievement that you are most proud of as one of the co-owners of Knifepunch Records?
Over the summer we started Knifest - a one-day music festival that showcased lots of DIY bands in two locations (New Jersey and Florida) so we each handled one. This was my first time running an event myself, it was a lot. Getting a sick lineup, finding the right space for it, making posters, doing promo, keeping 11 bands on schedule, running the merch table, shooting the show, etc etc. Everything went great and it felt like magic! I've made so many amazing friends through that and I learned a lot about what I'm capable of.
Can you describe the community and scene you are in?
The community is so broad, there's so much arguing on the topic of safety, especially on DIY Twitter. Over the years, the culture has shifted into valuing transparency and accountability so we're seeing a lot more people talking openly about bad experiences and fighting for change. More DIY venues are keeping Narcan on hand, providing discreet ways to contact the event organizers about creeps, and keeping out anyone who poses a safety risk. We're all individually responsible for our community. I'm the older friend so I make sure my friends have water, snacks, and a safe way to get home. I keep a resource list of local venues' contact info for bands that book their own tours through here. That needs to stay current to remove any listing that is unsafe. The label's own Discord server has almost 300 members but we don't have to do much moderating. It's a respectful bunch of nice people, luckily.
Can you share with us some of your favorite photos and the stories behind them?
It's so hard to choose! All my photos are full of adventures and beloved pals, they're so dear to my heart.
The crowd at DIY Superbowl: This was the first concert back in Philly in 2021 after the shutdown ended. Everyone had been waiting so long for the return of live music, that the energy in the room was absolutely electric. It was the first show I shot on film and very few of my photos came out, but the wild, buzzing energy was there in those pictures and it inspired me to keep going.
Dreg photoshoot: They're not an active band currently, two of the members are now in Silithyst. They're good friends of mine. We snuck into an abandoned house on the side of the highway to take photos behind it. I went to ten Silithyst shows in 2022 and think everything they're involved in is really fresh and exciting.
Seeyouspacecowboy: This was a challenging show to shoot because the pit was full of people doing acrobatic stunts. I made friends with someone who protected me and watched my back whenever I got up close to take shots. The whole roll came out gorgeous, it was so worth it!
What music recommendations can you give to the Lomography Community?
Here are some musical acts that I think are worth checking out.
- Mikau - "synthy metalcore" is not enough of a description for the kind of innovative music they create. I'm a bit obsessed.
- Gilt - formerly emo, now melodic post-hardcore. Their music caused me to seek them out to become friends because the songs hit so deeply. And that was one of the best decisions I ever made. ((I swear I'm not biased because I made their latest EP cover art, they really deserve to get major!) )
- Perennial - Matching outfit sweethearts who make super fun high energy art-rock that gets the punks dancing. I love their 00s flavored collage art aesthetic so much too.
- Silithyst - Sass-inspired, metalcore adjacent, heavy on the electronics. This band is so near and dear to me! I go to all their shows. They're really doing unique things and always evolving.
- Ultra Deluxe - chip-scramz queer communist sci-fi concept albums and amazing live shows. If you're not sure, look up their Hate5six video.
- Blind Equation - best artist in the cybergrind scene right now. There's so much cool stuff happening in cybergrind, if you're not familiar with the genre, start here.
- Khamsin - post-hardcore with strong 3rd wave emo influences. Seeing them live was my first time hearing their music, I was instantly pulled in by how beautiful and personal it feels. And their singer is also an analogue photographer!
- And lastly any of the bands on knifepunch records.
Is there anything else you'd like to share or advice you want to give to the Lomography Community?
It's never too late to do the things you want to do. Don't worry about using cheap gear, it's not the important part. Support your local bands and they'll love you for it. Get prints and make a scrapbook.
Got any tips for shooting music events and concerts? Or want to share the scenes or communities you're part of? Comment down below and share.
written by rocket_fries0036 on 2023-02-27 #gear #culture #people #nightlife #music #diy #events #concert #lc-a #underground #punk #florida #usa #lomo-800 #lomography-color-800 #lgbtqia #knifepunch-records