Spotlight is a feature which aims to give exposure to the unsung heroes of the music industry. This article focuses on one of the most important groups of people that perhaps go largely unnoticed during most gigs: photographers. Keep an eye out for further articles on photographers and other groups of unsung heroes (independent venues and record stores) in the very near future.
Alex Fountain is a 24 year old photographer and cinematographer. Originally from Cornwall, Alex is now based in Southsea near Portsmouth and is relatively new to photography having only taken it up properly four years ago. Aside from photography he is a keen filmmaker and enjoys playing the guitar badly (his own admission, we’re sure you’re great Alex!).
What does photography mean to you?
Photography for me, initially, was just a way to stay creatively active between projects. It was a way of constantly being able to create something, because of the relative speed of the process compared to other things I do.
Whose work has influenced you the most?
When I started in photography I took inspiration more from cinematography work than photography. But these days I just follow a diverse bunch of people on Instagram, all of whose work I like for different reasons.
From your perspective, what makes a great picture?
A great picture is simply one that makes you feel something. It’s easy to take a nice photo, but harder to take one that actually elicits emotion.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
It’s honestly just time behind the lens. It’s practice. As much as it’s great that there’s heaps of advice, opinions and tutorials on the internet for beginners in photography, I think it’s all just noise really… Pick up a camera and shoot, and you’ll learn faster than anyone else could teach you.
What goes through your mind just before you press the shutter button?
Before pressing down the shutter I ask myself if what I’m shooting is something that someone will want remembered. You’re preserving a moment in time, so I always ask myself if it’s a moment worth keeping, whether that be for me or someone else. I feel awfully pretentious saying that…
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos in a live environment?
You don’t have to take thousands of images of one gig to get the perfect shot. Take your time, and pick your moment.
What settings do you use in a live setting?
I shoot in all manual. I don’t mind a bit of blurred motion in my shots sometimes, so I often shoot with a slower shutter speed than I think most people would. As for the gear I use; I try to use every gig I photograph to experiment with something new. Whether it’s a whole new camera, or just a £10 lens I picked up in a charity shop.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you could give to anyone wanting to get into live music photography?
Just go shoot. Make sure you have a fast lens. And then just go shoot.
In you spare time, what other kinds of pictures do you enjoy taking? Are there any types you try to avoid?
I started with photography by taking behind-the-scenes photos on film sets, and that’s still my main genre of photography – I love it! I also like taking portraits, and capturing candid moments with friends and family. I don’t enjoy landscape photography very much, or any that doesn’t involve people!
What motivates you to keep taking photographs?
It’s an addiction, plain and simple. That, and it’s a great way for someone antisocial like me to connect with and meet people!
Who has been your favourite artist to photograph so far?
My favourite band to photograph so far has been Percival Elliott. They’ve got so much charisma on stage that it’s hard to get a bad shot of them! Paige Monroe has also been loads of fun to photograph. She and her band bring so much energy to gigs, and it’s fun to capture that.
Who are your favourite artists to listen to when you’re at home?
The Beatles are the band I can always come back to – I’ll never be bored of them. But right now I’m hooked on The Growlers.
What was the first gig you ever went to as a fan and what was the first gig you did as a photographer?
The first gig I photographed wasn’t even that long ago! I’m not sure what the first gig I photographed was, but one of the earliest gigs would have been Percival Elliott at the Wedgewood Rooms. And Victorious Festival soon after that.
What was the first record you ever bought? Do you still listen to it today and, if so, what does it mean to you?
I actually can’t remember ever buying music! I got all my music when I was younger from my parents. And I just stream everything these days!
What is the best experience you’ve ever had at a live show?
Well the most memorable currently, in part because it was very recent, and because it was loads of fun, was The Novatones at the Isle of Wight Festival. I got to hang out behind the scenes with them and take photos all day in the build up to them performing. It was great fun!
Finally, for those that aren’t already familiar with your work, how would you describe it?
I’m not sure there’s a particular look or style to my photography work – at least not one that I can identify. But in general, I’d say I tend to make very vibrant images. I’m colourblind, so I think I just edit my photos in the way that makes sense to me. I also shoot a lot of black and white, and I add quite a bit of grain to some of my photos.
In order to view Alex’s work, please follow the following links to his website and social media. Supporting photographers like Alex ensures that they keep on providing us with the shots that enable us to continue to remember the gigs and moments that mean the most to us.