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.
Harriet Brown, or Hattie depending on who you’re talking to, is a 22 year old photographer from Enfield, North London, and is still currently based in London. She has been doing photography professionally for just under three years, but before that she thought she was going to be a painter! Harriet considers photography as both her job and her favourite hobby, which can sometimes get interesting, but she wouldn’t change it for the world!
What does photography mean to you?
For me photography is all about the lines between reality and somewhere beyond. A picture can be amazingly authentic yet transport the viewer to a world separate from their own, somewhere the imagination can really take hold.
I love how amazingly raw and honest pictures can be but I also love photos that blur the lines between the reality of the shot and what the artist wants you to see.
Whose work has influenced you the most?
I am always looking for new inspiration, but currently people like Phoebe Fox, Hollie Fernando and Alex Prager really inspire me. I also have always been obsessed with how painters like Eigon Schiele and Joan Miro depict figures and space in their own strikingly different styles and colour pallets.
From your perspective, what makes a great picture?
For me a great picture is something that captures a moment in a way that is unique to how the person behind the camera views that moment. The best pictures usually happen when no one is posing and the moment is genuine – these moments are rarer and more special if you can capture them.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I buy big coffee table books on photography (my latest is Silver Lake Drive by Alex Prager) and I will sit, sometimes alone, sometimes with someone I’m collaborating with, and bookmark every single photo I like. I then go back over my bookmarks and try and figure out why I like them, how they were shot, and what makes them special.
What goes through your mind just before you press the shutter button?
Honestly, not much. Usually my brain will be waiting for the person I’m shooting to do something interesting with their face or body before I press the shutter. So before I press it my brain is just kinda dormant and waiting for that moment!
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos in a live environment?
That you’re never going to be the best photographer you can be on your first shoot.
I used to really beat myself up about not being as good as my peers or not fully understanding my camera. But now I think if I had started immediately as the photographer I imagined myself being then I wouldn’t of learned what I like and grown into my own style. Part of the fun is the first bit when you are new to photography and can just throw yourself in and try everything out!
What settings do you use in a live setting?
It honestly changes so much from gig to gig depending on the vibe, but usually I go for a faster shutter and a wider aperture. One thing I always do is keep the ISO as low as I possibly can.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you could give to anyone wanting to get into live music photography?
Just start doing it, the only person stopping you is yourself! Send some emails to small bands you like and music mags, offer to shoot for them and then just keep your camera with you and learn as you go.
In your spare time, what other kinds of pictures do you enjoy taking? Are there any types you try to avoid?
I shot my first wedding last month, it was way more stressful than anything I’ve ever done before but the satisfaction after I had done it was so good because I knew I had made someone’s day. Other than that I don’t usually take a lot of pictures in my spare time as a day off is so rare. When I get some time off I tend to just stay at home, watch Rick and Morty and sleep!
What motivates you to keep taking photographs?
I wouldn’t keep taking photographs if it wasn’t for the amazing people around me. Having an amazingly creative and hard working circle of friends involved in music and amazing friends from my home town who I’ve grown up with all keep me motivated to keep doing what I’m doing.
Who has been your favourite artist to photograph so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to shoot some amazing artists, but shooting with Anteros and Black Honey is always a pleasure. The Amazons have an amazing live show to shoot as well.
Who are your favourite artists to listen to when you’re at home?
I go through massive music phases all the time, currently I’m listening to a lot of Peace, Wolf Alice, Marsicans and Vistas. Recently I’ve also been listening to a lot of bands I loved as a kid like System of a Down, Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne – I think that’s my favourite era for music honestly.
What was the first gig you ever went to as a fan and what was the first gig you did as a photographer?
First gig as a fan was Scouting for Girls shortly followed by a solo trip to Reading Festival in 2012, the day I got my GCSE results. First gig as a photographer was Flying Vinyl Festival 1 in 2016, I had no idea what I was doing but ended up meeting some of the people and bands I now class as my closest friends.
What was the first record you ever bought? Do you still listen to it today and, if so, what does it mean to you?
First physical record I ever bought for myself must of been X by the XX, I played it on my dad’s record player every day for almost a year. I still love it, I don’t really listen to the XX much anymore but whenever anything from that album comes on I still feel nostalgic.
What is the best experience you’ve ever had at a live show?
Being at Ally Pally with Black Honey for the Royal Blood tour will always be a stand out point for me. I grew up near there and have seen all my favourite bands from Florence and the Machine to Lorde to Slipknot play that stage. To be able to walk onto the stage and look out at the crowd will always stand out for me.
Also, shooting Franz Ferdinand in Romania was an unexpected high point for me. ‘Take me Out’ was the first song I heard on the radio when I was like ten or eleven and it made me realise that I wanted to listen to that kind of music and live in that world. It’s the first defining moment where I listened to a song because I liked it and not because my parents put it on. So getting to finally shoot them about a decade after that moment was more emotional for me than I expected.
Finally, for those that aren’t already familiar with your work, how would you describe it and how can they best view it?
My work is quite colourful and playful, I like playing with angles and the more hair flipping and awkward on stage grins the better. The vast majority of my work will be put on instagram before anywhere else.
In order to view Harriet’s work, please follow the following links to his website and social media. Supporting photographers like Harriet 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.