A friend of mine, whom I worked with back in the early 2000s and kept in touch with via Facebook, recently asked me how I made the transition from Front Desk Manager at a Day Spa to Concert Photographer. Here is my story.
I’ve been taking photographs since I was 18 years old. Photography was a hobby for me but not something that I actively pursued. In 2007, on a whim, I purchased a Polaroid point and shoot digital camera and everything changed. I was amazed that I could capture more that 36 images at a time and could view the images instantly. We headed to Atlanta for our anniversary where I rediscovered my love for photography. Digital photography was cool, but in my mind, serious photographers used film. I kept my Polaroid in my purse but still used the Minolta for serious photography. However, as time marched on, I realized that film photography was becoming more difficult simply due to finding film finding a place to develop it. I felt I had to upgrade to digital to continue my passion for photography.
My husband and I put the word out that I was looking for a DSLR and wanted some suggestions. The results were amazing to me. It seemed that hobby photographers perferred Canon while professional photographers preferred Nikons. Being a practical person, I decided that if I was going to spend my hard earned money on a new camera then I would go with the professional photographers’ recommendation, even though I had no delusions of being a professional myself. So in 2010 I picked up a Nikon D3000 with an 18-55mm lens.
Again, everything changed for me. I discovered I loved taking landscape photos, especially of trees, cemeteries and buildings. I was happy as a clam with my new camera and happy taking photos of stationary objects and landscapes.
In 2010, jazz musician Marcus Miller was coming to Niagara Falls for a concert. My husband, who apparently knows everyone and isn’t afraid to ask for favors, asked his manager if we could attend. (My husband hosted Marcus Miller at a instore meet and greet event at Barnes and Noble the year before and held onto Marcus’s manager’s contact info). The manager put us on the guest list. My husband then asked if I could take photos of the concert. The manager agreed on the condition that I share the images with them. That night, my husband told me we were going to see Marcus Miller and oh by the way, you’re going to take photos of the concert.
Excuse me? What did you say? I’m doing what?! I was shocked. I had never even seen Marcus Miller perform let alone know anything about shooting the concert. I was a mass of nerves. How was I supposed to get shots? Was I allowed to move from my seat or just stay there? What would the other concert-goers think?
At the concert, I played it cool. Before we got to the venue, I made sure my shutter was on quiet mode, but was nervous about the illuminator light going on during the performance. When we got to the show, I walked to the soundboard guy for a piece of tape and just stuck gaffers tape over the light. My camera bag at the time looked like a purse so when the lights were dimmed and the show started, I calmly pulled out my Nikon and took a few shots from my seat. Nobody even noticed. I made a few adjustments and then cautiously moved to the aisle and sat on a step and took some more shots. Again, no one cared. As my confidence grew, I became more bold. I waited until a song was finished and quickly moved to another vantage point. If someone was startled at my sudden appearance, they saw my camera and let me do my thing. It was amazing and I was actually enjoying myself.
When the concert was over I was relieved. I hadn’t been escorted out by security, hadn’t disrupted the concert and to my knowledge, hadn’t annoyed anyone. As agreed, I sent my photos to his manager and went back to photographing landscapes. The concert was a one time thing – or so I thought.
Six months later, Marcus was back in town, this time with David Sanborn and George Duke. Chuck got a call asking if we would like to attend and if I could photograph it with the same terms as before. We both jumped at the opportunity but again I was nervous. Unlike the first concert which was in a smaller venue, they were going to be performing at the symphony hall. I was nervous but up for the challenge. Before the concert started I reconned the hall looking for the best vantage points. I chatted up concert goers by introducing myself and telling them that I might suddenly appear in the aisle next to them during the concert. I sought out security and ushers and introduced myself to them as well. When the concert started I went into Ninja mode and did my thing. Unbeknownst to me, I was being watched.
The local paper was there, too. I don’t think they sent a photographer but they sent their music critic. He was watching me throughout the concert and later commented to my husband (who knows everyone, remember) that I was the ‘most polite concert photographer’ he had ever seen. I think I was more proud of the ‘polite’ title than the ‘concert photograpehr’ title!
The photos were delivered and again, I thought that was that. Two months later, though, we got a call from the tour. Would Kelly be interested in flying out to San Diego to cover the concert again? Travel and expenses would be taken care of.
And so it began. I started photographing jazz concerts more than I was photographing trees. I had earned respect from the music industry and became known in the jazz community. I later added country music to my repertoire and was called a ‘bad ass photographer’ by none other than Eric Church, who knows a thing about being a bad ass. My images have been in Country Weekly, All About Jazz, Pollstar and countless other publications. I have traveled internationally to cover concerts and have the respect from artists, venues, publicists, and fellow photographers. Yes, I’m kind of a big deal.
I never sought to be a concert photographer, it just happened. But I’m glad it did.