Melbourne based photographer Emily Day has been photographing gigs for the past ten years. She started out shooting for friends in bands and then realised she was rather good so offered her work to Beat magazine. Since she has also shot gigs for Triple M and the Melbourne Folk Club amongst other publications. Emily loves listening to folk but her favourite genre to shoot is punk and metal because shit gets wild!
What drew you to into Photography?
I’ve always loved art but what drew me to photography was the ability to capture a moment, and also say something with a photograph.
You have a solid body of work behind you now. When did you first pick up a camera professionally?
It’s hard to pick a date as I have been shooting my friends’ gigs for years now. In 2013 I was looking at some shots I had taken at a Henry Wagons gig and I was like, hey, these are pretty good, I should send these to Beat Mag. So I have been shooting for Beat Mag since then. I have also shot a few gigs recently for Triple M which have been great fun, including British India at Cherry Bar and the Foo Fighters at Etihad Stadium.
When composing a shot, is there something you look for specifically or are you more spontaneous with your approach?
I am more spontaneous, I find it is best not to overthink it and just go with your instincts. Although the one thing I try to do is a quick check of the background to make sure there is nothing distracting there that is going to piss me off in post.
What is the best part about photographing live music?
Um, the vibe! The craziness of it all. The adrenaline rush when you only have three songs to get a great shot, and you are fighting with a bunch of other photographers, squished into a tiny space between the crowd and the stage, dripping in sweat, getting beer splashed on you, trying to grab a shot in unreliable lighting and with often unfamiliar musicians. It’s like a cross between art and sport.
What is your favourite live shot you have taken?
A shot of Xani Kolac from The Twoks at the Port Fairy Music Festival in 2013. She is such a vivid performer, with her amazing hair and outfits and insane music skills. She was such a joy to watch, leaping around with her violin, and the lighting was incredible.
What is your favourite musician portrait you have taken?
Probably of The Nymphs, they were performing a gig at the music festival at Lorne and they were wearing their lovely 1950s dresses so I lured them down to the wooden pier so I could photograph them against the lovely blue-green of the water.
In terms of live music photography; you photograph artists from a number of different genres. Do you differ your approach when photographing a metal or punk band, in comparison to a folk artist?
Ha, well when I’m photographing a metal or punk band I make sure I am wearing sturdy shoes as no doubt I will be crushed in a mosh pit. The exception to this is a recent gig at the Corner with King Parrot and High Tension, I’d gone there straight from a birthday dinner at a nice restaurant with my parents so I was wearing a fancy dress and dainty shoes, and getting beer tipped over me, and the singer from King Parrot was pouring water all over the crowd, who were throwing themselves towards the stage. Amongst all this, I was trying to get a good shot while trying not to get too much beer on my dress.
Style-wise though, obviously you have a lot more time to compose a shot with folk music as they are just going to be standing there with a guitar for half an hour, whereas with punk and metal you’re wondering – are they going to leap into the crowd now, or rip off their shirt, or scream into my camera lens? Where should I be standing do get a good shot of that? And then you also have to weigh up how much you want a killer shot with how much you don’t want a crowd surfer’s flailing leg kicking you in the head.
Your work is full of well-known artists. Who was the most rewarding band/artist you have been able to shoot thus far?
Probably High Tension. I am in love with Karina Utomo. She is my feminist superhero. To see a tiny young woman like that keeping a room full of rowdy men completely spellbound is awesome to watch. Also her long black hair and her screaming – she’s a photographer’s dream.
Who would be your dream band or artist to shoot, given date and time were not issues?
The Beatles, of course.
Are there any events you would like to photograph that you haven’t yet?
I would like to shoot Meredith or Golden Plains. It’s such a lovely vibe there and the golden light in the afternoons is incredible. In terms of non-music photography, I would like to travel around Australia shooting odd festivals – such as the pumpkin-rolling festival in Queensland and the penny farthing festival in Tassie.
Do you have a favourite type of subject matter to shoot? eg. live music photography, portrait photography, pictures of cute dogs etc.
Dogs and babies are fun because they are adorable subjects and the shots always make people go “Awww.” But I think portrait photography of fully grown humans is my favourite genre.
You are an avid dog-lover according to your website and photography. What is the key to being able to photograph animals successfully?
Understanding the animal’s character – ie are they sleepy, playful, grumpy or loving – and trying to capture their individual nature. Also being a crazy dog lady and talking to dogs like they are people helps. And having a squeaky ball and lots of treats to get their attention.
Let’s talk influences. Are you inspired by any photographers in particular?
I love Annie Leibovitz. I saw an exhibition of hers when I was about 14 and I was blown away by how she captured the character of her subjects and really said something with her portraits. That is what I would like to do.
Do you have any advice for those wishing to pursue photography?
Don’t do it, it’s bloody expensive. Haha kidding – go nuts, follow your heart, shoot a whole bunch of stuff, figure out what you like doing shooting best and just go with it.
What are your plans for the second half of 2015, any upcoming projects?
I’d like to focus more on portrait photography. I’m also travelling to Japan in November so I am looking forward to taking my camera there. Japan is such an amazing place, it’s a gift to photographers.
Emily Day will exhibit as part of Citizens of The Streets at Shadow Electric Bandroom – (18+ only)
With Sex on Toast | New Venusians + The Do Yo Thangs
Photography by Markus Ravik and Emily Day
Artwork by Kathryn Pappas
1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford, Vic
Tickets on sale now – shadowelectric.com.au
To view more of Emily’s photographers go to: emilylauraphotography.com.