Having experienced the downfalls of doing what you love for no price, Melbourne-based music lover and photographer Lauren Connelly, aka LALA, seems to hide these downsides well. Having worked with the AU Review and more recently Nova FM, it’s been a long journey for Lauren. Four years on from her bringing a camera along to a gig for the first time, she’s very much busted the gig photography myth of just being a music fan.
We chatted to her about shooting One Direction and Bon Iver, and how fishing nets can be beautifully captured in photographs. She also shared some pretty cool advice and some of her own daydreams, too.
If you could shoot a day in the life of a band/solo artist up close and personal who would it be?
Oh boy. This could take a while.
My most obvious answer is BEYONCE, because I do enjoy shooting fashion here and there and every day would be a crazy adventure, and I bet she wouldn’t make me pay for anything.
My crazy answer is Die Antwoord. Self-explanatory.
But my musically inclined heart’s answer is The Knife, Queens Of The Stone Age, Laura Marling, Violent Soho (cos I know we’d get along and they are just killing it right now), Modest Mouse, or The Nation Blue. All bands and artists who mean something to me, that I love and am fanatical about. I do find that if I have an emotional connection with an artist that it comes through in my photography.
You seem to have a vast range of people you shoot, who has been the most interesting?
Vast is definitely a word for it… haha. One of the more interesting shows I’ve shot was Bon Iver. I kind of missed the Bon Iver train, but I knew it would be a good show to shoot for portfolio reasons. We weren’t allowed to shoot the introduction, which was pitch black anyway if I recall. But when the lights came on it felt like we were under the sea, all bathed in blue fishing nets everywhere (I think they were fishing nets!). At one point Justin Vernon knelt under his keyboard and seemed to gather himself for a moment. I got that shot and looking back afterwards, it felt very special.
Who is your favourite photographer and why?
I don’t really have a favourite photographer, per se. I am aware of a lot of photographers and admire their work. Music wise, we have an incredibly talented pool of photographers in the country. I love and adore Michelle Grace Hunder who has just released RISE, her Australian hip hop portrait book. She is someone I look up to and respect as a peer, and as a friend. Ian Laidlaw is another photographer on my radar. I think our styles are comparable, but he has a unique way of capturing the intensity of the moments of gigs. Stephen Booth, Aleksandar Jason, Jennifer Sando, the list goes on.
What is the funniest thing you have witnessed at a gig while photographing?
The most fun I’ve ever had shooting was Soundwave in 2012. Metallica were about to start but I stayed behind at the smaller stage and shot Fucked Up instead. It was worth it. Mr. Damian pounced into the crowd two minutes in and glared into my lens at any available moment. His crowd interaction is like nothing else, and the 250 people there loved every minute of it. Being one of two photographers to capture that stuff is pretty special.
Do you have any stand out advice for other budding music photographers?
Keep shooting! Just. Keep. Shooting. Don’t expect to be getting media passes to the big shows straight away. Practice at local gigs, support your scene. Develop a portfolio. Probably the best advice I’ve had as a photographer was to be fussy about your work. Just because it’s in focus and composed, do you really have to publish it along with the four other shots that look exactly the same? Less is more. Make sure you’re happy and then don’t worry about the rest.
There’s a lot of diversity in your portfolio, how was it shooting One Direction in comparison to Violent Soho?
In all honesty, Violent Soho fans are pretty on par with the craziness of One Direction fans, so it wasn’t too different. Maybe a few more crying girls at One Direction, a few more crying gents at Violent Soho. In terms of actually shooting, a big show like One Direction is way easier, especially if you get to shoot from the pit and not the mixing desk. Working with stage lighting in a big venue is a bit more interesting and fun to work with, plus they are all just holding microphones and pacing around and you don’t need to contend with microphone stands or too much movement with instruments. Violent Soho are always a tough band to shoot because they are doing so many gnarly facials expressions and hair throws and beard waves… there’s a lot of pressure to capture those moments! I love shooting them though, their energy is contagious and I always manage to get at least one shot of Luke Henry with a fat grin on his face.
When did you develop a passion for music and in turn, music photography?
I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember and that hasn’t really changed much since I was a toddler. When I was a teenager I started getting into bands and the local Adelaide scene, but didn’t do much photography. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s when my boyfriend at the time was in a band, I bought a decent camera and started taking it along to shoot their shows. I still didn’t take it very seriously. I managed to get some good shots and thought maybe I could get good at it. It took me a couple of years, then one day I was randomly asked to shoot a Laura Marling show as a favour, and I’ve been shooting shows ever since.
What is your opinion on studying photography?
I am a self-taught photographer who has just started university to study photography. I can say with confidence that you don’t need to study to be a photographer. I decided to study photography because I think I’ve taught myself and learned all I can from hands on experience, and there are other areas of photography that I’d like to learn about. It is really a matter of personal choice, and whether you want to commit the time.
Finally, out of all your work, what are your three favorite photos/experiences?
Lykke Li – Parklife 2011
I was listening to Lykke Li’s Wounded Rhymes a lot in this period, so shooting her at Parklife was a thrill. I love this shot of her, it reminds me of a movie still, like it could be from a film clip
Japandroids – 2013
A chaotic show in one of Adelaide’s smallest venues. I had no chance unless I jumped onstage, and I planned it through the night. I did it quickly and jumped behind the amps. Brian and Dave didn’t seem too worried but I got booted after a song. Didn’t matter, I had the shots I wanted! This was a real popular one after the show and I love it because it shows the amazing vibe the gig had.
Lorde – 2014
I’ve come a long way in photography over the last four years and I think this is probably the shot that shows it. This was originally in colour until a fellow music photographer (Alex Kwong) suggested I shoot out a black and white version. It has great impact and I like to think it stands apart from some of the other similar photos from that tour.
To see more of Lauren’s work head over to: