My job as a stage manager affords me a lot of free time and flexibility throughout the year, which I absolutely love. Depending on the year, I can be on the road from six to ten months, and at home in Nashville the for rest of the year. While home, I spend my time relaxing and refueling from the high energy, always on-the-go lifestyle the road provides. This is also the perfect time for me to work on various passion projects, such as bag making, woodworking, and most recently, photography. I have been off of the road since January this year, and I have spent the time hyper focused on setting myself up to transition from my current career as a stage manager, into a career as a photographer. It has been a wonderful process so far.
I spent January building up the perfect photography travel kit for my needs on the road. I purchased a wonderfully tiny, lightweight flash, as well as a wireless flash trigger kit that enables me to capture great moments even in dark situations. I made my own camera bag using my favorite materials, waxed canvas and leather as a precisely fitting home for my FujiFilm X100T camera and flash kit.
By February, offers for stage managing work started coming in for the spring, and I realized it was the perfect opportunity to throw myself into the life of a working photographer. I decided to offer my photography as an added service to the band I would be stage managing for, in exchange for the visibility from my photos being used in social media and print with my credit.
In March I finished this website as a portfolio to show what I'm capable of, and soon after I committed to a job that will keep me busy for the rest of the year, stage managing and photographing a wonderful band called Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness. Success! My first photo gig!
I spent April and early May adding the essay and journal sections to this site so they are ready to display all of the adventures I'll will be experiencing while on the road this year.
Last week I flew out to Los Angeles to work my first few shows with Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness. My first impressions were amazing, and I'm absolutely stoked for the rest of the year! They are all wonderfully talented guys, and I look forward to the friendships that have sprouted already. This journal entry follows my first week as a working photographer, shooting and stage managing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.
I spent four days in Los Angeles, learning the gear that I will be maintaining, and rehearsing with the band. The photo above is from the first bunch I took, during rehearsals in a sound studio south of LA. We flew to San Francisco the night we finished rehearsals, and I took full advantage of the free night.
I went for a midnight walk down Market Street, and I photographed a few kids who were skateboarding in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building downtown. While I was shooting them a man dressed as an Alcatraz prisoner walked up, and one of the guys whispered to me "Be careful, this guy will talk your ear off". Boy were they right!
This is Dan Buddy. He is a locally known homeless man, who wanders the city entertaining tourists by singing the songs of an Alcatraz prisoner and spreading "good loving vibes" as he says. Upon being offered a few baguettes by one of the skateboarders, Dan quickly replied "I don't need food, but I will duel with you", and good, lighthearted foolishness ensued.
After the dueling was over, I walked with Dan Buddy for close to an hour and was fascinated with his energy, his stories, and his openness to connect with me. Dan is a 60 year old veteran who fought in the Vietnam War, where he says he held his best friends as they were dying on the war fields. When speaking of his time in the Army, Dan repeated a particular phrase often, "They didn't teach me how to kill, they taught me how to destroy". His animosity toward the US Army and war in general was obvious. I noticed Dan's mood shift from happy and playful to straight anger very quickly a few times throughout our walk. When speaking about losing his eyesight for instance, he spoke fiercely and violently about defending himself against his attacker on the street years before, but quickly snapped out of it. "But I'm not a violent person, I'm really not" would follow after each brief fit of rage. I was beginning to imagine the life Dan had experienced, and it filled me with empathy for him.
It was intriguing to me that Dan was quite prideful of his homeless lifestyle, explaining that unlike other homeless people he knows, he is always respectful to the area where he sleeps and would never leave garbage behind. Dan spoke eagerly about the time he spent train hopping around the county in the 80's, as if they were his glory days. He pridefully considers himself a street actor, and enjoyed showing me a few of his songs that he performs on the streets daily, complete with a searing guitar solo played on his cane. "Ever seen someone play the trash cans?!" He was performing for my camera.
Dan repeatedly excused himself from our conversation to sip his "go-go juice", a Gatorade bottle containing whiskey because he felt guilty drinking in front of me. He explained that he keeps his whiskey in a Gatorade bottle to avoid the attention of the police, but also so mothers don't have to explain to their kids what he's drinking. Later when I asked him what his greatest passion in life is, he replied "My two girls and my two boys". They all live in New York state, but Dan hasn't talked to them in years. He went on to detail how he had been in and out of jail and homeless for the past 30 years, starting when his "old lady" died. I pictured her being the glue that held him together, and again was filled with empathy for him. Before parting ways I asked Dan if he had any advice that I might find useful. Without much thought he quickly replied "You should help people only when they are ready to help themselves, otherwise you're just wasting your time."
The next day I worked my first show with Andrew McMahon. We played a corporate event for a Silicone Valley tech startup called Zendesk, who's software is embedded into apps like Uber and Facebook Messenger. The event was held in a beautiful old warehouse on a pier, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
For lunch I walked to a park across the street and found a few pictures.
My first show went quite smooth, mostly due to the band being such pro's on stage. I was able to focus on getting pictures through most of the set. These are my favorites.
That same night we flew to Las Vegas for a show the next day. Again, we took full advantage of the remainder of the night, sharing drinks, walking the strip, and meeting new people.
This is Andrew, the frontman in the band, 56 floors up, but not too worried.
These woman liked Zac, the keyboard player because he looks like Jesus. They also loved playing for my camera, it was so fun!
"I want my picture without her!"
Beautiful women seemed to be coming out of the woodwork.
And pizza to end a great Las Vegas night.
I spent the next day at the Cosmopolitan rooftop pool because that's where the stage was, overlooking the Las Vegas strip! It was one of the more exotic stage locations I've gotten the opportunity to work on. Before our set began I shot some photos of BØRNS, a band I've been really loving lately. They played a great set, I was excited to see them!
By the time we played its was dark out, and the energy was palpable! What a joy the set was to shoot! The show went off without a hitch.
I love how Andrew engauges his fans during the set. During the last song he jumped in the crowd, posed for selfies, and even signed some autographs! All mid-song, without missing a note! I loved it.
I had a fantastic week and I'm as excited as ever for the rest of the year working with these guys. I cant wait to document our lives on the road together and everything in between. I feel relieved to have a week of tour photography work under my belt, and I'm really eager to see what my portfolio will look like by the end of the year. Next I need to streamline the editing process and everything that happens after I capture these photos. This journal post alone must have taken me six hours or more to produce! Starting in June I'll be working a show almost every day until August, so developing an efficient workflow will be imperative. I suppose practice will help, so expect more soon!