Gary Brown: Me & Manchester Music

You’ve probably seen Gary Brown snapping away on a night out – he’s one of the city’s biggest photographers and he’s everywhere! Here, he writes about his love for Manchester’s music and gives insider tips for breaking onto the music photography scene…

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I’ve been taking photos of the Manchester Music Scene for about 5 years now and I have a love for music deeper than anything else. Music transcends all other art in the world and touches us in a way nothing else can. I could probably rant for ages but I’ll try and keep things short and sweet!

My story started when D&B giant Metropolis advertised on their Facebook page for a new photographer. I didn’t have any experience in clubs, but as a huge D&B fan I couldn’t let such an opportunity slip. I got a trial at one of their Warehouse Project gigs and promptly borrowed some fairly expensive equipment from the camera shop I was working in (and where I self-taught all of my photography skills) – determined to take this chance.

Luckily I did well enough to get the job for Metropolis and I owe them a lot for taking a chance on me. Working for them has led to working for Hideout Festival, Parklife, Warehouse Project and other big clients.

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Despite all of that my love of music leads me down all avenues. As well as shooting for those promotion giants I am possibly even happier working in a dirty basement with some amazing underground music, and that’s where the true magic lies. The small nights in Manchester are the heart of the scene – it’s there where you will see the Warehouse Project 2016 headline acts playing to crowds of 200 people. I’ve learned to put my trust in Mancunian promoters and often venture to nights when I don’t even know the DJs playing, simply because I trust the Promoters do. Hit & Run, Selective Hearing, Hoya:Hoya, Project13, Now Wave, Pandemik and loads of others are responsible for a large part of my musical education and I hope I’ve paid that back with my documentation of such events.

I suppose I should pass on some photography advice so here’s something that happened to me early on: I met a photographer at a gig. I’d seen his stuff online and thought he was one of the bigger Manchester ‘togs (shooting big gigs for newspapers etc.)

“Do you do this because you love it?” he said. I answered “Yes.”

“Good” he responded, “because if you’re in it for the money, get out now because there isn’t any!”

Only do things you want to do – the second you take paid photography work that you don’t actually want to do, your work will suffer and so will your love of the art. In music photography that means photographing the music too, not schmoozing round backstage getting trashed with the other hangers-on in the hope you’ll become best friends with the DJs!

There are a few other things I think every photographer should take on board:

  • Know about light & never stop learning: If stuff goes wrong figure out why and how to deal with it in future. If you can learn how light behaves and how your camera interacts with it then you can create any image you want.
  • Don’t be a dick: More a general rule of life than anything. There are hundreds of decent photographers out there looking for work – if you go round acting like a knob or being difficult then your clients can quickly find someone new.
  • LEARN ABOUT LIGHT: This is so important it needs saying twice. If you can quickly assess the light in any given situation, you can be quicker at setting your camera up and getting those killer shots!

That’s about it for now. I’m writing a series of articles on my blog at http://gbmultimedia.co.uk with more tips and techniques so head there if you want to know more. Or feel free to get in touch on Facebook or Twitter etc. I’m not a dick so I’m always happy to answer some questions!

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Thanks Gary! All photos (c) Gary Brown

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