Jeremy Harris, 40, has been shooting bands since he was a Fugazi-loving teenager in Washington, D.C. After a stint in art school, he began to make a name for himself and has been glorifying rock gods ever since. See more of his work at www.JeremyHarris.com.
Q: How’d you get started?
A: Before I became a professional, I would take my camera to shows and shoot them. It was always small clubs—I had the run of the place, and nobody gave me a problem. Of course, I never got paid for it, but you have to build a portfolio. I made promo cards, sent them to music magazines, and eventually got my first job shooting Me First and the Gimme Gimmes for Alternative Press. Then I got my big break, a job with Kerrang! magazine in London. I shot a feature on the band Jet, and the magazine’s been a client for the past seven years or so.
Q: Can I shot in any club?
A: In the smaller clubs, you can do it without a problem. But at the bigger venues, especially the arenas, there are a lot of rules. It’s much more difficult to get in, and once you do, they only allow you to shoot the first two or three songs.
Q: No more all-access passes?
A: The guys who started rock- and-roll photography in the ’70s, like Jim Marshall—the guys I was influenced by—could do what ever they wanted. Now it’sget in, shoot three songs, and leave. A lot of great moments in rock-and-roll history are being missed. There’s a lot more pressure now.
I was shooting the Mayhem Festival in New Jersey recently, and for the main acts there were probably 15 photographers in front of the stage, competing for the best vantage point. People are cool, and we cooperate, but it’s stressful.
Q: How do you handle the crazy concert lighting?
A: It is done so well in big arenas that it’s not much of a problem. I’m shooting with the Canon EOS 5D, so I try not to go over ISO 1600 if I can help it. I need to get the 5 D Mark II so I can shoot high ISOs at f/2.8, and still get a fast enough shutter speed. You don’t want to shoot as wide open as f/2 because you’ll never get anything sharp— these guys thrash around a lot.
Digital technology has been incredibly beneficial to rock photographers. Back in the day when you had to use that grainy Kodak T-Max P3200, you just were hoping you got something usable.
Q: What else is in your kit?
A: My favorite lens is the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II. I also really like the EF 70–200mm f/2.8L IS for a zoom—you often don’t know how far away the artists will be, and you want to get plenty of shots close to their faces. It’s nice to have a variety of wide and close-up options with you, if you can. The EF 17–40mm f/4L is slower, so it’s not optimal, but I usually bring those three lenses.
I also take a lot of memory cards. On a festival day, I’ll go through 16GB. In an average concert, not nearly as much, but you’d be surprised how many shots you can blow off in three songs— maybe 500. I shoot a lot more when I don’t have as much time.