It pays to be bold, in photography and in life. That’s how one lucky music fan ended up with an entire roll of behind-the-scene shots of his favorite band, a young, up-and-coming Depeche Mode. And it all started with a gently tossed roll of film and a note. Here’s how it went down.
No cameras allowed
The year is 1983 and the relatively new British electronic band, Depeche Mode, is set to play Ulster Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Brian McDonnell, a huge fan of the band and a young photography enthusiast, is stoked. Unfortunately, the venue has a strict “No cameras” policy. So, instead of sneaking one in, Brian comes up with the innovative plan to throw a roll of film on the stage with a polite message requesting snaps. He also includes his return address.
At the time, Brian has no expectation of Depeche Mode following through. But, much to his surprise, they did just that.
The resulting images, shared for the first time earlier this month, show a legendary band on the cusp of greatness. And the candid and behind-the-scenes nature of the moments, many snapped in the band’s green room, makes the photos all the more special.
Why we’re seeing the Depeche Mode film photos now
Sadly, Brian McDonnell passed away 20 years ago at the age of 37. And, up until recently, these images had only been seen by a small handful of folks. That all changed when they were rediscovered by Brian’s sister, Anne McDonnell Lawrence, who shared them with the Facebook Group, Belfast Concert Photographs 1980s.
Anne found the shots stashed in an envelope while looking through photographs of their late mother. Shortly after she posted them online, a Twitter account belonging to the music venue Belfast Empire shared them with its 14.2K followers. The story was subsequently picked up by the BBC, which reached out to Anne for comment. Incredibly, she recalls the night of the Depeche Mode show well.
“I remember him telling me he was at the concert and he had brought a film for a camera with him—he wrapped his name and address around it and asked them to take photos and send them back to him. He never thought he would even get a response. I don’t know how long after, but he got the film sent back to him.”
She also recalls how devoted her brother was to the band and how much it meant to him when he received the photos back.
So what’s the takeaway? Certainly not to pelt the next band you see with celluloid (or memory cards), especially given the price of a roll these days. Nope, instead, the takeaway is to think outside the box and be bold. Do that, and maybe, just maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. That said, the next time you are told “No cameras allowed,” I challenge you to come up with a creative workaround (that doesn’t break the rules).