For as long as I can remember, I’ve been jealous of band photographers. It wasn’t just a jealousy of their talents, but of their privileges: I wanted to be in the pit with them, taking actual pictures of amazing moments rather than just imagining how my own shots would turn out.
At university, I worked for the student radio station. After scoring arguably the best role there was – Head of Music – I found myself inundated with free CDs, gig tickets and interview opportunities. It was a dream come true. After a little while, I realised that maybe, if I asked, if I asked really nicely, just maybe I would be awarded the photo passes I’d always coveted.
I had a crap camera, but I didn’t mind; I was giddy just to be in the pit, shooting beside professionals with equipment that made mine look like a Fisher Price toy. It was stressful and difficult but so much fun. I loved every second.
Graduating from uni wasn’t nearly as hard as leaving the radio station. I’d grown to love the dirty, cluttered little building we called our home, and I knew I’d never quite get over having to leave behind my guestlist passes and freebies. The pit passes were especially hard to say goodbye to, even though I was pretty dreadful behind the lens.
I didn’t get the opportunity to photograph again until the very end of 2007. I took my crappy camera to a Gogol Bordello show in Sheffield, before which I was due to have a meeting with Eliot and Eugene to discuss progress on the band’s website. I shyly asked Eliot if it would be okay to photograph that night and he handed me a press sticker. I asked if this was good for three songs, the standard allowance, and he asked if I wanted more. When I squeaked out that maybe I would, he found a laminate for me and said I could shoot the whole gig with that.
I spent the rest of the night on cloud nine. From the first time I saw Gogol Bordello live, all I wanted was the opportunity to shoot them. I coveted pictures taken by the likes of Danny North and Bossanostra, wishing desperately that I had not only their talent, but the privilege of being allowed in that precious pit.
That night in Sheffield, I finally got my chance. My camera was even shitter then than it was when it was new, and my memory card could only save about 300 shots (now I take around 2,000 per gig), but it was an amazing experience.
And while my pictures from that show are basically examples of well-meaning but slightly foolhardy amateur aspiration, when I look at them now I can still feel how excited I was just to be able to take them, shitty camera be damned.