It has taken me almost a week to pick out my highlights of 2013. I've taken roughly 150,000 nightlife / festival photos this year alone. The 13 that follow highlight the most memorable moments behind my camera as well as the story behind each. It wouldn't be fair to sort them into any sort of order, they were all great moments, so I've left them in chronological order. I hope you enjoy the photos as well as learning a little about the stories behind them.
1 - BUGGEDOut! Weekender 2013 - 20th January
Normally January is a pretty quiet month for nightlife photography giving me the rare opportunity to take weekends off. A group of us invested, rather last minute, in going to Bognor Regis for BUGGEDOut!'s annual weekender, lets just say it didn't disappoint and will probably remain my favourite weekender/festival for the rest of my career. I spent the best part of an hour on the first evening debating whether to take my old camera in to the arenas with me, mostly to take a few photos of my mates and our time at the weekend, but it didn't take long before I was distracted by the lights and crowd in front. So I probably owe an apology to my friends who were only in a handful of photos, sorry guys! We mostly hung around the back of the main room all weekend, where the floor was slightly raised and carpeted, a luxury for a clubnight! The next day, I tweeted a couple of my favourite shots from the first couple of nights and thanks to Jack from BUGGEDOut!, who picked up on those tweets, I was asked to take this photo of Frankie Knuckles' closing set of the weekend. The only instruction I'd been given was that the confetti canon was going to go off when he played 'Your Love'. Unfamiliar with the song and after listening to it a few times on YouTube, I set the best music brain in our group, Pete Wheeler, the task of making sure the second he heard the song coming in that I was where I needed to be. I heard the first few notes and before I knew it I was being pushed into place! One of my confetti snaps was later used for the 2014 weekender posters spotted at various festivals this summer.
Not a bad weekend, for what could so easily have been cancelled due to snow. I can't listen to 'Your Love' by Frankie Knuckles now without being reminded of that Sunday night in Bognor.
2 - Eats Everything at Skint Mondays - 4th March
Having listened to Dan's 2011 Essential Mix religiously from its first air and then enjoying sets from him at various festivals and club nights, including Cubed in my home town Reading. It was to my delight that Cubed's sister night / weekly party, Skint Mondays, announced him playing a set in what's definitely the most intimate of venues I've seen him play to date, Sakura Reading. Bringing house, techno, bass and as ever a little jungle his set didn't disappoint.
3 - Erol Alkan's 10 Hour Marathon Set - 28th March
I'd always heard great things about Erol's marathon sets but being fairly new to the scene I'd never been to one and sadly will never get to go to another but what a night to experience. Having worked in Reading until just after midnight, we hopped in a Â£70 taxi to London, getting to Fire just after 1. I took this photo on my iPhone and I still include it amongst my professional portfolio. For me it really captures the atmosphere even on such a low tech device. Sometimes as a photographer it's easy to get caught up in buttons, dials and settings but we then miss the moment happening right in front of the lens.
4 - DJ Oneman at Concrete Space - 20th April
I'd never heard of Concrete Space before working this night and I was warned it was a very dark, barely lit, square basement, as a photographer light is my raw material, so give me darkness, and well, you get no photos. This venue was probably one of my most challenging venues so far but by using a couple of wireless flash guns I was able to get some great shots of Oneman and friends as well as some nice crowd shots. By the time I took this photo it was becoming harder and harder to work my wireless flashes as there must have been 20 - 30 people behind the booth including Skream who poppped in. Definitely the hardest night I've had to photograph to date, but also the most rewarding.
5 - Ed Banger's 10th Birthday at The Forum, London - 3rd May
With Justice headlining as well as the entire Ed Banger crew on the lineup, you could say I was pretty excited to shoot their London date of their 10th anniversary tour. On the lineup was also a guest slot, to be announced on the night and punters couldn't believe their eyes when they arrived; 2manyDJs B2B Erol Alkan B2B Skream B2B Trevor Jackson. Perhaps the biggest B2B set London has seen in years? Each set on the night had different production setups from LED screens, to illuminated lips as well as the Busy P inflatable. It kept me on my toes all night. This photo for me captures the energy of the crowd during the B2B set.
6 - Disclosure Live at Field Day, London - 25th May
Shooting the BUGGEDOut! tent all day at Field Day was insanely fun, the biggest draw to the tent was Disclosure who must have emptied not just Victoria Park and the other stages when they came on, but every park in London. With most live acts you are given the first three songs to shoot from the pit with no flash allowed, however, I was the exception to the rule on this day as I had free reign of the tent where I opted to go straight to the front of house desk (sound & light) where I precariously balanced myself on a scaffold pole to get this shot during 'Latch'. The Disclosure boys have since shared this photo several times and used this photo as their cover photo on their various social media outlets. I felt particularly honoured when Guy messaged me saying it was probably his favourite shot of the year, they played 43 festivals worldwide this year.
7 - Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs at Parklife, Manchester - 9th June
I was given the opportunity to join the Social Media Team for Parklife and meet some of the guys behind both the festival as well as The Warehouse Project. Due to other work commitments that weekend I was only able to attend on the Sunday. With no set instruction of who/what/when to shoot I was able to go see all the acts that interested me. Although the main stage had a great lineup, I just wasn't interested in shooting there, I wanted to shoot in the slightly more intimate (some were still pretty huge) big tops. By the time T.E.E.D took to the stage, The Big Top was well and truly at capacity. With people dancing shoulder to shoulder it wasn't long until a few people attempted to stand on shoulders in the crowd. That was what this photo should have captured, but just as I framed my shot the guy fell and my heart sunk a little as I thought I missed the shot. I in fact caught three shots of him falling and the last is what you see. The guy ended up crowd surfing instead, totally unplanned but it truly caught the atmosphere inside during T.E.E.D's set. I followed the image on Facebook and Twitter until eventually the person it was crowd surfing was found. Needless to say it was his cover photo for some time.
8 - Bromance Records at Fire, London - 19th October
I've shot Fire a handful of times now and one of my favourite places to shoot from is the balcony at the back of the room. Sat down at the top of the stairs you get a few knees to the back of the head from people dancing or walking past but it's the only spot you can get a nice elevated view of the crowd. I'd got a few crowd shots I was happy with before but none have come close to the one I caught during Gesaffelstein's set. The bright orange/yellow flood lights are only used a handful of times over any night in Fire, and after sitting in my spot for nearly 30 minutes waiting for the shot, this time round the crowd were ready. Fire on fire.
9 - Diplo at Annie Mac Presents at The Warehouse Project, Manchester - 8th November
Like the BUGGEDOut! Weekender, this night was supposed to be a night off, the one opportunity I had in the busy Autumn/Winter club season to visit The Warehouse Project, one of my favourite venues in the country. I always feel a little lost spending upwards of 6 hours in a venue without a my camera, especially with production levels as good as The Warehouse Project's. So I dropped a quick email to the guys behind WHP, to check it would be ok to get a few snaps whilst there and they happily sorted me out with a AAA pass. I didn't get my camera out all that much that night, maybe an hour in total, but it was well and truly worth it. I've seen Major Lazer several times within the last year but not once have I had the chance to shoot them. Every photographer would agree they're great fun to shoot and it's frustrating when you have to stand and watch so many times without a camera. Thanks to Diplo for the re-tweet of my photo of him in his hamster ball and to Annie Mac who also shared the photo on Facebook and Twitter describing it as 'This is what can happen at an AMP show....'.
10 - BUGGEDOut!'s 19th Birthday at Fire, London - 23rd November
BUGGEDOut!'s 19th Birthday was special for many reasons; the all female headline acts, the fact they opened every room of Fire and Lightbox up to accommodate a crowd so big they could have sold the venue out three times over or the fact I got to photograph three incredibly talented ladies (Left to Right: Heidi, Maya Jane Coles & Miss Kittin) lighting the candles on the cake before handing it over to the BUGGEDOut! team! Sure, there were possibly better photos I took this night of the DJs or crowds but this photo captured something another photographer won't get the chance to shoot again. Perhaps my first historic shot.
11 - Disclosure at O2 Academy Brixton, London - 29th November
I'd waited months for this show, it was particularly special for several reasons. Firstly it was both Disclosure and I's first time at Brixton Academy, an iconic and historic London venue and secondly it was the last date of their worldwide live tour. Myself and one other photographer were given exclusive access to shoot beyond the press allowance of the first three songs and I knew before turning up exactly what shot I wanted from the show. Having attended several gigs at Brixton Academy over the last few years I knew how great the surroundings of the stage were with it's columns and balconies. I wanted a shot that incorporated Disclosure's live show and production, with the reaction of the crowd and the surrounding areas of the stage. I specifically rented an extremely wide lens for the show (Canon 16-35mm f/2.8) to make sure I could fit in the whole shot. I knew it would be their last song 'Latch' that would get the biggest reaction from the crowd, so just before they started that song I got the lens ready. I was then treated to an extra I hadn't envisaged having in the photo, the Disclosure face logo on the towers either side, thanks to Will Potts (their incredibly talented lighting designer). As soon as they went off stage I rushed off to the VIP bar to grab a beer and quickly edit this shot. With over 7,000 likes on Facebook and 200 re-tweets on Twitter this smashed any record for a photo of mine on social media.
12 - The Chemical Brothers at BUGGEDOut! at The Warehouse Project, Manchester - 6th December
BUGGEDOut! had booked The Chemical Brothers to play two events for them in the space of two weekends. The first was an intimate show at Area in London, a warm up as such for the following weekend at The Warehouse Project, Manchester. The Chemical Brothers are not big on being photographed so even being given the chance to photograph them, not once but twice, was a great honour even before I'd started shooting. Their tour manager kindly asks to respect their preference of not shooting right up in their faces', to not use flash and as they're playing a 3 hour set to stay away at the start whilst they warm up into their set. None of which came as a problem with the way I shoot. The first weekend in London I was able to grab some really intimate shots of the small crowd and the duo which was intense and very smoky. The second weekend, pictured above, was a much bigger affair, although I wouldn't say it was any less intimate as every person in that crowd was there to see their musical idols.
Having previously shot them the week before and at the BUGGEDOut! Weekender back in January, Johnno from BUGGEDOut! had told me about their tradition of double high fiving at the end of their sets over the years. Something I had caught back in January without knowing the history of it. After it being too smoky to see when they did it in London, I was keen to catch it in Manchester. For the last 15 minutes of their set I waited patiently by the sound desk just hoping they'd do it and the lighting would be good enough to see it. For just the last song of the duo's set, the production guys put up The Chemical Brothers text on the LED screens and they double high fived. Another case of having a shot I wanted in mind combined with a little bit of luck gave me a shot that went straight to being The Chemical Brothers cover photo.
13 - BUGGEDOut!'s New Years Eve at Studio Spaces, London - 31st December
Last year I took off NYE and NYD to celebrate with my then great girlfriend and now fantastic fiancÃ©, Abbi. So this time round was the turn of working NYE. I'd been offered various events across the country, even one abroad (I think they were confused about where I was based) but nothing really came close to what BUGGEDOut! / The Hydra had to offer. An intimate event at Studio Spaces, London with Erol Alkan, Daniel Avery, Ivan Smagghe and Kiwi. Unless you have no ears, you can't have missed both Dan's and Erol's EP releases this year, showing just how forward thinking Erol's 'Phantasy' label is. There was a mixture of old and new in everyone's sets and it was just the perfect way to celebrate the end of year.
Of course as with all of the best nights to shoot, it came with various challenges. Namely it being 4 black walls lit by handful of LED parcans mostly left on red all night. With practically no lighting all night and a confetti canon at midnight I was again challenged to get images from nothing. I couldn't have been happier to come away from that venue with this midnight shot. It might not be a room of 5,000 ravers with CO2 canons, confetti explosions, lasers, LED screens and big budget production that most photographers chase for NYE work. It instead left the music at the centre of the celebration. A room full of music lovers with a handful of balloons.
There were plenty more highlights I could have included from the artists, promoters, festivals and venues I've worked with in 2013. Thank you to everyone who's made this year special, those I've worked for, those I've photographed and those who came to dance.
Time to rest the camera for a few days before taking on what's to come in 2014.