Sweat, spilled beer, stepped-on shoes, ringing in your ears. Project Bands on Film captures the electrifying energy of London’s alternative music scene.
It’s been decades since the film was pronounced to die off, yet it’s still sticking around, perhaps stronger than ever. Why, you might ask? It turns out that in the age of perfect technology and instant gratification, analog and its imperfections and unpredictability might offer more thrills than a stream of Instagram likes – to some, at least.
Nina, who’s behind Bands on Film, is embracing just that. Being an avid concert-goer, her aim is to give a glimpse of the vivid music scene of the British capital through her camera lens, and let us tell you, she’s really good at that. We asked her a few questions about the project, in exchange for a few of her recent pics. Scroll down to learn more!
First of all, tell us a bit about the project, please! How long have you been doing it, and what made you start it in the first place?
When I moved to London two years ago I got to see so many bands and was completely blown away by how amazing the music scene is. I had experimented with disposable cameras before and when I looked back at these photos I got the idea to make it my hobby to document what is going on on London’s small stages.
This is quite a cliché question, but we’ll ask it nevertheless: why film? What do you think makes it a better format than digital?
To be honest I started shooting film simply because I couldn’t afford a proper DSLR camera. So I decided to make film my thing. I like the little imperfections of film photos – in my opinion that represents small rock bands playing run down stages better than perfectly edited digital shots.
Some musicians are really extremely anti people taking pictures during their gigs. Have you ever experienced any uncomfortable situation/confrontation with a band? Would you say shooting on a analog camera can be an advantage in this sense, or the other way around?
As I pretty much only photograph smaller bands, they are usually happy about any photos of them. In England, but especially in London, gig photography (also with flash) is way more common than in Germany, where I am from. Everyone is used to it. I usually only take two to three photos per band, so you can’t quite compare that to photographers who shoot the whole set.
I had one German band complaining to me on Facebook how flash photos are annoying and look shit, it’s very rare small venues have good enough lighting for photos to look good without. That’s the perk of digital photography – very high ISO settings.
What do you think makes the London music scene special in comparison to other (European) cities?
When it comes to alternative music, London simply has the best scene. Although the number of live venues is constantly declining, there still are so many great venues and DIY spaces. One of the best things for gig-goers is that a lot of small shows are free or cheap, as there are loads of great local bands, but you can even see international acts for free. People see more bands and get to know more people, which breeds creativity in my opinion. Obviously there is a downside to free shows too, but that’s a different story.
Which show did you enjoy the most in the past year?
I think my favourite show last year was Patti Smith in Berlin. She’s my hero. I actually took a shitty snap of her too.
Could you give us some concert recommendations for spring 2018?
I have a list with all my upcoming gigs on tumblr, but here are some I look forward to most: The wonderful Saint Agnes are headlining an all-day show for We Can Do It in April. There are a few tickets left for Idles’ show in Southend, as their London show and pretty much the rest of the tour are sold out I think. Bad Breeding are playing an EP release show on May 1st and May 4th will see the return of the legendary Pit Parties; a killer line up with Pulled Apart by Horses headlining.
Last but not least – do you have any tips for anyone who’d like to improve their concert photography skills?
I always find it useful to watch the band for a song or two before I start shooting (obviously only if there’s no three-songs rule) to see how the members are moving and think about what shots and angles would be interesting. You often get the best photos in the last songs, when the band and audience have warmed up – so if you’re shooting film save some shots. Just in general: be considerate and try not to spend more of 20% of the show taking photos as you’ll want to have some time actually watching the band.
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