Photo courtesy of Aubree Stamper/MJ


When I look through my lens, I see the world differently. When I look through my lens, the world seems more interesting, more beautiful. I see the world in the possible photographs that could result from it. It brings me closer to things. It picks out the details. It gathers the entire space around me into one single frame. I even remember my life in photographs. I remember places and faces from the frames I have them in. My camera lenses act as my eyes and I become lost in the lens and the world it presents to me.

When photographing, my mind revolves around getting the perfect image — catching the right moment. When I stand at the side of the stage behind a small metal barricade with my elbows positioned on top of the rail to act as a tripod for my camera, which is fixated on the band playing on stage, I think of absolutely nothing else.

I remain lost inside my lens, completely and utterly focused on catching the right shots when the lighting and the movement and the universe converge into perfection before my eyes. Like when the stage lights up and the vocalist pauses for a moment to belt out a note or hand the mic to an enthusiastic audience member or, my favorite, to stop and look out into the crowd of passionately dedicated faces and take it all in — a moment music photographers catch that show just how much music means to people and how it brings them all together.

I do this all while not giving a care about the outside world: not hearing my boyfriend tell me to watch his stuff while he goes to the bathroom and not paying attention when the vocalist of Counterparts is tapping me on the shoulder, ready for the interview I have with him. I pull out of my lens, dazed and confused, forgetting that life was occurring all around me.

When I’m in the photo pit, the designated spot in front of the stage for photographers, this innocent habit becomes dangerous. I run into other photographers, elbow people in the face, get kicked in the head by crowd surfers, and so on. The photo pit is a dangerous place in general, like a war zone, but where the guns are actually cameras. Every photographer wants the best shots, the best spots, and to catch the random, awesome moments that occur on stage.

It probably looks amusing to people viewing the show from above from the balcony — photographers following the vocalist and band members around, moving back and forth parallel to the stage like moths to a moving flame. But more like angry moths; fighting and reaching and jumping and ducking.

The key to surviving this and getting good shots is not being a selfish photographer. It’s one thing being glued to your viewfinder and innocently not paying attention to what’s going on around you — accidentally bumping into someone but immediately apologizing even though they aren’t paying attention, either — but it’s another thing when you’re barging through other photographers, blocking their shots, and not sharing the “good” spots in the pit.

Not only does war occur during a band’s set, but between the sets as well, only then it’s a war with words. Photographers will ask each other questions like, “So, who are you shooting for?” — not because they are actually interested, but because they want to brag about who they’re shooting for. Especially when they’re on tour with the band that’s performing, God forbid a single soul in the venue doesn’t know that they’re freakin’ touring with the band, not simply covering the show for some puny publication. Ha. Amateurs, right? No. They walk around with their big grey telephoto lenses like they own the place. Psh. You’re no Adam Elmakias! Anyway, many people quit music photography because they can’t lower themselves to fight the war with other (rude) photographers in the pit every night.

These days anyone can take a photo and call it art, but the difference between taking iPhone photos, taking selfies or buying a fancy camera and calling yourself a photographer and actually being a photographer is the fact that it needs to be something that takes over your brain like a disease when you’re doing it. It needs to flow through your bloodstream; the click of the shutter needs to light a fire inside you, the instincts of composition need to take over your muscles. You need to forget the rule of thirds and the other useless knowledge you formally learned and you need to create your own angles and visions. The way you photograph something should change the way people view that subject or object or place forever. That’s a real photographer.