This year’s Manchester Punk Festival was yet another sublime cacophony of smiles, sounds, and sozzles. As always, the organisers went above and beyond to make it an event to remember. The addition of even more styles of music, the addressing of previous years’ venue capacity issues, and the trial run of a new three-full-day format all enhanced what was already the obvious highlight of the UK festival calendar.
Rather than cover the event by way of endless stream of “and then I watched…., and they were good”, I thought it’d be great to shine a little light on some of the unsung heroes of festivals and live musical performance in general – the gig photographer. Seeing a wicked set of pictures can take you back to watching a band absolutely smash it or turn an idea of a punk rock road trip into a reality for next year. There’s always loads of great pictures of festivals too but it’s rare you get to see the work of (nearly) all the photographers in one place.
With that in mind I tracked down as many of the photographers covering Manchester Punk Festival as I possibly could; the idea being to showcase what they think to be their finest work from the event. Below, you’ll find their submissions, along with a few words from each about their experience of the festival and their work outside of documenting all things punk.
Greet Druyts @ Gresle Photography
Greet is an award-winning freelance picture snapper who provides photographs for a variety of publications in Belgium. As you can see, her pictures capture the raw energy of live punk performance whilst strong use of colours make her submissions some of the more stylised we received.
“The biggest challenge of covering an event like MPF is to pick out moments that define the essence of the festival, you always have to keep a look out for good subject matter.”
“MPF highlights for me were The Bar Stool Preachers and The Creepshow, since I had never seen them live before.
“Also meeting up with Smoke or Fire, Templeton Pek, Authority Zero, all long time friends, it’s nice to see them do so well at festivals.
“And meeting new people through them, like Billy Liar. Who turns out to be such a nice person, and we agreed to do some photos in the future!”
“When not photographing punk, I volunteer for a magazine from my hometown. Also, weddings, family portraits, etc.”
“When taking pictures, I try to capture the atmosphere, photos that tell a story, I try to capture a single point of time that portrays the natural emotion of the day / band / music, the feel of the festival.”
Check out Greet’s other work at her various photography pages and show her some love at her social accounts below:
Raphael Sperl @ Volume.at
Raphael is based in Austria. His passion for photography has taken him all over the world. He’s possibly the only one of our featured photographers to document gigs stateside (don’t quote me on that, it’s a complete guess but it filled some words in a bio I have limited information for). Anyway, his pics from Manchester Punk Festival 2019 are great. Check ’em out.
“The challenge of shooting in rather dark location like Gorilla is that you always have to shoot at high ISO, as i don’t like to use a flash. To my mind flashing destroys the atmosphere of pictures, as you can see details which you won’t spot when attending the show.
“So, I like to reduce my shutter speed and go up with ISO. Pics might get blurry and grainy, but hey, it’s punk rock, pics shouldn’t be perfect.”
“I really have to say that the politeness of everyone – the staff, the security, the audience – was overwhelming. Although travelling to MPF from Austria, I instantly felt like having a new home and family here.
“Band-wise, my highlights were the more unknown British bands like Speed Dinosaurs or Boom Boom Racoon, because you can barley catch these bands in continental Europe.”
“When I don’t shoot punk shows, I often just shoot random shows not looking on the genre. It’s a great way to discover new music and support artists who are spending all their passion for music.”
“Capturing emotions is the most important part of my work. Having the emotions frozen in your picture is worth far more than perfect sharpness or great contrast. “
You can check out more of Raphael’s work at his personal pages below. Go give him a follow:
Joshua Sumner @ Cold Front Photos
When I first contacted Joshua about this photo gallery idea, I emailed him, as I did all the other photographers on my list. Several days had past when I sent him a WhatsApp message chasing it up. I received an irate voice recording back (he’s modern like that). It said:
“What are you fucking emailing me for?”
Fortunately, I have the credentials to contact Joshua by means other than email. God forbid a real client ever wanted some real work though.
If you’ve ever read any of my own shambolic gig reviews for either Dying Scene or Sounds Magazine, you’ll recognise Joshua’s name. Moving myself to another country has temporarily put a stop to our creative ventures, but it was a pleasant and nostalgic struggle to work together again.
Despite how far we go back, I didn’t actually deal with Josh at all for these submissions and answers. Instead, he dictated them to Sarah (of Shout Louder fame); like a barmy old millionaire preaching his last will and testament to an increasingly impatient, soon-to-be-spinster. I’m picturing him orating whilst pacing up and down some lavish drawing room, Sarah frantically tapping at an ancient typewriter before she can finally slip arsenic into his drink. Unorthodox methods, perhaps, but Sarah does have impeccable grammar so no complaints here.
As always, Josh’s pictures are sick. They capture the raw power and darkness of some of the heavier performances at Manchester Punk Festival beautifully.
“The most challenging thing about taking photos at an event like MPF is to not get too smashed too early! You’re surrounded by all of your mates, but you don’t have time to speak to them at all during the day because you’re running around getting shots. Especially when you’re taking photos for publications like Shout Louder or Dying Scene, where you’ve got a long list of bands to capture.
“Manchester Punk Fest is not like you’d imagine a normal festival, because it’s all indoors. Going from venue to venue feels like running between multiple smaller gigs. In that respect, it’s easier, because the lighting quality is generally good – you don’t need to worry about carrying loads of batteries for your flash, because the indoor venue lighting is consistent.”
“The biggest highlight of MPF is seeing friends from all over the world that I don’t often get to see. Other highlights for me were Coproach, Muncie Girls, Incisions, Corrupt Moral Altar, Adrenalized and Purple Audis in no particular order.”
“Outside of gig photography, I like taking pictures of little beetles ‘n’ that, and other insects.
“I like hiking with my family and getting shots of landscapes. I really like photographing people, especially candidly in conversation. I just like taking photos.”
“When I’m taking shots, I hope to capture not just what I’m seeing with my eye, but what’s in my head. I just want to capture what’s in front of me.”
Josh Sumner – dictated but not read. [Not sure why but he was quite insistent on including this detail. There may be a clue in the fact that it was midnight on Friday when they worked on this for me.]
You can check out the rest of Cold Front Photography’s portfolio at the following social accounts:
Alex @ In Squared
Alex is a photographer for events photography company In Squared. To be honest, I don’t really know too much about them and we weren’t able to get interview responses either. We do have a load of great photos that focus more on the people of Manchester Punk Festival though. Alex’s work has a real old school quality that gives the shots submitted a print-zine feel. The captions are published as emailed to me.
You can check out Alex and the rest of In Squared’s work at the following links:
Gary Hough @ Gary M Hough Photography
Gary Hough is an absolute veteran of punk rock in Greater Manchester. Officially on duty for punksite.com, he was happy to contribute some of his pictures and thoughts to our MPF Gallery.
[Re: Festival challenges] “… Distance in covering each venue between band changes. It’s a lot of walking.
“For the venues with no photo pit, getting a good vantage point to capture the action can be really challenging especially when it’s tiny, big crowd, and other photographers vying for position.
“Some of the darker venues with minimal lighting are really difficult to get a clean sharp shot in especially as I don’t believe in using flash and often bands and venues hate it too.”
“For me [the festival highlight was] the friendliness of all MPF staff involved, really helpful, supportive making sure everything goes to plan and all are looked after.”
“I photograph mainly the punk, post punk underground music scene around Greater Manchester and sometimes further afield but will try and capture subjects I find interesting, rarely planned and most often spur of the moment such as our punk cat, Shelley (our other cat Diggle sadly died).
“I don’t do Weddings – Urgh.”
“As an underground scene music photographer I always try to capture the gig to highlight the vibe, realism of the event for those viewing who couldn’t attend the gig. I’m often told by those who attended my photos recreate that for them too.
“I try to bring out the intensity of the bands and their personality and those of the crowd also.”
“My approach to concert photography is ‘What I see is what you get’ for each gig, band, etc.
“The punk, post-punk scene I focus my photography on should always be documented as it happened and kept alive for future generations in much the same way it does for me from when I first got into punk rock back in 1976 to date.”
You can browse some more of Gary’s fine photos at his photography pages below:
Jimbob Taylor @ Jim Taylor Photography
Mullet-sporting, moustache-rocking, and perfectly able to continue capturing the moment long into even the most-vulgar of after parties, Jimbob might look like he nicked the camera he’s snapping with but his talent suggests otherwise.
Jim hails from a similar northern backwater hellhole as I do. As small-town boys, we naturally form an agreeable team. His work is consistently amongst the best of the vast piles of pictures snapped at Manchester Punk Festival each year and is testament to his tenacious scrapping down the front for the perfect snap.
“The challenge of photographing an event like MPF for me is choosing which bands to shoot! Inevitably there are always going to be clashes of bands, but I find myself being torn between shooting bands I may have not shot before or supporting bands of my friends.
“To conquer that I just tend to wing it, support some of my friends’ bands but also make sure I shoot others that I haven’t done in the past.”
“The highlight of MPF for me is just the sheer amount of friends you manage to see in one weekend.
“Shooting and going to different punk gigs in the north you see some friends one week, others the next but at MPF you can guarantee you will see the vast majority of the DIY punk scene over the weekend.”
“Other than shooting punk gigs, I’d class myself as a documentary photographer. My most recently released project was a photo zine of my three year documentation of the skaters in Falmouth, Cornwall.
“I’m always on the look out for any sort of scene i.e. punk scene, skate scene, Northern Soul scene. I guess I’ve just always been drawn to sub-cultures and scenes one way or another so it makes sense to shoot them.
“On the flip side as a random day out every now and again I like to walk about Manchester and shoot as much street art as I can find purely because there is such a huge rotation of street art there it’s nice to create an image of something that may not be there in the next week or two.”
“Again, when it comes to shooting, I look to capture moments from a documentary viewpoint, which means to not intervene in a scenario but to observe. It would be very rare that I set up a planned shoot with the subjects posing, unless it’s for a certain commercial purpose.”
You can check out Jimbob’s work over at his website and social media profiles below. His skating pictures are wicked too:
Elliot Langhorn @ E.C. Lang Visual
Elliot is a professional freelance photographer and videographer specialising in show photography and music videos. His pictures do an excellent job of capturing the passion and fire of Manchester Punk Festival’s performers and attendees.
“The biggest challenge of covering events like MPF for me is keeping my energy up. I get tired easily and I can be quite anxious with big crowds & loud noises at times (it’s a good job I love the scene so much) so it’s important to push through that, get plenty of rest afterwards, and make sure you’re drinking water and not just beer!”
“One MPF highlight for me was Press Club, I’d never listened to them before but they were so good, I’ve been listening to them constantly since. You would never have guessed they’d just arrived from the other side of the world, they brought so much energy, which made for some really cool shots.
“Sam Russo was mint as usual, even if I did have to remind him of his own lyrics midway through songs. What a legend.
“Best band to shoot though was probably Throwing Stuff, it was absolute scenes. I mean it always is with Ben, but the stage invasion was the real clincher. It was a sea of flailing limbs on the stage, so about 90% of my shots were just a blurry mess (had to utilise the spray & pray technique) but the remaining 10% reflected said scenes quite well- not got round to editing them so that’s something to look forward to!”
“Other than punk stuff I love photographing moody landscapes, street scenes, portraits and anything involving people really!”
“For me the most important thing to capture in an image is a sense of narrative – something that makes you think beyond just that individual frame.
“At an event like MPF it’s all about capturing the atmosphere, the passion people have for their art, and the raw emotions on show. Hence why a lot of my favourite shots are of singers screaming their lungs out & contorting their faces!”
If you fancy having a peep at the rest of Elliot’s work, you can check it out at the following links:
Nathan Dodd @ Freefire Studios
I met Nathan from Freefire Studios after a metallic hardcore assault by Fair Do’s at this year’s Manchester Punk Festival. He was right in the mixer down front getting extreme closeups of the virtuoso shredding on display. Even before this MPF Photography Gallery was an idea, I knew I’d more than likely want to work with his pictures in some capacity.
Nathan came to Manchester Punk Festival to shoot some promotional material for the band Eat Dirt. He ended up staying for the whole thing and taking some wicked pictures whilst he was at it.
“My Sony a7iii is like a child to me at this point. You know when you go out and you get that feeling you’ve lost something? Yeah, when I don’t bring my camera to places my brain likes to briefly make me think I’ve lost it.”
“…Anxiety dictates every action I make in my life and can become very overwhelming, throughout Saturday I’m getting great shots for bands but anxiety got too much as towards the end of the evening I had to sit down and call it quits. I’d made a couple nice media contacts that day but hadn’t plucked up the courage to actually be social with people there.
“That night as I was about to return to the hotel the singer of The Bloodstings makes the effort to have a chat with me and I won’t go into the subjects of the chat but that moment definitely gave me a pick up. Ended up joining the band for the rest of the night, drunk more than I normally do and overall had a great night.”
“[In 2015] I went to my first concert. It was Slipknot and Korn – what a show to kick everything off with. Loved everything about it, I discovered a part of myself that I never knew existed that night. I’d been dabbling around with cameras for a couple years at the point as well, studied TV and Film in College and learnt all the basics.
“I found that I much rather enjoy being behind than camera than in front of it, gives me an escape from my own life by capturing someone else’s for them instead.”
“Before I decided on specifically concert photography I was mostly a street photographer, used to go into London and find some nice quiet spots to relax and get nice pictures. Also done a lot of basic video work with a couple people I met in college, experimented with a few different genres but nothing major came of any of it due to me being a sad lad and throwing in the towel multiple times.”
“Manchester Punk Festival was a fantastic experience for me, never have I had to travel out that far and I’ve never covered a festival before either. Had to adapt to many different situations regarding the lighting, crowd, and how different from one another some of the bands were on stage. Will definitely be attending future years hopefully as an official photographer as this time around it was more of a casual experience.”
You can check out the rest of Nathan’s work at:
Main Featured Image: Joshua Sumner of Cold Front Photography in the heat of the moment.