Every year there are thousands of music events around the globe, all of which claiming to be the best. Luckily for us, social media is a platform which shows us how the event went even if we didn't actually attend. This is all possible because of the countless social media teams, sponsors, and most importantly, the event photographer.
Before social media was around the only way to see event coverage was on TV or in print. There wasn't Instagram, Facebook, or anything else to bring the most recent coverage right to the palm of your hand. We as fans had to rely on media outlets to bring us the best of the best. With the dawn of social media the event photographer has started to slowly skip the middle man and bring you direct content, right to your phone or Laptop. Surely we all know that feeling of scrolling through pictures online from an event the previous weekend and commenting, or tagging a friend on a artist’s photo. But what most of us fail to think about is: that great moment, that photo which captures the craziest moment of the night, was taken by a event photographer who isn't famous. A photographer who compared to the artist they are following, is known by very few. Sure, we all know some big names of event photographers and their social media handles, but if you were to see them in the street like an artist, would you stop them and recognize them? The answer to this, is most likely not. A lot of fans (myself included before I started in this industry) see the lavish life of the artists that these photographers photo, and they fail to see just how hard those same individuals worked to get there.
No one really knows the stories of these visual artists. No one knows the sacrifices they made to get where they are today. A lot of fans, and even budding event photographers assume that because of the photos we see on social media, that these event photographers and videographers live the same lavish lifestyle as the artists they work for. What they don't see is the thousands we spend on equipment, the struggle to make a name for ourselves in an industry filled with people willing to do the same job for free, the sleepless nights editing photos after everyone goes home from the event, and all the countless time away from family and friends traveling to different events. Is it a fun job? In short, yes, there is nothing I love to do more, and any of these visual artists will say the same. But with the fun, and the travel, comes sacrifice. We as fans have the privilege of following these professionals lives via social media, but in all honesty don't know just how hard they worked to get there.
Simply buying a DSLR Camera does not make you a event photographer. Even owning a DSLR and managing to get it into a event, doesn't make you a event photographer. The photographers and videographers I will write about over the next year all have a story, and just like the artists they represent, each story is different. But the one thing that remains constant, and the thing that makes them professional event photographers is their drive, tireless efforts, willingness to give most things up if it means advancing their career, and the undeniable ability to tell a story though a camera. These people are the best of the best. They do not simply go to a event to “document” it, they go to tell a story. A story that you can show to friends and retell for years to come. In an industry that is constantly changing, these individuals are not famous, at least in regards to the people they work for. They may have thousands upon thousands of fans on Facebook but could you pick them out of a line up, or see them getting up to accept awards at big Hollywood events, do you see the paparazzi following them? The answer is no, they are not famous, their work is famous, and with that, it is time to give credit to the people behind these cameras. From day one, I went into this journey prepared for battle. The field of event photography is so competitive that I went into it with the mindset of, that it was every man or woman for themselves. What I found out as I moved my way up the ranks is that it is in fact the complete opposite. Almost all of these photographers and videographers communicate with each all the time, critiquing work, collaborating on shows, and even offering Jobs when they are overbooked. The more events I cover, the more I realize this is not about me, it’s about US. I said earlier every one of these talented individual has a story that needs to be heard, and like any story, there is a beginning. Enter, Kaitlin Parry, the face behind the event photographer, “Shoot People.”
As I wrote the previous two articles about event photography I mentioned that I had met most of these photographers and videographers. Kaitlin, however, like a few others, I had not met in person yet. I didn't mention this when speaking with her but I had seen Kaitlin's photos for a few years now, well before I ever picked up a camera back when I was on the east coast. But like most fans, I was familiar with some of her work, but never knew who she was. Sure, I knew from social media that she was the person responsible for some awesome content when it came to some awesome underground event coverage in New York City, but that's about it. So as I walked into her loft, set up my gear and hit record, I didn't want to start where she became well known; I wanted to start at the beginning. Before shooting Wiz Khalifa for High Times, before standing on stage with Flosstradamus, and way before ever touring with Griz. I wanted to start where all of our journeys started. The day she picked up a camera.
I have always loved photography. I got my first camera on my fifth birthday. I begged and begged for a camera, and got one. But it wasn’t until seventh grade that I took a dark room class. I had to beg my mom and tell her “I want to do this, I want to do this.” My grandfather had just passed away so I got his camera (from the 60’s) so my aunt gave me one of his cameras. From that point on I basically didn’t stop doing darkroom classes, I did them all the way up through college.
I started out at a normal liberal arts college and then sophomore year I transferred to the New School because I really wanted to study visual art. I feel like every kid goes through this who wants to pursue art. “Do I pursue art, or do I leave it as a hobby that I want to enjoy and pursue things that are lucrative and stable?” And then you realize that that’s just stupid, and I don’t care, and I'm going to do what I want. So I went to The New School, and that opened a lot of doors for me, not just because of the school but being in New York and the accessibility of everything. I basically just went to the warehouses, brought my camera and snuck it in everywhere. Every show and everywhere I could bring my camera I would go. Every single day I was in some warehouse taking photos. Through that I developed a portfolio and eventually started working for blogs. Then I started interning for magazines, and then I started working for those same magazines once I got through those internships. Then I graduated, and wasn’t making enough money shooting music yet so I worked for this photographer Kenneth Willardt who does beauty stuff and then I started getting into studio assisting and studio managing all while shooting every night, on the weekends, all the time because I am addicted to it. Then I quit my job and went full time. That’s my story really. We would really shoot every day, and things would just happen for you.
Every photographer remembers their first time shooting, the first show, but not Kaitlin. To my surprise when I asked her what her first show and camera were was I got a confused look and a brief response.
Oh, I don’t know because it all basically started out with me partying with my friends with my camera and then that turned into… well i'm still doing that basically, right?
I quickly realized that for Kaitlin this didn't start out as “Day 1,” it all started with friends and adventures that turned into something much much more. As we continued to talk we discussed her first memory with a artist, not necessarily working for that artists, but just the first “wow I shot for this artists and I think its cool” moment.
“Next year i'm going to be on this stage, I want to be on this stage, i'm going to be on this stage.”
Alright I have this story that fits your question. Junior year at The New School, I went to the Mad Decent Block Party, I was a huge fan of mad decent since I dated a guy in Philly who would go to these parties and I would go with him so that’s how I got into mad decent, then the Mad Decent Block Party in New York. They were still pretty small, it was like NYC and Philly were the only ones they were doing. I remember standing there like “next year i'm going to be on this stage, I want to be on this stage, i'm going to be on this stage.” The following year, I wasn’t on the stage, but I made it to the pit, actually… I might have got on the stage. Then the following year after that I was working for Mad Decent shooting. So I think that might be, that for me was a huge “this is awesome” step.
“…I realized I can do this, this is something I can do, and I lost the fear of failure of the whole thing. Yes you fail in little ways all the time because we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, but that was definitely, like a yes I can do this moment…”
Every person who has a hobby they love inevitably at one point or the other has the same though. That thought being, “can I make a career out of this.” Every photographer or videographer I know has a moment like that, there is always one that comes to mind every time I ask, and it is always different depending on the person.
Well I made that choice when I quit my job, instead of pursuing that career, I am pursuing this career, there really isn’t any turning back. But it was definitely a significant moment, I realized I can do this, this is something I can do, and I lost the fear of failure of the whole thing. Yes you fail in little ways all the time because we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, but that was definitely, like a yes I can do this moment, I started out in the crowd with my camera and now two years later i'm on this stage and employed by the producer.
I was 26 when I quit my Job, I was a studio managing and accosting for fashion photographers. If I hadn’t done that my style and the way I do things, the way I think about photography, would be different. That job completely influenced my style. 100 percent was working with those photographers. You see everything from a set with 20 different light heads and basically a warehouse filled with sets all to a guy who travels around the world and has one light. Yet they are both making the same amount of money, it was really awesome. And working with retouchers, that experience was really awesome and formed who I am as a photographer.
Anytime someone switches careers there tends to be a time where they think back and wonder, “what if I didn't quite, where would I be know.” In this case I couldn't help but wonder if Kaitlin would want to go back to retouching or being a studio manager, or if the other side even interested her anymore.
No I think I would be doing what I am doing now. I don’t have the patients to stay in that industry.
A lot of photographers and videographers today have a nickname, or some kind of calling card. A way for people to easily identify their work and there presence on social media. Upon first hearing Kaitlin's I was intrigued. Simple, yet I still wanted to know how it came about. Whats the story behind the name that now so many people know you by.
It actually started before I got into music photography. I was still a college student, and I had made a bunch of stickers. It was like visual arts, and I was this student in New York, so I made a bunch of stickers that say “I shoot people with a camera” and I thought it was funny. I put them all over New York. I probably had 5000 stickers and my friends and I just put them everywhere we could. I got so much feedback back from that. People I didn’t even know said they saw a really cool shoot people sticker, and I said “aw that’s my sticker that’s awesome.” But then I got in some trouble legally for the “I” so I had to drop the I. It was copyrighted so I dropped it to just “Shoot People.”
“I love parties where there is sweat raining down from the ceiling. People are dirty and gross and they are all just vibing to the music. The crowd just becomes one giant vibe of whats happening.”
Going through Kaitlin's photos and talking with her, it was clear she obviously shot a lot of different events, happenings, and hangouts with friends. But looking back, we talked a little about what she thought was her favorite artist (person to person) to shoot and her favorite place (event).
Ok, I have a place. I think my favorite place was 88 Palace. It’s a party, it's… I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a underground party in the LES in a Chinese restaurant. They basically move all the tables and chairs and set up the DJ Booth. It's probably hundreds of people and sweaty. I love parties where there is sweat raining down from the ceiling. People are dirty and gross and they are all just vibing to the music. The crowd just becomes one giant vibe of what's happening. 88 Palace, those parties, “Dark Disco”, those parties are the best parties I have ever shot.
Kaitlin:Person to Person I really liked working with Gina Turner, she is really fun to work with, really fun to shoot. She is a beautiful woman. She has taught me a lot about being a woman and artists just from observing what she does. Live, I have to say Flosstradamus. Their live shows are awesome. Also I have to say GRIZ. He is a good friend of mine and he is one of the nicest people in the world. He is a really talented musician and he is all about surrounding yourself with really creative people. I really admire that about him. To him it’s really about surrounding yourself with the artists who are good people no matter what medium they work with. Graphic design, fashion design, video, photo, lighting, he just is really good at finding undiscovered talent. That is his string. OH, I have one more. I really love shooting Night Bass. I don’t know if you know Night Bass. AC (AC Slater), he is one of the nicest guys, he comes from treble and bass. They are just all awesome artists and people to work with there. I have yet to find people yet that are that fun to work with.
Looking at Kaitlin's website it became very clear that she also has a extensive list of non concert photography. Which led to wonder who she had shot in a studio or on location as opposed to who she shot at a event.
A lot of what I do isn’t live. I hit a wall about a year ago with live music. I think that is part of the reason I moved to LA. I needed something different; I have been doing this forever. I really, I come from a studio background. Like I said, I studied studio photography and visual art, I worked with portrait photographers. When I got out of college that was really my background, and at the end of the day working one on one with some, whether on location or set, there is nothing better. You being creative with someone else discussing ideas, I was taking the photo, and the other person there is just as much a part of taking the photo as I am. I also love doing video stills, that’s where you saw the Dillon Francis still came from. Video stills are a lot of fun, the lighting is always great, you don’t have to set it up, you just go and shoot with whatever lighting there is and its awesome.
We discussed some of her favorite events and artists but just like with any photographer, I was curious about her wish list. Who would Kaitlin want to shoot for if she had her choice. Ask any photographer, anyone at all, they will have at least one answer to that question. I had to up the ante though and give her the option of shooting any artist and location in history just to see what she would say. The answer surprised me but made a little considering it could have been anyone in history, but when Kaitlin explained why, it made so much more sense.
The Lady Gaga Tour, anywhere in the world. That’s what I would want to shoot. She’s revolutionary; she’s a revolutionary woman and artist. What she is doing for women is something that needs to be documented. She is unbelievable. She comes from the same background I come from I feel. She was in the same clubs and doing the same stuff I was doing in the New York underground.
At this point in the conversation we had discussed beginnings, favorite artists, venues, and adventures, but we have yet to touch on gear and whats in her bag. This is where I found out we have a little in common with gear preferences.
“I love playing with distortion and this false reality…”
My Nikon D800. My favorite all around lens that I use day to day is my 24mm. It’s a beautiful lens. I am one who likes to be close to my subjects when I am working with them. The longer lenses can get you close from farther away but I like to be in someone’s bubble. My fisheye lens, I love my fisheye. I love playing with distortion and this false reality that it gives. And the standard zoom lens too, those are really the only lenses I use. I have other stuff but that’s really all it comes down too.
“There are only so few really awesome moments in live music that translate to a visual format after. You need the subject doing something, you need the crowd doing something, and you need the lights to be awesome. That only happens a couple times a show, so you have to choose what you are going to focus on.”
After earlier talking a little about her extensive work in both photography and videography my curiosity piqued and I realized it was time to discuss each in greater detail.
I prefer photo definitely. However the thing I do like about video is that you can take the same footage and have it be so many different things over time. This one clip can be so many things depending on how you edit it, over the scope of forever. For photo, it’s just a photo and lives as that photo. Its context or meaning doesn’t change.
This led me to believe that maybe video was only requested by certain clients then. But I wanted to know more about how Kaitlin works and why she may turn to video sometimes.
Yea but I do also shoot video. For example, if I am shooting a concert, I will take video of it. My main focus won’t be video, so the video won’t be as good as the photos. It’s a choice, you can never get the best photo and the best clip. Maybe some people can but I can't. There are only so few really awesome moments in live music that translate to a visual format after. You need the subject doing something, you need the crowd doing something, and you need the lights to be awesome. That only happens a couple times a show, so you have to choose what you are going to focus on. Are you going to get that awesome shot on video, or are you going to get that awesome shot on photo? If I’m hired to do photos I will do photos, if I am hired to do video I will take video. But I won’t deny myself the joy of taking video OR photos.
When shooting photo or video, everyone must edit their work. With each person favoring a different platform Kaitlin talked a little about her preference.
I stopped using Lightroom, I got frustrated with it so I just have been editing in raw. For my quick party stuff I will use Photoshop. If I really love a photo I will throw it in Photoshop, but if someone wants 100 photos in 24 hours, there are no way you can do that. For video I was using final cut but I just switched to premiere. I was told by photographers who switched to video that it is easier to work in Premiere.
Closing out my chat Kaitlin told me what she is looking forward to in the future, and what we can expect from her in 2016.
Im working on a lot of awesome portraits. About every other year I take a personal sabbatical where I go to shoot things that I personally want to shoot. This summer I am going to Greece to shoot the refugees which is something I really want to do. There are some things in the world that you need to see to find a perspective outside what you’re doing to bring that back inside to what you’re doing.
Knowing a little more about what 2016 will hold we closed out the interview with some discussion of a photo bucket list of sorts. Places and things she would love to cover if she could.
The whole world is on my photo bucket list. Israel definitely, I am dying to go to Alaska and take pictures. I would love if I could go to the Middle East to take some photos of everything going on. There is no way I could go into Syria to take photos but if I could I would. There are things that happen in the world that I really feel for. One of them is what’s going on with women in Syria and that is something I would love to cover, but unless I am from there, there really is no way I can do that.
Red Rocks. I am not going to force it, it is one of those things that it has to come to me. It will, like all things, if you wait they will come. One day I know there will be a artist that will say “Kait come to my show at Red Rocks.” I think part of the reason I don’t want to force it is because I want an artists who wants me to shoot me at Red Rocks. I don’t want to ask for it. I feel like the things I really want, I wait for them to come naturally.
In a industry where so much is happening so quickly it really made me happy to hear a veteran like Kaitlin say, “I feel like the things I really want, I wait for them to come naturally.” Its good to see that after so many years, and so many shows, she isn't forcing anything, that she hasn't changed who she is as a person to influence her career. A few weeks after we sat down to talk Kaitlin invited me out to photo at a night club in Hollywood and she told me one thing to which I will probably remember long into my career. I looked like I was having a tough time with the lighting in the venue and she could obviously tell. She walked over and asked whats up and I told her I was finding it difficult to get the lighting I wanted in the shot. She smiled and said to me, “so what. play around with the settings, try something new, try different things, that's why you shoot.” So for someone who has made a living out of all this, years later, she still showed me that a photographer is truly never done learning. If you happen to be out at a show and see Kaitlin, say hello, you will undoubtedly be greeted with a big smile, and left with a great photo of you and your friends. Make sure to follow along on her adventures and check out all of her work below!
All Photos by Kaitlin Parry