It’s been exactly a week since I set my camera down after my last SXSW gig. It’s taken me about this long to get back to a normal schedule and mental state. So, here’s what I was up to and what it was like!
My first SXSW music assignment was at Spotify House, where the above photo of Tory Lanez was taken. It was the middle of the day, 95 degrees and there was no shade in sight. I had to stick it out a couple of hours to make sure I got coverage of Miguel. There was no photo pit, so in order to get a decent vantage point I had to park myself in the glorious, Texas-hot sun. I got sunburned and dehydrated, and then right before Miguel’s set started security decided to clear a makeshift photo pit for the photographers. That made my life so much easier!
You should probably not wait in a very long line to see anything at SXSW.
One thing I mastered this year was the art of predicting when an artist was about to douse the audience (and me) with their water bottles. I was always torn between capturing the epic splash moment or the hilariously angry and annoyed faces of my fellow photographers in the photo pit.
I personally do not mind at all if I get splashed on. I keep spare lens cloths with me to wipe my lens, but sometimes it looks cool to keep the droplets there for awhile. One time I was shooting Wu Tang Clan in Chicago and they poured the majority of a bottle of champagne bottle directly onto me, I had to send my lens in to Canon but I’d say it was worth it.
Lots of really cool people were impressed and/or excited that I got to shoot Illmore this year. Illmore has quite the reputation as far as SXSW after parties go, and I was really lucky that I got to photograph it. My own cool status was raised significantly just because I got to be there at all.
But… it really wasn’t that good. The last night of it was so bizarre and terrible, the most memorable part of it was the understandably disappointed and sleep-deprived audience chanting “FUCK THIS SHIT” over and over, booing whatever poor souls had been sent onstage to pacify them. At one point they sent out a stumbling dude in a raccoon costume, the sort of thing that would normally elicit cheers from big drunken SXSW crowds. But not this one. It was a sad sight to behold when they booed raccoon dude right off the stage.
Also, Drake never showed up.
My favorite part of SXSW was getting to put my studio to use. I really wanted to shoot mostly portraits this year, because it’s less crazy and more creative. I still shot way more onstage stuff than I planned, but I’m pretty happy with the portraits I did get to take.
I was very excited to have my old Chicago friend Sir The Baptist come by. I met him by chance a few years ago when he was still pretty unknown, we hit it off and took some really great portraits in Bronzeville. Those photos are still some of my favorites, so I knew having him in for a proper studio session would be great.
I also got to take portraits of DINNER, a crazy cool artist I first encountered last year at SXSW. His shows are nuts and I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do with his portraits. It involved a fog machine and lots of LED lights!
I did not get even close to enough of it at SXSW. I completely failed at scheduling, despite numerous promises to myself that I’d be better at it this year.
I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what it’s like, for me at least, to shoot SXSW. I do not really pick what I get paid to cover, so I’m not going around and seeing all my favorite bands (and that’s okay!) And I am not partying. In fact, I stopped drinking pretty much entirely a few days in. I couldn’t function if I was partying, nor did I have time for it. And I don’t sleep more than 4 hours a night, average, for 9 days straight. At the height of SXSW craziness, I was shooting until 4 a.m with my next gig at 10 a.m and several hours of editing to do in between for deadlines. When everything was over, I slept for the majority of 2 days straight.
I saw so, so many selfies being taken but this guy wins.
Thanks for checking out my photos and associated ramblings. You rock! And I’m sorry if we didn’t get to hang out at SXSW this year. I promise next year I will do better…
And if you’d like to be one of my fantastic clients, don’t hesitate to reach out :)