by Daniel Hill
Earlier, you helped us select our ten favorite concert photographers in St. Louis. We got well over 100 nominations, after which our panel of judges narrowed the field to just ten folks. In the coming weeks, we'll be introducing you to each of the finalists and having them share some of their favorite concert photos while answering a few questions about their process and passion.
Name: Todd Morgan
How and when did you get involved with music photography?
I ﬁrst got involved photographing concerts back when Club 367 and ﬁlm still existed. I photographed my friends' band Blacklist when it opened for Type O Negative. Fast forward to 2009, which is when I bought my ﬁrst digital SLR. I was working for 105.7 The Point (KPNT) at the time and realized no one was covering shows. I put in a request for a photo pass to photograph the Ho Ho Show that December and I was hooked!!
What are some highlights of your professional photography experience?
The absolute highlight of my photography career came when Black Sabbath used my photo of Geezer Butler for their latest DVD Live...Gathered In Their Masses. To have my name in the liner notes of ofﬁcially licensed Black Sabbath material is a huge thrill for me. Most recently the "Experience Hendrix" Tour used my photos on the tour's website and late in 2013 I won a national concert photography contest that sent me to Chicago to photograph Soundgarden. I'm also the house photographer at the Peabody Opera House and have been since they reopened in October 2011.
Where can people find your work (exhibits, album covers, publications, etc.)?
I currently have work displayed at Mad Art Gallery in Soulard that will be up until March 27. As I mentioned earlier, my work can be found in the Black Sabbath DVD. I work for KHITS 96.3 and we have a photo feature on the morning show and at K-hits.com called "Pic and Play," which is a St. Louis area-based gallery of photos taken by me. Rick Sanborn, who hosts the morning show, comes up with a song to go along with the photo of the day -- hence the name "Pic and Play." I also display my work on my own website, BackBeat-Photography.com
What is your favorite part of doing music photography?
That is a tough one to answer, but if I had to give you one answer it would be the energy of a good show. The band is right in front of you, in most cases, and the crowd is at your back -- it's a rush to be in that position. You can feel the energy of a band that is front of you, and in most cases that energy just shoots past you and you know it has connected with the crowd, without even turning around. Other times you can actually feel the energy fall right off the front of the stage and you turn around to a very mellow crowd. I feel like the energy of a good band translates into my images. If the band is boring, often so are the photos.
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What dos/don'ts do you have for young photographers who would like to pursue this type of work?
The best advice I can give someone who wants to shoot major concert productions is to get hooked up with a legitimate media outlet -- you can't get into the pit without that. Second, start small: Contact local bands and clubs to see if you can shoot for the venue or the band. Local bands love to have good photographs for social media, promotions, etc. Most important, be respectful to other people when you're in the pit -- that includes the audience behind you, the other photographers, security and whomever you contacted to get in the pit. Never, ever lie to a publicist, manager or local concert venue just to get into the photo pit, otherwise your concert photography career will most likely be short-lived.
Pick one of the photos you've submitted and tell us a little about it: Where was it shot, who is featured and (most importantly) how did you capture it? We'd love to hear logistical description or technical breakdowns or whatever else you want to tell us.
This photo of Geezer Butler is not my most exciting shot compositionally speaking but it's the most important photo I've taken to date. I took this photo of Geezer Butler after being invited to Indianapolis to photograph the band by Geezer's bass tech, Terry Welty. We watched Sabbath perform the soundcheck, and after I photographed the first three songs we watched the show from the side of the stage. The whole experience was amazing, but I never dreamed that Black Sabbath would reach out to me to use the photograph for their DVD. Being even a minuscule part of Black Sabbath history is pretty awesome!
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