A Stranger in a Strange Land: My First Concert Photography Experience

Good afternoon, everyone! We are thrilled to learn that you found time in your busy schedule to spend a few minutes browsing our company blog. We have received a ton of requests for additional photography columns, and starting today we’re thrilled to announce the return of those posts with a little help from our new friend Connor Feimster. Don’t know him? No worries, you’re about to learn his story in his own words.

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Hi! My name is Connor Feimster and I’m a music photographer based out of Philadelphia. I’ve been asked by Haulix to talk about my start in the music photo world by describing my first “official” shoot. For starters, I’ve been taking a camera to shows since 2006, using a Canon point-and-shoot that could easily be hidden inside my right Chuck Taylor. I didn’t start “officially” (can you tell I don’t fancy that term?) shooting shows until quite recently.

My first big-boy shoot actually fell into my lap on a whim. I was lucky enough to have won passes to see Anthony Green, my favorite musician on the face of the planet, perform a studio session at Radio 104.5 in January of 2012. The passes also came with a pair of tickets to his headlining show at Union Transfer later that same night. Once my friend and I were able to sit inches from Green’s godlike presence, we waited in a short line to share a few words with him.

(At the time, photographing shows was simply a mere hobby of mine. It wasn’t anything I constantly strove to achieve with any ticket I had to a show. I didn’t work for any publication or anything; I just had a camera and a Flickr account.)

After chatting with Green, my friend and I began to depart the studio until some weird feeling of confidence swept over me and I ran back upstairs to where the remaining fans were patiently waiting. I then found the first person with a tour laminate and the words just flew out of my mouth: “heymaniwaswonderingificouldmaybeshoottheshowtonight?” It turns out that the poor soul who had to deal with my shaky execution was Green’s tour manager. But it wasn’t until he said “of course, what’s your name?” that I realized I may have done something right. Just like that, I not only had a photo pass, but an extra ticket to the show.

Fast-forwarding to the show, I had my glorified point-and-shoot (a Canon PowerShot SX30 IS) and the beautiful press badge in tow when I entered Union Transfer. I immediately noticed that the venue had no barricade, and therefor no photo pit. My whole being succumbed to a temporary bummer until I asked a guard what I could even do with “this thing”. He then opened the backstage door for me and said “go up there and do your thing!” My eyes widened and I think my jaw may have dropped a little bit.

Thankfully, my friends who were with me knew how important this was to me, so they were fine with me departing for a majority of the show to stand side stage and try to do something right. After running into members of opening band The Dear Hunter (who would later become good friends down the line) for the first time ever, I was already pretty euphoric and starstruck. During their set, I was shooting from pretty far back at first, and noticed that Green and his wife Meredith were standing beside me to watch the set. Green then extended his hand and said “glad to see you up here!” and I silently screamed my little fanboy heart out.

Following The Dear Hunter’s set, I stepped off stage and returned to the backstage corridor and began going through photos and weeding out the bad from the good when a curious woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I got any noteworthy shots. I turned and noticed that she was a tad more mature than most Green fans and that she was with a man who was more than likely her husband. After showing her a few photos, I had a sudden realization and, again, just threw words out of my mouth: “This may sound like a weird question, and I hope I don’t offend you, but are you Anthony Green’s parents?” to which she smiled and nodded. I followed up with “I’m guessing you guys are pretty proud of your son’s endeavors”, Green’s father responding with “Every single day.”

Once my time with Green’s parents came and went, I jokingly said to myself that I don’t even need to shoot his set and I could go home and remember this night forever as is. But I had a duty to perform; this pass wasn’t given to me to look like a doofus backstage. So I stuck it out and excitedly texted my friends about everything that just happened in just a window of minutes. The lights went down and Green and his friends in Good Old War took the stage to open with “She Loves Me So”. The set was astounding, as it was the first show of Green’s tour supporting his sophomore solo record Beautiful Things in his hometown. Once his set was finished, I finally ventured back to my friends to watch the encore with them, which held the surprise of Saosin’s “Seven Years” and everyone went ballistic.

I only left that show with four or five salvageable photos (like I said, I didn’t really know what I was doing just yet) and was, at the time, “strictly against editing” for whatever dumb reason, but I left the happiest I had ever been from my time at a show. I don’t think I’d have had my first shoot any other way.

You can check out a few (not very great) photos, still untouched, from that show below!

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.