Noel BuckleyAs with taxi drivers, most people only see the back view of a concert photographer's head, as they are usually clustered in the photo pit aiming at the action. But here we come face-to-face with NOEL BUCKLEY who is the man behind the lens at Clive Aid, Cambridge Rock Festival and many more.

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It's always great when a hobby can become a career, but you were able to combine two hobbies, photography and going to gigs, and now take photos professionally at many shows, including prestigious London concerts. How did that come about?
I've been into photography for about thirty years, even studying it at college for a while. For years I did bits for the local paper and the odd wedding here and there, but never found anything that sparked a true passion.This all changed when Del Bromham from Stray asked me to photograpgh the band live - at last I had found my calling! For quite a while I shot local bands and friends' bands. This led to the best bit fortune one could ask for. friends band (Kavo) landed the support spot with Simply Red a few years back, and whilst I was at Birmingham NEC I meet legendary photographer Danny Clifford. Danny asked to see some of my work, which he seemed to like, and offered to help me. This included tips on how to get work, getting photos syndicated, and working on web sites etc. I can never thank Danny enough for the help and guidance he showed me. Once my photos were syndicated I found this led to being able to photograph bigger bands and of course work at bigger venues.

You recently worked at the Cambridge Rock Festival - tell us about that.
The Cambridge Rock Festival was fantastic. Hats off to Dave Roberts and all the organisers as this was a brilliant festival. I had not camped for forty years, since I was in the scouts, but it turns out that after a few beers you can sleep through anything! Highlights for me were Eddie and the Hot Rods, who delivered a blistering set on the Friday night. Stray delivered a magnificent set on the Saturday, but it was a pity they were not on later (3.15pm is not the best time!). Other highlights were Deborah Bonham - what a fantastic voice, and of course headliners Thunder. All in all a great weekend.

Noel BuckleyWhat are the highlights of your photographic career so far?
One would be having my first published photo, which was in Metal Hammer in 2000 - a photo of Warrior Soul. 
Then there was my first Album cover, which was Stray's ' 10 '. And also, joining the Clive Aid team. The pinnacle has to be this year at London's Brixton Acadamy. Iron Maiden did a benefit gig for former drummer Clive Burr. I went along to the gig with Clive. 
When Maiden finished their set they got Clive to join them on stage. I was trying to get shots of Clive from the back of the stage, which wasn't easy as the band were all around him.
At this point a certain Mr Rod Smallwood tapped me on the shoulder and said "why don't you just go on stage with Clive".
It doesn't get much better than being on stage with Iron Maiden, so I may as well retire now...!

At what show would you say you took your best collection of photos?
Very hard to say, but bands with big lighting rigs make life a hell of a lot easier, so if push came to shove I would have to say that I always seem to get good images of Status Quo.

Which is your one favourite photo out of all the pictures you've taken?
The photo I get the most feedback from is one of Travis Barker (+44) taken at London's Astoria. But my favourite shot is one of Mark Evans, of Warrior Soul. For those who don't know, Mark was murdered in London a couple of years back. Mark and I grew up together. He was best man at my wedding, and vice versa. The photo was taken at LA2 in 2000, which was the last time Mark played with the band in Europe. To me this is a very happy photo and by the same token a poignantly sad one.

What camera do you use for concert photography? What gadgets? Any special filters etc? What about for non-stage pics?
Normally I take two cameras with me - a digital Fuji S2 Pro, plus a Nickon 100. My favourite camera is a very old Nickon FM, a dream of a camera. I use no gadgets, no filters and have not mastered Photoshop as my daughter won't show me. So what you see is what you get.

The size and height of the stage must be quite a factor in the way photos turn out. What are your favourite venues for taking photos at?
The Cambridge Corn Exchange and the London Astoria.

Any bugbears as regards certain venues?
Bad lighting, venues without a photo-pit, and parking in Brixton!

Do you still enjoy a show as much, when you're seeing it through a lens, compared to being there without taking photos?
Funny, the answer to this question came to me a few weeks back. I'd photographed the band GMT a few times through Clive Aid. I knew they were good, but while you're working most of it goes over your head. However I went to see GMT in Southend, without a camera, - and they weren't just good, they were awesome!

Noel BuckleySome performers seem more naturally photogenic than others - who are your favourites, from a photography point of view?
I find the answer to this comes in a couple of ways. Some people seem to be very photogenic, whilst others just look the part on stage. Liz Prendagast from a band called Blue Horses is very photogenic, Lulu has a smile that melts the ice caps, Status Quo will give you lots of eye contact, which also applies to Debbie Harry, and Natasha Bedingfield is good to photograph as she comes across as very warm. Robin Guy from GMT is also a dream to photograph, one of the most visual drummers I have ever seen - right up there with Keith Moon!

Ever taken any embarrassing or funny 'out-take' photos, e.g. microphone stands growing out of people's heads etc? And if so, where can we see these pictures?
Loads of mic stands growing out of heads... All those pictures live quite happily in a drawer in my office, and that's where they're staying! 

Spoilsport! What is your opinion of the cheap point-n-shoot cameras, disposable cameras, cellphone cameras etc?
I think they serve a purpose. I've seen lots of good photos taken on disposable cameras at weddings etc. Also, small digital cameras are great for holidays and for keeping in your pocket for when a photo-opportunity happens suddenly.

And as a 'real' photographer, what do you think about the way Photoshop etc has made it so easy for everyone to enhance their photos without any camera skills?
The sad part is a lot of young people getting into photography just stick the camera on Auto and let Photoshop do the rest, never learning the basics. The first camera I ever owned was a Praktika, costing £15 and fully manual - so you had to learn to use it!

Who's on your 'hit-list' of bands you'd like to shoot (with a camera, of course!)
Baby Spice, The Stones, Baby Spice, Green Day, and... err... did I mention Baby Spice? 

One or twice... yes...

What do you like doing in your spare time?
I enjoy going to concerts without a camera, going to watch West Ham (no idea why!), playing 5-a-side football, having a pint on Sundays with my mate Rob (highlight of the week!), and eating out. Plus I know this sounds naff but watching my daughter Gemma grow up to be a music fan like myself - she is just back from her first festival, which was Reading.

What advice would you give to fans taking photos at gigs?
Get as close as you can and avoid red lighting!

© Get Ready To Roll - 3rd September 2007

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