Welcome to Back Stage Pass. This is where we get to meet the people who stand behind the musicians in the scene and help bring everything together. Photographers, booking agents,production companies, road crew, stage crew, artists and more! Stay tuned for more interviews about all of these amazing individuals. This time we get to hear from our very own here at Music Maehem- Emily Mae.
I am a concert photographer. Basically what that entails is going where the musicians are and capturing them in the moment. I do all kinds of photography but realistically the only community that has ever shown me any kind of respect has been the music scene.
It all began because I decided to take my camera with me one night while I was selling merch for the local Wisconsin metal band All Kings Fall. All I did was plug “Camera settings for concert photography” into Google search and the rest is history. I can tell you that I did get decent photos that very first night; however, they really needed improvement and that is where I began to study techniques and so on to get to the level that I am today. There is a lot of trial and error as I progress through the career. There is so much I could still learn before I have to even upgrade my equipment and even more things I have to learn after that.
Concert photography is definitely not for those who are looking to get rich– at least, not in the traditional sense. I gain so much more through experience. Sometimes, shows that I photograph change my life forever and this last weekend was one of those times.
A while ago, I was tagged in a post by Overdrive Music Magazine by my husband. They were looking for contributors to their team. At first, I wasn’t sure I was actually good enough to apply at the professional level. Then, I had one of those “eh, fuck it” moments. I submitted my resume and 5 of my best shots. Not too long after that, I was accepted and then I received my very first show assignment which was at The Rave/Eagle’s Ballroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I was hired to shoot Anthrax and Killswitch Engage for their Killthrax tour.
I already had a lot of anxiety about going to Milwaukee. I definitely hate the city and a lot of the time I end up having a panic attack at the thought of going. Before I left my house I actually gave myself a pep talk:
“You can do this. This is what you have been working for. This is what you were meant to do.”
I couldn’t even eat the entire day, which I’m sure didn’t exactly help my situation. I was very lucky to have the support of my husband, my father and my brother. Without them, I am sure I would have just hidden back in my room. This was my dream opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it leave my grasp.
When I arrived at The Rave and finally got inside to the box office, they hadn’t received their list yet so I was already kind of in a panic. To me it seemed too good to be true so I had anxious thoughts like, “What if I didn’t actually get on the list?”
To my right, I noticed a girl looking on her phone who seemed to be a little anxious as well. She made a gesture for me to approach her so I did.
“Are you waiting for the list too?” she said. I felt a bit of panic wash away when she addressed me.
“Yeah,” I said. “This is my first time doing this kind of thing so I’m not sure how this all works.” I chuckled a bit, and told her, “My name is Emily by the way.”
“No way!” she exclaimed,” My name is Emily too and this is also my first time!” We were both blown away by this set of coincidences. After some small talk, we received our passes and went our separate ways.
The venue was packed and only getting more so as the night progressed. I have been to The Rave many times, however this perspective of the venue was quite different. I made my way down to the pit and met the security guards. As a concert-goer, usually the security guys just felt something like policemen. But this time, I was working there. This time, they were technically my coworkers, and they were all very kind and respectful.
When they let me in I met up with three women, one of whom being the other Emily I had met earlier. I asked them all kinds of questions and they told me the basics. The main deal was we were only allowed to shoot for 3 songs and then we had to leave immediately and wait until the next band. I wasn’t surprised by this fact. As I mentioned earlier I have been learning this craft for some time. For bigger bands, that is the usual protocol.
The first band on was Havok, and I just used it as an opportunity to get myself ready and figure out what the lighting was like and so on…but when Anthrax came to the stage, it was an entirely different experience.
I have been listening to Anthrax since I was 13 years old…and now here they were right in my face! I was taking pictures of them and it was wild.
I could feel the excitement as well as the panic. I collected myself: I took a breath and raised my camera and prepared to shoot. I really got in the zone here so I could distract myself from getting star-struck. After the first song, I’m not afraid to say I nailed most of my shots.
“Caught In A Mosh” began and I could not help myself. I was shouting the lyrics and Joey Belladonna pointed at me in approval. I got extra pumped and started singing it with the fans on the other side of the rail as well. I just took in the moment and came to the realization that– yes, this was real!
I regained focus and began to finish my shoot while the security guards protected myself and the other photographers from the crazy crowd surfers entering from the mosh pit. It was insanity. It definitely made the shoot much more challenging.
All of a sudden, the three songs rule made more sense to me on a few levels. I was legitimately in danger of being injured there! Though, for some reason I still felt very comfortable and very much in my element.
After I exited the pit, I was able to be reunited with my husband. We went to the merch area, got some water and took a break. There, we met with some old school metalheads and shared stories. We even ended up meeting the drummer Pete Webber who was kind enough to sign our tickets!
We enjoyed the rest of the Anthrax set, then up I went to take my photos of Killswitch Engage and the night concluded.
I could go on and on about how amazing this night was, but instead I will end with this final thought:
The biggest thing that I gained from this whole life-changing experience is that I could now confirm that this is where I wanted to be.
I am certain I want to be a concert photographer more than I have ever wanted to do anything in my entire life!
To check out Overdrive Music Magazine follow the link below:
You can view the gallery I did for Overdrive Music Magazine here:
To visit my personal gallery please click the link below: