From the first time I walked through its doors on Santa Monica Blvd, past Bear the bouncer who resembles Ving Rhames circa Pulp Fiction, past the small ticket window and through the black curtain that hangs beside it, my camera in hand, The Dragonfly has been my nemesis. It’s one of my favorite venues when playing performer or concert-goer, but as a photographer it’s always been a nightmare. It’s pretty universally agreed upon that concert photography is one of the most difficult forms of picture taking any poor, wide-eyed bastard with pipe dreams of shooting for Rolling Stone and a handheld machine he barely knows how to operate can set his sites on. It looks so easy, yet so goddamn gratifying. You buy yourself a fancy camera and take the time to learn about aperture and ISO and shutter speed and you snap some pics of your kid or some shitty ducks at the park and tell yourself you’re ready to get your Instadick sucked by troves adoring fans who in no time will be crowning you the next Terry Richardson. Expectations skyrocketing, you shoot your first concert and promptly want to kill yourself. Your pictures come out dark, blurry, and red… always red. Next concert, same results. And the next, and the next. It would be discouraging in any scenario, but what’s made my past experiences at The Dragonfly all the more heartbreaking is, more often than not, I was shooting my heroes. It’s like finally getting to sleep with a girl you’ve always fantasized about, only to have her insist you turn the lights off before she gets naked. Sure, you’re there for the experience, but the pictures you were planning to show your friends all came out super shitty.
These are the photos I’ve tried countless times to produce but have never been able to. To me, they’re a lot more than decent pictures. They symbolize growth not only in my craft but in my life. They prove to me that my art doesn’t have to suffer now that I have a full time job and can actually improve now that I have money to spend on cool gadgets and proper gear. I’ve spent the last year reading, researching, watching tutorials and asking questions, upgrading my equipment and teaching myself how to use it. I could just post these photos and say nothing. I could act like I’m not excited by the results out of pride or fear of appearing vulnerable, but that’s not the kind of stuff that encouraged me when I found myself helplessly scouring the internet for photography advice. So at this point, if I’m in any position to give advice of my own, it would be to eat, sleep, and breathe this shit until you’re sick of it and then continue to eat, sleep, and breathe it. Make it a point to actually learn and understand what every single switch, button, bell, and whistle on your camera does and when they should be utilized. Take seven hundred pictures in one night and be proud of yourself when five turn out great. Be proud, but don’t ever be completely satisfied. These photos are far from the ceiling of my potential and they only make me hungrier to reach that ceiling and chew a fucking hole through it just to see what’s above it.
I’m very fortunate to have made friends with people who spend all of their time, money, and sanity putting together quality events and who always put my name on the guest list just in case I decide to show up and shoot around. Follow my friends at Rising Sons Independent, and if you’re in or around LA, come out to the next event they work their asses off putting together at the Dragonfly. I’ll be the sweaty bald guy with a big expensive camera I know exactly how to use.