Seasoned music photographers Mary Boukouvalas and Ros O’Gorman have teamed up to put together an exhibition in Melbourne on 12 July showcasing a collection of their photographs. Neos Kosmos talks to Boukouvalas about the weird and wonderful world of music photography.
With two decades’ worth of experience under their belts, Boukouvalas and O’Gorman are music photographers who have immortalised a wide range of musical talents, from the obscure to the divas and rock stars.
Usually situated in the no man’s land area between the stage and the clamouring audiences, music photographers are in the prime position to capture performers – singers, bassists, drummers, and everyone in between – in action. Having taken photos at gigs for over 15 years, Boukouvalas’ portfolio boasts a vast range of musicians she has photographed. On the one hand, she prefers slightly more off-beat, “less commercial” music, the likes of which include the Greek rock metal band Cannibal Corpse.
However, Boukouvalas admits that she is still influenced by an early childhood listening to her father’s Greek records. “Both Ros and I, we approach [music photography] from different angles. I’ve taken pictures of Mikis Theodorakis and I just think he’s a brilliant composer,” she said.
A high school teacher by day, Boukouvalas said working in the photo pit does come with its fair share of interesting stories. She remembers one occasion at a concert in Greece when she was able to station herself practically front and centre onstage to photograph American death metal band Cannibal Corpse.
“In Greece, there was no need for a media pass to take photos at a concert. My editors told me, ‘you can sneak an elephant in and no one would notice.’ So I took my cameras in and they propped me up onto the stage. It was an entirely different experience for me,” she said. Boukouvalas’ and O’Gorman’s photos immortalise not only the moments and atmospheres in concerts, but also the acts themselves. Boukouvalas remembers a picture she took in 2000 of Joe Strummer, former leader of the punk legends The Clash.
“That was one of his last shows in Melbourne before he passed away,” she said. With her experience, Boukouvalas knows what it takes to get a good shot, even when the venue is badly lit and she only has three songs to get the job done before she is ushered out of the pit.
The most important thing about a good shot, however, is not so much about the technicalities. “It’s about capturing the moment. I love shots where the artists look like they’re enjoying themselves,” she said. “A good picture makes you feel like you’re there; when you look at it you can imagine being there listening to the music.”
Close Up and Personal will be showing at The Corner Hotel in Richmond on Tuesday 12 July, from 4.00 pm to 10.00 pm. All photographs on display at the exhibition will be available for sale on the night.