The Show Goes On
Kalle Björklid enjoys the ambience and feel of concerts, while photographing them. Supriya Joshi finds out about his love for music.
This story was originally published in December 2011.
October, this year, will mark a monumental occasion for fans of metal music in India. For the first time ever, the band Metallica will visit India for a live performance, in Bengaluru and New Delhi. The celebrated band is one of my personal idols, and watching them on stage is something I am really looking forward to.
However, more than just seeing musicians live in concert, there is an intense joy that one gets by capturing these legends in photographs. As the music begins, the camera is pointed at these artistes, in the attempt to capture the mood, feel and ethos that surrounds the music. One such photographer is Finland-based Kalle Björklid, whose work I discovered around the same time I booked my concert tickets. After speaking to him, I realised that his photography has a big, but simple secret—an inherent joy for music and gig photography.
An Accidental Discovery
Interestingly, Kalle is actually working as a professional in the Information Technology sector. He says, “I started photography only as a hobby. In the beginning, it served as an excuse to explore my surroundings.” While he explored various kinds of photography, he gradually realised that he was drawn specifically towards music photography. The shift was accidental, he says, but he was intrigued by the storm of emotions that can be witnessed in a concert. “These are my surroundings now,” he adds, “the audience, the backstage, tour buses and hotels where the musicians stay are the environment I work in. I am not a rock photographer, but would rather call myself a documentary photographer who has chosen to explore the rock world.”
Every musician is different. In fact, each of them has their own temperament while performing on stage. I wondered how a photographer can predict the moments that eventually make memorable photographs. Says Kalle, “I don’t think it is possible to consciously capture a moment that you have virtually no control over—not unless the photo is very trivial.” He elaborates on this thought, saying, “if you are going to think of every aspect such as the mood, composition and lighting, the moment will be long gone before you make any of these decisions.”
Like all genres of photography, concert photography is no different when it comes to getting that one perfect, iconic shot. According to Kalle, honing your intuition and observation skills is important, to get the so-called ‘lucky’ shots. “You can increase the percentage of these ‘lucky’ shots. It is just that the means to do so, are indirect. You cannot control everything that happens around you. But then, you can control, to a certain extent, where you are positioned, and most importantly, where your mind is.”
On the Road
Musicians are known for their nomadic lifestyles. They are constantly on the move, performing in different cities at a stretch. Then of course, you hear the legendary stories of their their life on the road, some of which are documented in books, movies and photos.
He gives me a personal perspective on this life. “Touring involves a lot of waiting, lack of personal space, and days that seem to repeat themselves. The flow of events is always the same—travelling to the location, checking in and out of hotels, clearing the lights and sound equipment, doing sound checks, preparing for the gig and so on.”
He says that one thing he always tries to do, is to surprise the viewer. “People may assume that they know the band or artiste really well. I like to shoot pictures that shock them and shake their preconceived notions.”
Kalle intends to continue photographing concerts for quite a while. “I feel that there is still so much more to explore! Moreover, dwelling on the same genre long enough will deepen my understanding, thus resulting in more interesting photographs.” His body of work has one recurring element—photographs of fans reaching out to the singers, captured in an almost surreal manner.
“There are two things that are really important. One needs to get really close and position oneself such that the hands make an interesting formation. Sometimes I sit down and point the camera straight upwards, other times I crouch and lean against the fence separating photographers from the audience.”
Of Contracts and Copyright Issues
Kalle does have a few concerns with respect to the music scene. He believes that international names are increasingly restricting the freedom of photography and the usage of photos. “The contracts that you need to sign mostly state that you can only use photographs for a certain publication or within a certain time window. There may also be copyright issues.”
When I mention the upcoming Metallica concert to him, he says, “Metallica is one of the nicer international acts, with no such restrictions,” he says. As our conversation winds up, I think about the concert and wonder what it would be like, visually. Will the scenes in front of me resemble his photographs? Will I view the concert in a new light? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing that is certain is that Kalle’s photography has left a lasting impression in my mind.
Tips By Kalle
- Approach the concert as a world full of opportunities, not to ‘photocopy’ celebrities.
- Do not decide what compositions you are going to use beforehand. Observe the scene and find the photo.
When he is not photographing musicians, Kalle loves to listen to the music of finnish musicians Jenni Vartiainen and PMMP. He considers himself a documentary photographer first, and counts Magnum photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, Martin Parr and Elliott Erwitt as his inspirations. He has published two books so far, and wants to publish the third one 100 in the near future.
To see more of Kalle’s stunning music photography, visit www.bjorklid.net
Tags: Profile, Supriya Joshi, music, October 2011, Concert Photography, gig photography, Kalle Björklid