Since 2005, Dan Gonyea has been shooting hardcore and punk shows, and then sharing them on his website, Future-Breed.com. If you've scoured the Internet looking for live hardcore pics, you've undoubtedly come across Dan's work. Currently based in Seattle where he works as a programmer for Microsoft's Xbox, Dan is busier these days with his career, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to support underground music via his photo work.
Join me in welcoming Dan to the Photographer Spotlight series.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in rural New Hampshire. I grew up in a town called Goshen, which had a population of just a few hundred people.
Were your parents into the arts?
My mother was quite into the arts, especially when I was growing up. She was always painting while watching Bob Ross, and I’d be set up with my own easel trying to paint too. I got my first film camera from her when I decided to shoot shows in 2003.
What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?
Music definitely came first for me. My parents both loved music; my dad frequently listened to the Beatles, The Clash, and later fell in love with Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Both my brothers were heavily into music growing up, so it all rubbed off on me. I was the elementary school kid who listened to grunge and punk and brought a lot of that to my friends. I didn’t really get into photography until about 2003-2004.
When and how did you discover hardcore?
I was first exposed to hardcore through a mixtape my brother Justin got when he was in middle school. So, I must have been in 3rd or 4th grade. The mixtape had a bunch of bands like the Minutemen and Circle Jerks on it. I latched onto Circle Jerks and later got really into Void, and he got really into Minutemen and Black Flag. I had no idea hardcore punk continued beyond the '80s, though. I “rediscovered” it through downloading live videos of bands in the late '90s/early '00s. Much Music was also a godsend for music videos because my Internet bandwidth was only 56k, so it’d take multiple days to download songs. Now, I never thought I’d ever see any of these bands (never mind photograph them), but I can recall many times I dove onto my bed pretending I was at a show and wondering what it would be like to see a real show some day.
Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years?
I always loved a photographer named Robert Capa, who is often known for his wartime work (especially the D-Day Normandy landing photos and work from the Spanish Civil War). However, the photos of his I loved most were his color works he did, especially portraits in the Alps and casual ones in Italy and France. He did a color photo of Pablo Picasso playing in the ocean with his son Claude which is one of my favorites of all time. His photo of Capucine leaning out a window in Rome from 1951 is one of the best photographs I’ve ever seen.
Were there any music-related photographers you followed?
I don’t have an academic background in photography at all so most of the photographers I knew were through books, zines, and whoever was featured for record sleeve shots. I frequently looked at the work of Rob Dobi and David Apuzzo. I looked up a lot to Todd Pollock, Aaron Pepelis, and Yaritza Colön in the Boston area and saw them at shows very often. As I began to travel, the number of photographers I knew and followed just grew exponentially.
What is your camera and post set up?
Currently, I shoot with a Nikon D5 and occasionally with a Nikon N65 (though I never show anyone those shots). I use one SB-800 for flash (though quite often I shoot with no flash) and don’t do any off-camera triggering. I alternate lenses based on type of show and what kind of shots I want to get. Most frequently I use a 28-70 f/2.8 and 85 f/1.8, though I’ve been known to bring out the 70-200 f/2.8 and 50 f/1.8 on occasions. That 70-200 used to get a lot more love when I lived on the east coast and shot festivals more. As far as post-production, I honestly rarely do post on my photos – I even avoid cropping whenever possible. I simultaneously take 2 versions of every pic, one compressed JPEG and one raw. That way I can go back and clean things up for a special thing like a gallery showing, but the most part, I lean on my JPEG shots. On the rare occasion I do any post, Lightroom and Photoshop are my friends, though I’ve been writing my own photo software to do some custom stuff (since my day job is software engineering).
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
For current bands, I really enjoy shooting some locals in Seattle like Gag, No Dice, Lower Species, Mommy Long Legs, Lowest Priority, Lysol, Great Grandpa, Xylitol, Mala Racha, and TacocaT. There are an absolute ton of bands out of the Seattle area I also love to shoot: Converge, Give, Petal, Free, Turnstile, Julien Baker, Gouge Away, Touche Amore, Firewalker, Indecision, Down to Nothing, and the list goes on and on and on….
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
I would genuinely love to have seen Circle Jerks and Void for sure. Bratmobile, 86 Mentality, Zero Down, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, Name Taken, Out Cold, Pretty Girls Make Graves, No Use For a Name, and Jets to Brazil are all on that list. I’ve been really fortunate and lucky to have seen and photographed so many pivotal and meaningful bands to me so my list is pretty light. Now to talk about specific shows I missed because of school and work, that would fill a whole interview….
What are the toughest aspects to shooting hardcore shows?
There are a bunch of little things most folks don’t think about…. Color of the ceiling (affects flash absorption and reflected color), whether there are a ton of wires and weird things on the ceiling that cause strange shadows from the flash all over the photos. Lighting folks thinking that because a band is heavy, all the lighting has to be red. The toughest aspect for me shooting a show honestly is myself. I get really self-conscious of the space I’m occupying, whether my flash is too bright and bothering anyone, whether I’m shooting too much and not paying enough attention to the music. Shooting a show is a constant battle in my mind.
Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
There was recently a fest in Olympia, WA with a ton of fantastic bands called Book Your Own Fest so honestly that entire lineup. Literally I’m going to paste the full lineup (even though some bands aren’t new), and you should check out the music and lyrics: Firewalker, No Right, Relevant Anger, Initiate, Shame, Midgut, Mala Mente, Lowest Priority, Stiff Love, Xylitol, Mysterious Skin, Sin Cave, Maricón, In Flux, Table Sugar, Rare Form, Mala Racha, and Very Mental. I really like some new bands out of the Seattle area like No Dice, Universal Peace, and Regional Justice Center. Most of those bands have Bandcamp, so look it up.
Who are some modern-day photographers who you admire?
Oh dear…. There are so many people I admire, and I feel like I meet new photographers every week at shows and want to shout everyone out. Reid Haithcock in Boston is an old friend and continually pushes himself in ways I have seen few photographers do. His transition from shooting predominantly digital to film at shows happened when I lived in Boston, and I was always excited to see how his work came out for shows I even attended. Last year I met Farrah Skeiky in DC, and she does some fantastic work both with music and cuisine photography. She also is doing like a million things at once, and I admire anyone with that drive. Ellen Rumel in Seattle shoots a lot of film work especially at DIY spots, and Ellen always has zines with recent work which is awesome. There are a bajillion photographers in LA area recently, but I love checking out all their work and look forward to a huge photo nerd reunion in a week for Sound and Fury. Boston also has a lot of photographers who are close to my heart for work including Todd Pollock, Angela Owens, and Zac Wolf. There really isn’t a shortage of photographers worth looking up and following closely. And please, reach out to them and tell them how you appreciate their work!
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting hardcore bands, which one would it be and why?
Hate to end the interview on a downer, but this one really does convey why I do what I do. The photo below is of the first and only time I saw Last Lights as a full band. The show was incredible, and I loved every moment of it. Then after the set, the singer Dom started getting light headed, went to the hospital, and later passed away from an aneurysm. The photo has become haunting to me, but it also marks the importance of what we do as artists in capturing these moments. I’ve gotten messages from people over the years as their friends and family pass away thanking me for capturing some random shots of them happy or sad, stagediving, playing music, or just singing along. These photographs give us something to look back on, remember those nights more vividly, remember those people and what they meant to us. It’s worth taking a look back every now and then because life is fragile and moves very, very quickly.
*Homepage photo by Dan Rawe.