Like a lot of other fans of hardcore these days, I love scrolling through Instagram to check out photos of both new and older bands. For someone like me who is running a music site, it's a really valuable resource. That's how I first came across the photo work of Matt Gabell. The London-based photographer is a fixture on the underground hardcore punk scene there and is doing great stuff. Meet Matt in this new Photographer Spotlight piece.
Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?
I was born and raised in South East London, UK. I don’t really know a whole lot about my parents, my father was an alcoholic and my mother suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia. That had been the case since before I was born, so I was fostered from more or less birth by my grandparents. As you can probably imagine, with that kind of generational gap, they didn’t really have any influence on my tastes and interests.
What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?
Music for sure. I’m pretty fresh on photography actually, I finally got myself a camera at the end of 2017 after wanting to start it as a hobby for years. I’m quite a visual person, so I really appreciate visual art. A lot of my favorite films are my favorites in part because of how visually awesome they are. The Shining, Alien, The Grand Budapest Hotel, for instance.
What was your first musical love?
The first album I ever got was Nirvana’s Nevermind, then at around 16 or 17 I started getting in to heavier stuff. I went through nu-metal to stuff like Pantera and then it was Lamb of God’s As the Palaces Burn that lead me to start discovering extreme metal, hardcore, and so on.
Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years?
I’m still relatively new to photography and consider myself still in my formative years, so find relevant answers to this in the second to last question.
What is your camera and post set up?
I’m using a mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm X-T20 with a Samyang 12mm f2 lens and a Nissin i40 flash. I have the Samyang 8mm f2.8 fisheye too and also a Fujinon 35mm f1.4 (50mm equivalent) but so far most of the shows I’ve shot have been a lot more wide angle friendly. I prefer getting some crowd interaction in my shots anyway so I find the 12mm and fisheye a lot of fun to use. For post I’m using Lightroom and occasionally Photoshop.
In terms of your non-musical photo work, what kind of stuff do you do?
Before I started shooting music I was doing street photography and some street portraiture. I basically got to grips with how to use a camera by doing that. I also used it as a way to try to overcome anxiety and depression. It was a great way get out of my comfort zone and to challenge myself. It took some courage to approach complete strangers in the street to ask if they’d let me take some shots of them. It worked out well though, turns out that most people I approached were cool with it.
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
Shooting Dead Swans was an awesome time, crazy pits always make for great shots. I’ve had a lot of fun shooting Brighton NWOBHC band State Funeral, they put on a serious show! Brighton has a growing and really community spirit driven hardcore scene that people should definitely be paying some attention to. Another great band to shoot is SNAKE from Kingston upon Thames, London. They’re just a 2 piece but Louis on guitar/vox loses his shit like a rabid animal, except it's probably beer you’ll see frothing from his mouth rather than drool.
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
Have Heart for sure. The Red Chord, hopefully they’ll be back at some point so I can get a crazy shot of a "Dreaming in Dog Years" pile on.
What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?
Having to make the decision on whether to keep the viewfinder to my eye or giving my attention to enjoying that moment of the show!
Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
I can’t stop listening to that No Right release! Got to give a shoutout to my friends in Cove. They’re a band local to me who I’ve done some work for in the past and they’re making a lot of progress right now. A band I recently saw supporting Rough Hands that left a big impression on me is Watchcries. Dark, heavy and abrasive stuff.
Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?
Ed Mason’s work is absolutely stellar. urbantravelller is a photographer who I recently discovered on instagram who's atmospheric work really caught my eye. Ashlea Bea is a total post wiz who I’ve been hugely impressed by. Another two incredible photographers whose work I discovered after meeting at a show are Chiara Ceccaioni and Doug Elliott. Both of them are putting out great work. Outside of music photography, I’m a big fan of Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden’s work. I think his influence comes through in my music photography, I like to get in close whenever possible.
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists, which one would it by and why?
If I can capture moments that communicate something more than just musicians performing a routine, then I’m happy. Shots that depict a totally unique moment of crowd interaction and energy like this is what documenting music is all about for me.
See more of Matt's work on his Instagram page.
Tagged: photographer spotlight