How long have you been shooting for?
I officially started shooting shows in May 2011, so almost six years ago. I played around with a point and shoot first and then my DSLR a little bit before that though.
What made you decide to get into photography?
I got really in to music when I was 13. My dad had this coffee table book full of pictures from CBGB and I thought that the people who took pictures of and interviewed bands had the coolest job ever. I started playing around with a point and shoot camera at shows when I was 16, and in college I took a class called History of Rock and Roll that inspired me to start a music blog (Circles & Soundwaves- http://circlesandsoundwaves.com). I had gotten a DSLR as my high school graduation present, and it just made sense to start taking pictures at shows when I was interviewing bands. I fell in love with it.
Was there a specific moment or event that made you realize you loved it?
In July of 2011, I photographed Hawthorne Heights. I think that was the first show I was actually guestlisted for (I bought tickets to shows at first while I worked on establishing myself). I got a close-up shot of J.T., and getting that photo felt really special. It was my turn to document live music, to create images to help tell the story of the band’s career and capture something special. That was the first time I actually felt like a concert photographer.
You mainly shoot concert photography correct? What types of shows do you mostly enjoy shooting?
Yes, most of what I shoot is concerts. I love small venues where I’m able to get up close and get different viewpoints around the stage, and I love any venue that’s in a band’s hometown since that’s really special. The best thing for me is any band that’s really expressive on stage. When I can feel their passion, it makes me want to shoot them over and over again.
Has being a woman in music been more difficult for you? Have you felt any sexism in your career?
I’ve definitely faced a lot of sexism as a woman. Once a (male) photographer told me “Most men who are photographers are doing it as a career, but most women just do it for fun”; and there are constant questions of “who in the band are you dating?”. Security guards constantly tell me my bag “looks heavy” (it is, but I’m also strong and perfectly capable of carrying it) and I frequently have my credentials questioned, something that probably doesn’t happen as frequently to men. I didn’t always talk about it, but now I feel that talking about sexism is our first step, as a society, to getting past it, so I’m more vocal.
When it comes to your photography, do you have a personal style or something you especially like to do with your photos?
It’s hard to nail down a “style”, since what I do varies so much based on the band and the venue but overall I try to take photos that no one else could take- I try to see each moment of a live set a little differently. Brian from Major League told me that I captured “exactly what he was feeling” in some images I took of him, and that’s my goal. I want my photos to show the emotions and tell the story of what was happening on stage. Visually, I do a lot of gritty, dark, black-and-white work- partially a result of shooting small, poorly-lit venues and partially because it makes sense for the bands I shoot- though I love color too and I’ve been doing more color lately. I’m working on getting better at color correction and playing with colors.
Favourite work you’ve done so far?
In the fall of 2015, I photographed five dates of Pentimento’s headlining tour (check out my blog post about that here: https://mhudelson.com/2015/11/23/pentimento-fall-2015-headlining-shows/). I’ve known them for a long time and over those five days, I felt like I had a big part in telling their story with my images.
I did a couple portrait shoots with Major League before they broke up and they were always so comfortable in front of the camera. This one was taken after they played a headliner in New Jersey. It was actually an outtake- my flash didn’t fire so I almost deleted the photo- but I love how natural this feels.
The shot of Soupy from The Wonder Years that I included here is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. It was the first date of their tour with Motion City Soundtrack in 2015. I love how epic the contrasting colors look!
Getting to shoot Taylor Swift on the 1989 Tour was a huge accomplishment (check out those photos on AXS here: http://www.axs.com/in-photos-taylor-swift-brings-the-1989-world-tour-to-metlife-stadium-60940). Out of three photographers, I was the youngest one, the only woman, and the only one from a media outlet (the other two shot for wire services). When I started, it was my goal to shoot at the House of Blues in Cleveland (where I went to college) or Webster Hall in New York. I never thought I’d be able to shoot one of the most famous artists in the world at a football stadium.
Are there any photographers who really inspire you?
Rukes (@rukes on Instagram / rukes.com) is an EDM photographer and he’s insanely talented. I’ve only photographed a couple EDM shows and it’s something I find challenging; his work inspires me to keep trying it. My friends Nick Karp (@nickkarpphotos / nickkarp.com) and Alyson Coletta (@alysoncoletta / alysoncoletta.com) are insanely talented- Nick’s been published basically everywhere- whenever we shoot a show together, it absolutely pushes me to work harder and improve my craft.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Work hard and be nice to everyone; you never know who you might learn from or who might be able to help you out. You’re never entitled to anything- a guest list spot, a photo pass, a job on tour, etc.- but if you work hard and are nice, people might be willing to help you.
Certain editing or shooting styles or even pieces of gear will be “trendy” at any given time but don’t worry too much about doing what’s “cool” or following the crowd, do what feels right to you. It’s a lot more rewarding that way. (Also, yeah, go shoot the “cool” popular bands but don’t forget about the up-and-comers- someday they might be famous and you’ll be the only one who shot them “way back when”).