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Interview with Music Photographer: Nick Pickles

Recently we caught up with concert and music photographer, Nick Pickles. In this interview he tells us about his inspirations, his photographer-by-night-politician-by-day occupation and gives our amateur photographers some useful tips.

HUNOW: What was it that first interested you in photography, especially music photography?

Pickles: I randomly ended up working on the photo counter of boots in Wakefield (a promotion from shelf stacking) and it caught my imagination. I’d not really done anything about it though until I met a guy at university who was a terrific all-round photographer, but his music stuff was really magic. As a huge music fan and gig nut, I liked the idea of being able to capture the emotion of a gig in a photo and that’s always been my driving motivation.

HUNOW: The first time you were allowed to go on stage as a photographer for a band was surely a significant moment. Can you remember it?

Pickles: It was to shoot a feature for the independent with Lost Prophets – essentially a shot of the singer taking a photo with a camera and then try re-create the photo he took. Since then I’ve become much calmer on stage and can deal with the adrenaline, but there are still moments I forget I’m there to work!

HUNOW: How does it feel when you’re up on stage with the artists and, to an extent, sharing their moment?

Pickles: It’s incredible, but it’s still work – nobody paid to see me! I had a moment when I was shooting Coldplay when I took my earplugs out and tried to soak it up – it’s not something many people have and I’m genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to experience. I just hope my photos convey somewhere near the atmosphere I can feel on the stage.

HUNOW: Who were your favourite artists to photograph?

Pickles: I’m a huge Radiohead fan so they’ve always been good, especially as Thom does pull some slightly random shapes these days! Oasis were always good as capturing the intensity of Liam on stage was a real challenge, and you’ve got bands like Coldplay and U2 who are just great to shoot. I’ve worked lots with Madness and they’re great, and people like the Prodigy where there’s always something going on and usually an epic production.

HUNOW: Can you roughly guess how many artists you have photographed now? Do you have a particular venue you prefer for your images?

Pickles: I’m working for Wembley Arena and the o2 Academy Brixton these days (two terrific venues) but I do miss places like the Brudenell Social Club and the Cluny – so much character in those venues and so intimate. As to how many bands, God knows – well over 500.

HUNOW: Have you ever been interested in branching into other areas of photography?

Pickles: I’ve been tempted by all sorts – portraiture, studio work, news – but I’ve never seemed to find the time. Plus I’d probably get found out pretty quickly so I’ll stick to live music!

HUNOW: Were there any photographers who inspired your own work?

Pickles: Anton Corbjin, Leon Neal, Barney Britton and Roger Sargent – all for very different reasons! I’m very fortunate to count the latter three as good friends now and they continue to inspire me and remind me how much more I still have to learn!

HUNOW: Have you ever considered giving up politics to focus on your photographic career?

Pickles: I did, briefly, back in 2010 when I got made redundant and decided to move to London. I ran out of money in six months so ran back to an office job… who knows what might have happened if I’d stuck at it, but I’m really happy now so I guess it all worked out alright in the end. It’s still very much an option though, we’ll see what happens.

HUNOW: On a more serious note, being the Director of Big Brother Watch (civil liberties and privacy campaign group) an ex-law student and a photographer, do you ever feel conflicted over the professional obligations of being a photographer, against your own morals?

Pickles: Sometimes, but usually because I’m being asked to do something that in any other line of work you’d rightly say get stuffed – whether it’s working for free, signing away your rights or accepting 30-seconds of one song access.

The main thing for me is do right by the people you work with, don’t take the piss and value your work. I find the whole celebrity culture thing pretty nuts so paparazzi work has never appealed, but I take the same view as I do at work when it comes to privacy; we all make choices and everything is a trade-off. Some people sacrifice their privacy and play the game, others don’t. If you don’t respect that choice, it’s a pretty dark life to lead.

HUNOW: Finally, do you have any tips for our future music photographers out there?

Pickles: Work bloody hard, and when you think you’re done keep going. Measure yourself against the people who are where you want to be and try to keep some perspective on your success. You can’t buy much food with a £3 commission, even if it is a national newspaper’s website.

Oh, and nail your tights before you shoot shite.

Take a look at Nick Pickles’ blog site here:

Or check out his music photography website to see more examples of his work:


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