Interview: Mark Shelley – Photographer for The Moshville Times

Carrying on with my theme of looking at different parts of the music industry, I decided to look within Moshville Times at people who create memories and capture breathtaking moments for every person who appreciates their music. This could be from someone that attended the gig and was looking for a memory of seeing their favourite band to someone who wished that they could have been there. I am, of course, talking about the photographers who spend what little spare cash that they have in buying their equipment, resources and their spare time in making this happen for you.

For all the people that find photographers at gigs annoying, I urge you to read this interview and see it from their perspective whose sole aim and motivation is to provide you with that memory. Thank you, Mark for your time and I wish you every success as a photographer with The Moshville Times.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers at Moshville Times. Can you tell us how your life as a photographer began?

I was working for a publishing company. One of my colleagues, Alan Gardner, was a photographer and I really admired his work. I ended up getting a Nikon D60 and he gave me loads of tips and advice. He even lent me a lens and filter occasionally. Anyway, he moved on to another part of the company and I asked to shoot my mates cover band at a gig which I shot a few times before getting a regular night at a local music venue where I met Paul Robins who was going nuts about a rather excellent Italian Marillion Fish-era tribute called Mr Punch. We hit it off and started knocking about together and after a few months, he came up with Market Square Heroes as an idea to see a few more gigs. He was meant to write a few lines and I would take the photos. We ended up travelling all over the country shooting gigs, promoting an excellent tribute festival called Rock the Park, based in Wrexham, which we then covered and Market Square Heroes will be covering it again this year. I needed more original and new music though so I quit after Rock the Park and after a few month solo I find myself filling in the paperwork for the excellent Moshville Times!

When you started photography, what was your first interest before developing an interest in gig photography?

Cricket. I used to play and the camera came to every game with me and capturing people’s moments of emotion during the game became an addiction.

Now that you are a photographer by profession, what advice would you give to someone wishing to start becoming a photographer?

To have a second or first profession. The music game is famously the hardest to make money in but due to the advent of mobile phones and cheaper entry level cameras, it seems that every Christmas, every man, woman and their dog is suddenly a photographer. I urge people to take their time and learn their craft properly before taking the risk of ruining memories for people. Being a professional is a huge responsibility and the memories of a single moment in time can be made amazing or ruined forever in just the click of the shutter.

If someone was to take this seriously, what sort of budget would they have to set aside in your opinion and what is your most expensive piece of equipment?

I have spent way more money than I would like to admit and got very kit happy to start with, owning many lenses and bits of pointless kit. You can get good results in well-lit venues with a kit for just a few hundred but most venues are not well lit and to get great results, £1000 for a used full frame camera capable of low light with a 50mm 1.8 lens is a great start.

Is there a piece of equipment, and don’t say the camera, that you can’t do without?

The cover for my camera. Gigs are messy places and you often end up covered in drink, blood and sweat and this helps keep the camera clean and usable for the next gig with just a quick wipe.

Can you run through what happens at the night of a gig?

How long are you allowed to take pictures for? Depends on the gig. Some only the first three songs, some the first three plus the final track and some – anything I want.

What difficulties can you face when taking photographs at a gig?

The most common is too much red and blue light. I have learnt how to cope with it in most venues now but there is one where the lighting engineers just back lights the whole gig with red and blues and next to no front lighting and if it was not for the Nikon D750’s high ISO range, I would have to walk away.

Do you have any pet peeves in the live environment?

Mobile phones! Mobile phones and perhaps mobile phones! I get people want memories but do not put them in front of my camera or balance them on my head please.

After you have finished taking photographs at a gig, what is the next step to getting them ready for publication?

Get home, fire up Lightroom, have lots of coffee or beer depending if I was drinking at the gig and try and scan through for three or four keepers quickly to work on so I can fire them to the promoter and up on my Facebook wall to try and strike while the iron is hot. Then a few hours sleep and another 18 editing before sending the keepers in.

What piece of software do you use to edit your photographs?

Lightroom and Photoshop.

Have you had the opportunity to exhibit your pieces of work to the public and if so, how did that feel and how did the event go?

Not as yet but it would be great in the future.

With the public looking at your photographs, what thoughts or emotions would you like them to take away from your pictures?

I would like them to get the vibe of the gig and performance alone with my interpretation of the bands performance.

What would you say is the proudest moment of your career?

That is a really tough question but I think it’s going to be the 7th of February doing the Collateral sold out gig at The Black Heart in London. I saw the band grow over the last few years, I have watched their growth and I feel so chuffed for them. To have had a chance to document snippets of their journey is amazing.

Possibly impossible to answer but would you have a photograph that you are extremely proud of?

Some of my wildlife work has got some great reactions and has taken a lot of effort. Trying to choose one is like trying to pick a favourite child. Each one is often attached to an emotion and a moment than means something so it would feel wrong to choose.

Do you archive your own pictures?

Yes but I’m messy with it and tend to keep most of my RAW files too. I have about 12 terabytes of archive images.

Do you have some photographers that are your influences and have admired their work?

Not properly famous ones. Aiden Wellock from Northnip has been a mentor and very good friend to me. When I first started, every time I posted a shot he would be on my PM in seconds telling me what I need to change in the edit or where I missed focus etc. But gradually, it got to the point we were exchanging tips and I am proud to say he’s invited me to shoot a festival with him later this year. He’s my northern brother even if we don’t talk all the time and he phones me at 5 am totally off his tits.

What would you say you would have to do to enhance your skills to reach that of your peers?

Again, I just need to keep shooting and working for the opportunities. I don’t try and match or be like anyone else and like to think I have my own style.

Do you have a favourite place to shoot your photographs?

From the pit! In all seriousness, no. I love seeing new places and getting that buzz when a moment happens with a band and the crowd as I am there to capture it all. As far wildlife that as secret or I will be swarmed with other photographers.

What motivates you to keep taking photographs?

Memories and the emotions they can carry.

Thank you for your time in answering these questions for Moshville Times. If there was a person or a gig past or present that you wish you would have had the opportunity to take photographs, what would it be?

I would love to have shot Nirvana in their early pre-fame days, the rawness of their music back then was something else. When I hear the very early stuff it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Mark Shelley: facebook

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