Photographer Mike Brooks Was a Late Bloomer
Freelance photographer (and Observer contributor) Mike Brooks grew up in Hawaii. Pretty easy to fall in love with the visual arts there, but he didn't start out as a music photographer.
Since his days at the Punahou School in Honolulu, and two colleges in Northern California, he's built a rep shooting mountain biking and other sports, nature and a few weddings. But in the last couple years, Brooks has shifted his focus to music, and has been covering a lot of ground in local venues.
You've been shooting a lot of locals lately, yes?
Lately I've been shooting the Phuss, the Virgin Wolves, Sealion, Red 100s, the O's RTB2, Soviet, the Hana Barbarians from Fort Worth. There are some really good young bands out there.
And one of the first bands you shot were the Lash Outs?
Yeah, I first ran into them on a random night at the Boiler Room up in Denton. I think they were opening for the Vettes or somebody. They are a bunch of nice guys and I like their sound. I'd always want them to be more punk onstage, but their songs take a lot of precision and they wanted to play them right. The nerve. Even though I've always loved live music, I actually just started shooting bands a couple of years ago.
What led you to shoot bands as your subjects?
Mike Brooks St. Vincent
My friends in San Francisco were bouncers at the Mabuhay Gardens, and let us into all the punk shows for free, but I never took pictures. A few years ago, a friend asked if I wanted to shoot his band. They were opening for Mother's Anthem at the Firewater. I got a couple of cool pictures and thought, "Hey, this is fun as shit!"
How did you learn about photography? Classes? A less conventional method?
It was both, I guess. My best friend and I both bought 35mm cameras back in high school in Hawaii. I also went to the pawn shop and got an old Super 8 movie camera, which I still have. We would go around making skateboard movies, or create fake fights on campus and film the reaction. No one cared 'cause they knew us too well. When I left for college, I became a film major, first at Cal, and then at San Francisco State. I got credit for watching old movies, and had a cool light-up pen so I could take notes. Plus, I was still making skateboard movies, but they were much deeper intellectually.
Local all-time favorite shoots?
Purely from a photographic point of view, there was an Ugly Mustard show at Trees that was fantastic. [Singer] Kelly [Barker] came out hanging on this cable and was leaning out over the crowd. I was right in the pit just getting bounced around. Loved it! I loved shooting the Electromagnetics. Got a crappy pic of them after their first show at the Double Wide.
Are there some other local photogs you're a fan of?
Mike Brooks The Lash Outs
Yeah, I'm a fan of every photographer who cares about his or her work and can tell a story visually. One guy whose work I'd like to see in 10 years is Dylan Hollingsworth, because he gets people to tell great stories.
How about venues?
The three Dallas venues I end up at most are Trees, the Granada and the Kessler. All those places care about sound and presentation, about making the artists sound and look good. I'll shoot anywhere (and have), but those three are my favorites.
Is there a shoot you dream of doing?
Yeah, a White Stripes reunion, in some small club, in Liverpool. And I'd need backstage passes!
If money or resources was no object, what would you do to optimize our local music scene?
I think music from the whole area is on the rise. It makes it a little harder that it is so spread out, not only between the cities, but even in Dallas itself. Shit, there is lots of good music being played around town. People should support local music and drink local beer. The world would be a better place. Also, if you gave me a bunch of cash, I would personally put up some stage lighting in a bunch of clubs around town. Then I would make a rule that red lights could only be used as back lighting.