Meet the Best Music Photographers in North Texas: Allan Hayslip

Categories: Photography

Allan Hayslip Allan Hayslip Photography

Earlier, we introduced you to our 12 favorite music photographers in North Texas. We got more than 50 nominations, and our team of expert judges narrowed it down to these 12. Over the next two weeks, we'll be introducing you to each of the finalists in turn by having them share five of their favorite concert photos and answering a few questions about their process and passion. Next up is V. Allan Hayslip, whose work can be viewed from his website, Allan Hayslip Photography.

Allan, what's the best thing about live music?

Whether I'm performing in a band or shooting a show, for me the best thing is the collaborative aspect of it, which includes the intimacy of the trust artists share among each other, the trust artists share with the audience, and that the audience reciprocates to the artists. it's almost completely emotional, and frequently has very little to do with the actual notes being played. My best musical experiences, like when I perform with my niece Tiger Darrow, are the ones where we trust we're there to support each other in the common goal of playing music that's worth hearing, and we trust that the audience is open and receptive to it. It's not much different when I'm shooting. I need the artists to open up to me, to be vulnerable, and to trust that I'm not there to make them look like idiots so that we can get the most powerful images. I guess that's why I end up being so selective about what I shoot, leaning towards musicians I already know and/or music that I already love. After all, I can't play in every band, so there's shooting is another way to actively participate.

Allan Hayslip Allan Hayslip Photography

What makes a great concert photo?

I think there are as many different kinds of great concert photos as there are great concert photographers. If there are common denominators, the best photos probably express perspective and energy in a resonant or surprising way.

Perspective can help put the viewer in an desirable or unexpected place at the show. It might put them on stage with the band, or right down in the pit, or even backstage so they can see how the rock'n'roll sausage is made. Perspective can help the viewer imagine they're right there at the show, or that they have a privileged, even idealized position that's even better than the one they might've had in the club. Perspective can also heighten the drama of the shot, like making the performers look 10 feet tall, or alternately getting up close and intimate so it feels like just a single performer and the viewer.

Similarly, a great photo can capture various aspects of the energy of the moment. A powerful movement by a performer, frozen in time, can express a certain tension and feel like it's almost about o burst out of the frame. Likewise blurred motion of the audience and/or the performers can really show the kinetic aspect of a show. Compositional tools like using negative space, selective focus, or letting a subject burst through (or fall off) an edge of the frame can also communicate to the viewer that the subject is so energetic it simply can't be contained.

What's the strangest thing that has happened to you while photographing live music?

Nothing terribly exotic, scary, or bizarre--at least by my standards--has happened so far, but I'm holding out hope. Or maybe I should say that nothing unexpectedly strange has happened. It's not unexpectedly strange to find yourself sitting next to a clown in the midst of strapping-on a 3' penis when you're backstage at a fetish event. And yes I took a nice picture of it.

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