Is there a stand-out moment for you in this exhibition?
2012 I got to shoot The Prodigy when they headlined Download Festival. That was the first time they’d really done a headline; so I got to shoot that, and go on stage with them - it was absolutely amazing; a definite highpoint.
Is there a lot of pressure shooting live?
It’s a really difficult thing to do. There’re a lot of restrictions in most venues. You only get to shoot the first three songs and you’re not allowed to use flash, so it’s pretty difficult. The three-song-rule is more for safety, to get you out of the pit in case people start crowd surfing but it’s existed forever. The lighting is often really bad at festivals or concerts… It’s smokey; they use dry ice. That makes it a nightmare because it’s so difficult to get a good photo.
It’s a hard thing to do well. The concept is easy enough, but it’s trying to make your shots different from other photographers that’s hard.
And how do you make your shots different?
That’s difficult to say… I guess it’s looking for that special moment that really sells the gig. You’ve got to wait there and choose carefully, rather than shooting and shooting and shooting. I’ve never really thought about it before!
Photography has changed massively for me. It was my hobby when I was a student, I enjoyed it and did it for fun and at some point in these last ten years everything’s changed. It’s my living so it makes it very different because there is a huge amount of pressure to get it right.
After you complete a live show, what’s your editing process?
It’s quite a big debate really, whether you should edit certain things or how much you should transform a picture. My work is based on really big colours and large contrasts, so when I was compiling this exhibition of 50 prints I looked at each photo in terms of its primary colour. I edit and process everything in a light room usually straight after a show, and it does get very strenuous. People have this idea that it’s wonderful going round to gigs and festivals having fun, but the reality is not like that. Of course there are moments where you think: ‘This is a really special job’, but you’re generally working very hard and you can’t enjoy yourself in the same way as the people around you.
What about your personal projects? Are they different for you?
My personal projects are only something I’ve started doing in the last two or three years. It’s a bit weird, but I went back to college in Leeds in 2013 as a mature student and did the 3rd year of a degree in photography. I had been working as a freelancer for 8 years and going back to Leeds City College was pretty strange because I already had a career as a photographer and had to manage my dissertation and research. But it taught me more than music, about what idea-led projects are. It really pushed me but I still see music and personal photography as being really different. That experience has definitely changed the direction of my career.
Sometimes I go back and teach at Park Lane City College, and I get my prints done there.
Tom’s exhibition will open at Black Swan pub in Leeds’ City Centre on Thursday 3rd of December. Doors open at 7pm.