The Story Behind the Photograph

Throughout the years Seven Pillars Photography has captured live moments of local musicians.  There are some that stand out because they have a story behind them.

Let me share these stories with you.

Moments of Time That Have a Story

Playing the Guitar

Adam Brannon - Code Blue

September 11, 2020, I had been photographing musicians for a little over a month.  The live music scene of Austin was just waking up from the slumber that the pandemic had placed upon it. 

I chose musicians primarily for academic reasons. The National Geographic photographer, Joel Sartore stated in a class, "People are interesting." I felt uncomfortable, at the time, just photographing anybody so I chose musicians, as they are a captive audience. These "people" would help me learn my camera settings better as I would be dealing with low and changing lights, if at a venue, and constant movement. Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO would be understood and mastered.

At the time, my selections of whom to photograph and where to go were easily determined as the numbers of both were few. Of those I had photographed thus far, a high number were men. I wanted to photograph more female singers.

Of the bands that were playing, Code Blue - Austin was playing at Planet Rock Vodka - Distillery. They had a female lead singer, Jen Hassler. I went there and on this day with this photograph an amazing journey began that I have and continue to be on and for which I have received far more than I ever expected. 

Due solely to the fact that I wanted to photograph a female singer.

“Sometimes in life, a sudden situation, a moment in time, alters your whole life, forever changes the road ahead.”
― Ahmad Ardalan, Baghdad: The Final Gathering

Robert - Lights Out

Robert Wagner - The Night the Lights Went Out

It is February 2021, the Live Music Environment is starting to come back from its shutdown due to the pandemic. Then, Mother Nature strikes with an ice storm that causes power outages. Shows are cancelled, again.

February 20, 2021 - Robert Wagner's Rogue Collective is to play at Round Rock Tavern. We will be treated, this day, to a popup appearance by Suede Austin. They were forced to cancel a show days prior.  Robert Wagner, lead singer, has double duty tonight.

Suede Austin begins and almost immediately they are plagued with sound issues. They push on. I am walking throughout the venue snapping shots. I am extremely irritated. The lighting of this venue, I once treasured, had gone down hill.  I was at war with myself. I wanted to leave but wanted to stay on. Out of this mess, I felt, I should be able to get something worthwhile.

I saw Joe Giordino and his wife Keri standing against the wall and I went to talk to them. "These will either be the worst photographs I have ever taken or some of the best," I told Joe. It was at that moment the stage lights went out. I had just turned around and saw the audience grab their phones and turn the flash light on. I was perfectly positioned to grab this and other phenomenal shots. 

This day, I learned my most important lesson from these amazing musicians. At no point during the troubles of this night did I ever see them give less than their all. They were there for their fans and, regardless of the circumstances, they were going to perform. I realized that I too had a responsibility to press on regardless of the circumstances. If I had not this night, this photo would not have been taken.

  • “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
Code Blue Dynamic

If Not For The Camera Malfunction

April 16, 2021 - I had lined up four venues in downtown Austin to be at that night.  The last was at Cedar Street Park Courtyard where Code Blue - Austin was playing a private event.  Being directionally challenged, I have difficulty in finding locations.  Such was the case with this venue.

Looking back it is easy to identify the factors that lead to or caused "something" to happen.  We state emphatically, "If not for that then this would not have happened" as if we could replicate the event at will.

I arrived to the venue and Code Blue was already playing.  The lighting at Cedar had never been phenomenal but workable.  The lighted screen behind always presented problems. On this particular occasion the lighting was a clear blue with magenta highlights, my favorite combination, not. I walked through the crowd and positioned myself and began to snap the photos. Thirty shots in a few seconds. But......

What the hell happened? I knew because I had experienced before and I knew why but I could not ever determine the when. My lens loosened from the body causing the aperture, the feature that determines how much light is allowed in, had gone to zero.

I was looking at 10 shots that were black. I did not instantly delete but fixed the problem and continued to shoot.

After uploading, I could see that I had captured something spectacular.  I lightened up the image and saw an image that was worth spending much time to preserve.  This image was worth fighting for. You could not stage this. 

Would this image have been more presentable if my camera had not malfunctioned? Absolutely, it would have looked a little different if I had left the color and probably the same if I had turned it to B&W.

It is the challenges I overcame that made the outcome more spectacular for me. It is the success of "Not Giving Up" that I will always be reminded of when I look at this photo. I ask not for everything to be a challenge but this photo will always acknowledge to me that I do overcome.

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”
― Molière

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