Friday, September 26, 2014

‘The Soundcheck Sessions’ - The First Music Analogue Photography Exhibition by Stephen Dowling

Buffalo Tom's Chris Colbourn, shot on tour in Holland in 2007

Stephen Dowling is a photojournalist and analog photographer based-in London who specializes in music, reportage, portraiture and travel. His work and his useful tutorials of analogue photography were featured here on Shooting Film several times.

Back in April 2004, Dowling travelled to Zagreb, Croatia, to take pictures of Nashville country-soul outfit Lambchop. He'd interviewed their genial frontman Kurt Wagner back in 2000 and seen them play a number of concerts in London. This was the period after their breakthrough album ‘Nixon’ and its delicate follow-up ‘Is a Woman’.

William Tyler of Lambchop,
shot at London's Barbican in 2004
"It was a few years after I'd really got into photography," he says. "I was looking for a project that I could return to year after year. Backstage at a Lambchop show in London, I suggested to Kurt that I would catch up with the band at various shows, shooting the cities they played in, and their concerts, and crucially the stuff the audience don't see – especially the soundchecks. The band's concert, at SC on the Croatian capital, was the first of a range of shows I covered, from London to Moscow, New York to Istanbul."

But that project also changed focus. Itching to practice more using the limited light at soundchecks, Dowling began shooting other bands such as alt-country singer Josh Rouse in a London rehearsal room. He also shot Calexico and Iron and Wine before a momentous gig at London’s Kentish Town Forum, Portishead's return to touring after a 13-year hiatus working on their third album and a Crowded House's show in Moscow. All photographs were shot on black and white film, pushed to 3200 or 6400, no flash and "using those limited pools of light to bring out the details."

It's 10 years since that project started, and the first decade seems a good opportunity to take stock. "This year, I wanted to start editing down the images from the session – nearly 25 bands, and hundreds of rolls of film – into a set to exhibit. It's also a good transition, because the film the vast majority of these images were shot on, Fuji Neopan, has been discontinued. It's time to choose a replacement (probably Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5) and begin stage two." - Stephen Dowling says of his work.

The Soundcheck Sessions’, an ongoing series of sessions shooting bands at soundcheck, will be his first exhbition, taking place on this Saturday at Zorki Photo Café in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. This is the first time many of the images which sat in Stephen Dowling's Flickr stream for a long decade have been printed, and the difference between those tiny digital scans and the handprints he picked up from London's Bayeux lab "is incredible; the depth of resolution of proper handprints printed on fibre paper just can't be beat." Please come and join his first exhibition to feel them better if you have a chance. You can check his updates by follow his Facebook page or visit his blog at

Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake, London's Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 2010

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam, London Kentish Town Forum, 2006

The Maccabees, London Brixton Academy, 2009

Buffalo Tom's Tom Maginnis, Ghent Vooruit, 2007

Portishead's Beth Gibbons, London Hammersmith Apollo, 2008

Josh Rouse, Newcastle Cluny, 2006

David Kilgour, Napier's Lattitude, New Zealand, 2007

Taane Tokona, Napier's Lattitude, New Zealand, 2007

The National's Matt Berninger, Luxembourg Den Atelier, 2010

All images copyright © Stephen Dowling. To see more of his amazing work, please visit his website and his Flickr photostream.

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