Music through the eye of the lens – an interview
Music through the eye of the lens | Words by Lieke Ruesink
Music offers a shared experience to those listening. At concerts, we all feel the words vibrate through our soul and the base becomes a collective heartbeat. But what the music does to us is different for each individual. Today we speak with a music photographer to hear how they’re seeing and approaching music, both through their eyes and through the lens of their camera.
Jay’s career as a photographer
Jay Whitehead (20) lives in the UK and started a career as a photo- and videographer a little over a year ago. Although Jay is quite new to the industry, they’re certainly not a stranger to it. In a short amount of time, Jay has been able to shoot many shows, including concerts from well-known artists such as Waterparks, Walk the Moon, Bad Suns and Hippo Campus. Jay has also worked closely together with Vesperteen, creating a video diary series of his tour last Summer, as well as working for curiosity brand and poetry publisher Secret Midnight Press, creating promotional material for their upcoming events.
Changing music taste
Jay’s taste in music has grown over the years, and their passion for photography has helped form it. “I have always listened to music as kid”, Jay says. “I remember having a Walkman that I cherished, and I’d play a few CD’s over and over, which consisted of artists such as Tom Jones, ABBA, Supertramp and The Police. My family have always been pretty musical too, we always have music playing in our house. We’re massive vinyl collectors too. So I grew up on progressive rock and some 80s pop, but my tastes diverged when I was around 13 or 14 and I started to get into indie/alternative more. I still love prog rock though”.
| “When listening to new bands I always go back to ‘what could I do with this visually?’”
Getting into the music industry as a filmmaker and photographer changed the way Jay listens to music, they say. “I definitely now see music as a business that I’m in, so when listening to new bands I always go back to ‘what could I do with this visually?’” Although Jay often approaches this question from a more business-like viewpoint now, it’s been something they’ve always asked themselves while listening to music. “I have always been a visual person. I used to listen to music and think about how a music video would look.”
Above: The Night Cafe opening for The Wombats at Rock City Nottingham March 21 – shot for SB Management
Transitioning from a student to a full-time content creator
Getting into this industry is not easy. Jay has had many ups and downs, fighting for a place within an often male-dominated field. Making enough money to provide a living for themselves is still a challenge, but it is something they’re ready to tackle as soon as they graduate from Nottingham University with a double degree in English and Philosophy next month.
| “Photographing my first show, I realized how addictive it could be.”
“I started out as a videographer and filmmaker in the music industry, making music videos and promotional videos”, Jay tells us. “I went on tour with a band called Vesperteen in the Summer of 2017 to produce a video documentary series, and that was my first taste of live music media. I moved into the photography side of things earlier this year when I realized I needed to expand out from just videography to have more multimedia abilities. Even photographing my first show (Night Riots and Coasts) I realized how addictive it could be.”
| “I think it’s important to have knowledge and experience of all sides of the music industry even when your main position is as a photographer.”
Jay is very passionate about helping out artists and wants to do more than just create visual content. The past year they’ve been helping out several artists profile themselves better online, as well as act as a publishing manager, making connections between artists and publications. “I want to continue to do my bit in building bridges in communication – helping artists and fans communicate, hopefully translating the music into image or video form. Practically, I want to be touring as much as possible whilst continuing to do work in PR and Management. I love every aspect of the music industry and think it’s important to have knowledge and experience of all sides even when your main position is as a photographer.”
Waterparks at London KOKO March 4
Flor opening for Walk The Moon at Bristol O2 Academy April 2 – shot for Fueled by Ramen
When asked what Jay wants to be doing most, touring is the first thing that comes to mind. “Being on the road is simultaneously the most difficult and most liberating thing you can do!” Jay says. “I’m actually putting together a zine about my experience driving 4500 miles to cover 7 shows, so hopefully I can explain and depict it in more detail there. But it’s surreal and crazy. Getting closer to the band and learning more about how they think helped my ability to convey the energy and ethos behind these shows.”
After graduating, Jay has exciting plans coming up for this Summer, including a UK tour with a band called ASHFIELDS. After that, they’re not planning on staying put in Nottingham. “I’m still looking for more touring opportunities to fill the rest of 2018 with. I’m also looking to visit the States again this Summer to hopefully catch the ‘Atlas Black’ event hosted by Secret Midnight Press. Plus, I’ll be continuing my work in publicity and management!”
Bad Suns at London OMEARA March 5
The past year has been very exciting for Jay. “I was honored to be asked to shoot the Walk The Moon show in Bristol last month, that was a huge milestone for me. But I’m also incredibly proud of, and humbled by all my experiences working directly with bands behind the scenes to document sound check, warm-up, show etc.” Working as a photographer is about more than just business, Jay says. They describe the experience they had meeting different artists and how great it has been to get to know so many like-minded, creative spirits. “Getting to know these incredible artistic individuals is wonderful and gives me the drive to continue to reach out to and meet more artists. I’ve recently worked one-on-one with the guys from Bad Suns, Night Riots, Hippo Campus, The Night Cafe, and Gengahr – and have become good friends with some of the people I’ve met.”
| “All bands are different – different stage presence, music styles, etc., but all of their work is really visual for me.”
Jay hopes to continue to work in the music industry, whether that be as a photographer, filmmaker or PR and marketing expert. There is a couple of artists Jay would like to work with in the upcoming years, to help them visualize their sound. “I’d love to work directly with EDEN – his music holds a lot of visual potential in my opinion and he seems like an incredibly interesting person! I’d also love to work with The Neighbourhood, AJR, COIN and Hippo Campus (again!). All bands are different – different stage presence, music styles, etc., but all of their work is really visual for me.”
Follow Jay’s journey
The upcoming Summer and the rest of the year is going to be very exciting for Jay, as they continue to make their way into the music industry, creating visual art for different musicians. Jay has their own website (https://jaywhitehead.squarespace.com) on which you can find their latest photography and other projects, and also buy prints of their best photos!