As with Rökkurró in 2014, I followed Icelandic band Mammút around for Airwaves in 2016. Starting with a headline set at the Reykjavík Art Museum and ending by opening for PJ Harvey at the enormous Valshöllin, they turned a lot of heads at Airwaves this year with a brand new set of tracks from their forthcoming, as yet untitled, album. Continue reading Mammút at Airwaves 2016
Well, I certainly do, but I’m not going to.
For Iceland Airwaves this year I was looking to try something different, so I approached Icelandic band Rökkurró (whose keyboardist, Helga, lives in London and is involved in my Icelanders in London project) and suggested following them around the festival with the aim of creating a photo diary of their Airwaves. They agreed without hesitation, and I ended up having a great time with these lovely people. Here is a small selection of photos from the week. Continue reading Behind the scenes with Rökkurró at Iceland Airwaves
I’ve been racking my brain lately for something to write about that could be a regular feature on the blog. Loads of people say you should just write what interests you, but so much interests me and I want to keep the blog photography themed. Hence, “The story behind the photo” – an occasional series where I post one of my favourite photos and explain how it came about.
Today’s photo is a shot from Iceland Airwaves 2013, the annual music festival held in Reykjavík, to which I have been as photographer for The 405 since 2011. Even in that short space of time I’ve seen the festival grow; I’ve seen popular venues close and new ones open, and I’ve seen Björk in the wild several times. During the early morning of 3rd November, Jon Hopkins took to the stage of Harpa Silfurberg to close the night with some face-melting electronic music.
When shooting electronic music, there isn’t really a lot you can do. In this case, Hopkins was alone on stage standing behind his gear, so all you could see from the photo pit was his head and shoulders, and little else. The lighting was mainly from the back of the stage too, so you could barely see his face, leading to a few disappointing shots of an anonymous figure looking downwards with a frown of concentration barely visible through the dry ice.
As a photographer, one soon learns that many of the best shots come from looking the other way. Nowhere was this more true than at this particular gig, as the aforementioned backlighting would occasionally cast amazing colourful shadows on the walls of the venue, while also illuminating the faces of the crowd. So I stood to the far end of the pit, hoping that nobody else would spot what I was doing, perched on a step (taking care not to get in anyones way) and waited for the silhouette of Hopkins to appear.
The final result is one I’m very pleased with – the larger-than-life silhouette with the coloured edges makes Hopkins appear as an almost supernatural presence, as much operating the crowd directly as he is his equipment.
Last year, as I had done the year before, I went to Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavík to take photos for The405. I said afterwards that it would probably be the last time I did music photography, as my professional career was taking off, and I wan’t able to afford the endless trips to London to cover gigs for the website, much as I had been enjoying them.
This year, The405 were approached by the festival organisers about forming a media partnership with Iceland Airwaves, and it turns out I’ll be able to go along to this year’s festival again, with another photo pass, so I find myself just a few weeks away from another week of music, beer, hotdogs and lopapeysur, ready to rediscover my love for gig photography.
This year, a few local bands that I still haven’t managed to catch at a live performance are playing, including Múm and Emilíana Torrini, and German legends Kraftwerk will be making an appearance too. On top of the scheduled line-up (see Harpa Silfurberg on Friday for The405’s stage) there is the usual array of endless off-venue gigs, where festival goers are crammed, sardine-like, into bookshops, cafés, hostels and bars (and even bus stops) to catch more intimate performances from the visiting artists. A highlight for me from last year was when Ólöf Arnalds played to an entranced Restaurant Reykjavík, and we spotted none other than Björk in the crowd afterwards. It’s not uncommon to find yourself sitting next to, or passing in the street, any of the performers from the bands playing at the festival, and this feeling of involvement that is unique to Iceland is what makes the festival feel so special for me.
If you’re going this year, look out for me in my lopapeysa and stop me and say hi if you recognise me. I’ll no doubt be with my bros from The405: Oli, Tim and Stephen, most of us carrying our cameras around with us, so we shouldn’t be hard to spot.
And if you’re not going, keep an eye out on The405’s website, the Grapevine’s Airwaves minisite, or my own Facebook page for updates from the festival, photo galleries, interviews, sessions and more may well appear, so you can enjoy it as vicariously as you dare.