Here at Forté, we get to report on all the latest live and local music, and part of that is bringing you photos of these bands in action.
This time we’re looking behind the lens.
Brittany Long has let nothing stop her during her journey as a live music photographer, not even her wheelchair.
Brittany took her first live photo in August last year, starting with a small Sony camera at a P!NK show, during her Beautiful Trauma tour. “I’d never shot live music before and it was honestly never even something I’d ever contemplated doing,” she recalls.
“I had tickets to the final Melbourne show of P!NK’s Beautiful Trauma tour and decided to take my small Sony camera along. I’d heard that P!NK’s show was something else and wanted to capture a few photos. I’d always loved photography; in fact, it was very rare that I didn’t have a camera in my hand.
“Anyway, I captured a 38-photo panorama of P!NK lit by phone torches and to this day it is still one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken,” she explained. “Her gig was what made me fall in love with music photography. There was just something about it. The lighting, the atmosphere, the unity and the key thing being the passion.”
Having now found her passion, it wasn’t long before Brittany had found her next subject. A high school friendship with Jesse Tekin of A New Way Home saw her soon photographing the band while they supported Nautical Mile during their East Coast Tour.
“Without Nautical Mile and A New Way Home who welcomed me right from the start, I honestly don’t know where I’d be with my photography. And yeah, well I guess the rest is history. I shot the show the first night and loved it so much I went back for the second show and haven’t stopped since.
“There’s just something about live music photography that has truly taken my heart. I love the fact that nothing about it is posed, you never know what you’re going to get, you can’t control anything and you’re constantly having to think on your feet, looking for the light everywhere. You’re literally just being given an insight into a musician’s world and capturing them on a stage which is truly the biggest honour. Being behind a camera and shooting live music, especially in a photo pit is my happy place.”
Fast-forward to present, and Brittany has photographed over 80 different live shows, including festivals, local shows, international acts and more for multiple publications.
Now, Brittany’s latest project surrounds something that poses a problem to her every day: stairs. “I’m not just a stair obsessed woman. Well okay, maybe slightly,” she joked.
“So basically the project arose after a friend asked me the significance of taking photos of artists on stairs. It all started with a portrait of Mallrat on some steps backstage at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne, which evoked the thought that I could start a portrait series called ‘The Corner Steps’ and photograph different artists on the stairs at The Corner Hotel only.
“However, I started discovering just how many venues in Melbourne had stairs and that’s where the project came to life. The idea behind my project is all about removing the negativity surrounding stairs. As a wheelchair user, stairs are typically my nemesis and something I can’t do, so this series is particularly important to me. It’s all about me taking back the power and showcasing artists in a different light. I’m also trying to raise awareness about accessibility at music venues, not just in Melbourne but Australia-wide.”
Brittany has now photographed over 70 artists (the likes of which including Ocean Alley, Jack River, The Hoodoo Gurus, and G Flip) for her Stairs project, with the number only growing. With hopes to publish the compilation of photos as a coffee-table book of sorts, Brittany aims to raise awareness about accessibility at music venues. “Everyone deserves to be able to enjoy live music, not just able-bodied people,” she added. “The fact is that there are a number of music venues that are not accessible at all, and it needs to change.
“Often the pit is so tiny that there’s literally no way I’d be able to even fit half of my wheelchair inside it, or there are a huge set of stairs to even get into the venue itself, and that’s before I even start shooting,” she explains. “I adapt and just shoot from the barrier platform or the floor, I literally do whatever I need to do to get my shots. But it fuels the fire in me to try and make a difference.”
Despite her success in photographing an array of musicians and acts, these are the obstacles in her work that Brittany faces quite regularly, with some more negative than others.
Recently, while photographing from a photo-pit at a particular venue, Brittany was told she wouldn’t be allowed to keep her spot because she was a ‘safety hazard’, despite having all the necessary passes and accreditations.
“Now I could’ve chosen to leave and to never go back there but what kind of message would that be sending to other people who have faced discrimination. That we have to hide away, NO! I chose to stay and go into the pit and shoot the show anyway, because if I don’t speak up and try and raise awareness about the issues I’m facing then all the awareness I’m trying to create surrounding access to live music will be in vain.
“I also think there’s a long way to go in terms of people understanding what being wheelchair accessible actually means. Take a recent festival I attended for example. They had accessible matting and the location itself was flat so big tick there, they also had a wheelchair-accessible platform at the main stage. But the wheelchair platform was not even half the height it should’ve been and it was aligned directly in front of a huge pole that blocked the view of the stage, and it became obsolete,” she explains. “At another such festival, there were no disabled toilets and I had to be physically escorted into the artist compound just to be able to use the toilet.”
Fuelled by her passion, for the foreseeable future, Brittany plans to continue adding to her collection of Stairs photographs.
“There’s really no set number of artists on stairs that I’m looking for, but one thing I do know is that it will be something pretty special when it is eventually finished and in print. I’d love to exhibit my work one day and tour with a band, but as far as any sort of ideas for a project that are set in stone I think I’ll just focus on one project at a time and see where it takes me.”
You can follow Brittany on Instagram @simplyphotographz.
Written by Thom Devereux
Feature photo by Eugene Canty photography
Jack River by Brittany Long