Photographing Big Freedia at Brooklyn Bowl

Not every gig is a paying gig. Sometimes you take a gig that doesn’t pay because you just want to be there. That’s OK.

As a photographer, if you’re good, you will find that your camera will grant you access to places that you otherwise would not be allowed to go. Case in point, a Big Freedia concert at Brooklyn bowl.

Big Freedia is a musician from New Orleans who I just happen to be a fan of. She was coming to Brooklyn and was going to do two shows at Brooklyn bowl. Me and a friend already got tickets for the first night. But less than a week before the concert, the friend that I was going with told me that she heard they were looking for a photographer for the second night. Why not throw my hat in the ring.

I think I had to reach out to Brooklyn Bowl via email, and then I sent them a link to an online gallery of photos that I had. They got back to me within 24 hours and told me that they would be thrilled to have me taking pictures. They would not be able to pay me cash, but I would get to see the show for free, obviously. Apparently, there would be free food included and tickets to any other show I wanted.

If you have no idea who Big Freedia is, she is in a genre of music called bounce. Bounce originates from New Orleans, and I don’t know of any bounce scene existing outside of New Orleans. High energy, a lot of fun, slightly repetitive, but that’s all part of the vibe.

Arriving for the Gig

I got to the show, informed the box office of who I was, they gave me all the credentials I would need to get inside, and once inside I just had to plan my strategy which, to be honest, I hadn’t thought about until now. I have shot other musicians like D’Angelo or Nick Hakim, but only because I snuck my camera in and shot from the view of a spectator.

However, here I was able to walk onto the stage with my press credentials. Nobody told me of where I should stand, or what I could or could not do. I’m a very go with the flow guy. Would it be wrong for me to go on the stage? Should I stay in the audience with my gear and all the other plebeians? As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a paying gig, I’m not an employee, and there’s no risk of getting fired. Fuck it I’m going to do whatever I feel like doing.

Clearly, I didn’t want to step on anyone’s feet, and I didn’t want to get in the way of big Freedia or her act. That’s probably my number one concern, number 2 being getting the best shots I can.

How I Captured Images at the Big Freedia Show

I had seen the show the night before as a spectator, and so I knew a little bit of what to expect. If the 2nd night is anything like the 1st, I’ll have an idea of what the dancers are going to do, when they’re going to do them, and what to be ready for. The rest was just me being on my toes, using my imagination, and looking for opportunities to capture something memorable.

There was a lot of action on stage. And I remember constantly moving around to avoid the performers. I even think at one point I saw another photographer in the audience. I’m pretty sure now that I think about it, that they probably brought in a few photographers to take pictures. I mean it’s a free gig, and anybody with half a brain should know that if you ask somebody to work for free, the flake factor has got to be high.

I wonder if the photographer in the audience saw me and wondered what the hell I was doing. Did he approve? Was he envious? I mean, I was on stage with the artist, there must be a certain amount of envy. However, the more I think about what I did that night, the more I realize that I would never do it again. And that’s OK.

In photography, or any field for that matter, sometimes you’ll never understand why you shouldn’t do something until you do it. However, I do think it could be healthy sometimes to just say “let’s try this “.

The Gear I Used

You know, one thing I did not discuss this entire article was my gear. I shot with my Sony A7Riii, and I brought a 24 to 70 zoom lens. I think I also brought my flash, but I opted not to use it seeing that there was plenty of well-lit ambient light for me to use.

The 24 to 70 worked perfect for the tight space that I was in with the band. However, if I was to shoot from the audience, I would’ve brought my 70 to 200.

In the end, I sent the pictures off to Brooklyn bowl, and also sent them to Big Freedia’s management. Everyone said they loved them, and I never saw the pics again.

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