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Hammerdown Festival manager, Harry White, crowdsurfing at Hammerdown 2022 by Greig Clifford

People of the south coast rock and metal scene will likely know this guy, followers of my photography may recognise him, too (from a previous post)... Harry White, the person behind Hammerdown Festival. This photograph is one of my favourites from those I made at the event. I think it's a good representation of the vibe of the whole Hammerdown weekend, and shows the level of appreciation from the crowd for his efforts in organising it... these things simply don't happen if the audience aren't having a good time!

The photo is part of a collection of favourite images I made at Hammerdown. From before the doors opened on the Saturday to the final band on Sunday I approached my time at Hammerdown with the mindset that if I saw something that felt artful to me I would photograph it, in whatever way felt right to best convey the moment. For those that ask for some insight into my approach and process then hopefully the following words will provide some indication of that, but mostly I hope they'll encourage people to spend a little more time with the images and the photoset as a whole.

I tried to think about each image artistically, avoiding the natural tendency to overshoot when faced with fast action, and allowed myself the time to find a rhythm, compose accordingly and be patient. I tried to introduce a more documentorial tilt to the on-stage artist portraiture by consciously making the stage environment more of a feature of the images and I tried to convey some of the emotion and feel with each image. Sometimes this meant I saw the abstract, too, and for those I made time to 'create' the image how my mind's eye envisioned it. The freedom I had to just enjoy the event in this way with my camera was a privilege I'm very thankful for.

After the Wall of Death, by Greig Clifford

Without that kind of freedom it is unlikely I would have created the image above... titled After the Wall of Death. It was made during The Five Hundred's show and consists of action from 15 photos taken over a 35 second period of time, overlaid onto a base image which I then tonally balanced using dodging and burning techniques.

From the abstract to the documentorial I was happy just going where my mind took me... I loved the light in the next image presented here, the sweet-seller sitting at his table during a moment of quiet before the main doors opened for the event. It's one of a few images I made "before doors" where I took the opportunity to document some things that caught my eye while the venue was empty of an audience.

The Sweet Seller, before doors at Hammerdown Festival by Greig Clifford

The photoset starts with more images from this time before the crowds arrived, and also some I made a little later between band sets. I felt they acted well as a way to help set the overall scene and add another dimension to the photoset as a whole. Included are small details that interested me, people carrying out last minute preparations or generally hanging around while waiting for a band to start, the kind of things that one might overlook when one's mind is focused more towards photographing the band performances.

I didn't feel there was enough of these off-stage images to make a photoset of their own, but I did think there was a place for them as part of the wider set, and anyway I wanted to show a little something of that side of things, too. I think their effect is subtle, which I like. I think they create a gentle contrast to the more dynamic nature of many of the performance photographs. As the photoset progresses the emphasis changes much more towards the action on stage.

Legs of the frontman from Caine, at Hammerdown Festival, by Greig Clifford

Of course, one of my favourite things is to photograph artists performing. Photography of the performance can often be far more instinctive, especially so when lighting changes quickly and musicians are in constant movement. There is simply less time to think, but even so, I was mindful of details and artful composition in line with my general ideas about how photography should be. As mentioned, I tried hard to include a sense of the performance space, and the artist's place within it.

Working independently, I didn't feel obligated to try to photograph every performer. Of the artists I did photograph, I wasn't even concerned about whether the images rendered them recognisable! My only interest was that I wanted each photograph to feel artistic to me. Without that mindset, I wouldn't have made an image such as the one above featuring the legs of the frontman from the band Caine.

And this highlights a fundamental change in my post-Covid-19 mindset. Who owns the legs is largely irrelevant I think, unless they happened to belong to someone famous. Even so, I find the most famous of people still remain unknown by large swathes of the population, and fame can be such a short-lived situation, too. I have come to believe that most people have very little real interest in portraits of strangers, and this applies in many ways to live performance images too. The challenge is to make images that people can connect with on a level that is irrespective of the person portrayed. Once a connection has been made further interest in those depicted grows from that.

Esoterica at Hammerdown Festival, by Greig Clifford

I think the strongest connections are made when an image elicits an emotional response of some kind, perhaps one that mirrors something captured within the viewed image. Photographing humanity and all its intangible apsects is a continuing fascination for me, and I love music for its ability to bring such elements out of people. I hope that whoever sees the Hammerdown photoset will feel a sense of those emotions, in some of the photographs particularly, and across the wider set more generally.

The venue created a fantastic backdrop for the on-stage action, an architecturally beautiful space that I wanted to include as much as I could. Venues aren't usually so attractive so darkness is normally preferable but here I was happy that large windows flooded the room with light for much of the day. It helped define the space and I think also added another layer of interest to the images.

During the set by Southbank Crows, at Hammerdown Festival, by Greig Clifford

I appreciate the time taken to read this introduction, and for those spending time to properly look at my images (despite the low resolution I present them at online) I thank you greatly. I do hope they are worthy of more than just a passing glance.

Thank you to Harry and the Hammerdown team for a great festival, and for allowing me the freedom to add my own photographic stamp to this event.

View the Hammerdown 2022 Photoset.

(Published 23/10/2022)