Michigan-based photographer Stefan Peterson has made a career of standing alongside stomping, thrashing throngs at rock shows and snapping crystal-clear photos of the mayhem. He's been photographing rock music shows and scenes since the mid-'90s, and his latest exhibit, "Together in the Darkness," is made up of photos he took while documenting rock in Sweden.
City Pages: You've been photographing bands for a long time now. Does shooting rock shows in Sweden vary from shooting in the U.S.?
Stefan Peterson: Oh, yeah. When I started I was in small bars or in basements or living rooms. Then I eventually worked up to bigger clubs in Detroit. But when I finally went to Sweden, it was just a completely different vibe. For example, in Sweden, I've had people move out of my way, or some people even push me to the front of the stage when they see me coming through with a camera. I don't know these people; they're just kind of like, "Oh! Somebody's taking a picture. Go right ahead." In the States, it tends to be every man for himself; you have to just elbow your way to whatever position you can get and hold onto that position for dear life. Swedish clubs are more relaxing without being totally lame. They also have better lighting. As much as I love dive bars with one spotlight, it's nice to have a lighting rig when you go to a club. From a photographic angle, that helps.
CP: You still do a lot of shooting with film and develop in a darkroom. Why don't you make the shift to digital?
SP: I don't even own a digital camera. The main thing is, I grew up with film, and it's what I know best. In a way, it's more reflective of how I see: the grain and the grittiness and the imperfection. If it looks too perfect, I won't think I'm doing a good job. I've seen digital work that looks too crisp and clear. Also, I know how film reacts to certain situations, and I'm not very good with digital.
CP: Why do you shoot almost exclusively in black and white?
SP: I've thought about that, actually, and I've tried to use color recently. Black and white is more striking, a little starker. I think it makes people think a little more about what something in the photo might have been like, but in color it gives too clear of a view of how things were. With black and white it's as if you have to use your imagination a little more and fill in the blanks and read between the lines. In a way, it's journalistic and feels like a documentary.