Gimme Noise has selected 20 finalists in our Twin Cities music photographers 2014 showcase. Read all of the profiles here.
Erik Hess, aka @fivesixzero, has been a regular City Pages contributor for the past few years now. Vita.mn, NME, Village Voice, and others have also featured his work. His live shots have captured myriad styles of music, and nearly every live stage in the Twin Cities.
Name: Erik Hess
City: Minneapolis, MN (via Tampa, FL)
How and when did you get involved with music photography?
I've always loved making photos but never had a real project or goal to focus my energy. Started following some great music photographers like Stacy Schwartz and Todd Owyoung on Flickr around 2007 but never had time or the chutzpah to pursue the interest. Got laid off from a job I loved in 2009, and fell deeply in love with live music at around the same time. Couldn't play or make music to save my life but I wanted to create, contribute. Shot a few shows, shot a few more, then a few hundred more. Stopped counting. Sold everything I owned, and got the right gear. Kept making. Been repeating that last one for years now. It's what I do. I'ma do it till the photos don't come then I'm gonna find another hobby...
What are some highlights of your professional photography experience?
Every night I've had the privilege of shooting at First Avenue. Unexpected high fives and hugs. Festivals: SXSW, Pitchfork, Knotfest, Soundset, Rock the Garden, Warped Tour. Mark Mallman's Marathon 3. My first arena show (KISS in September 2010). The three pre-Coachella gigs P.O.S played in early 2010. Touring with Pink Mink in 2011. My first time shooting Nine Inch Nails in September 2013. GWAR. International Noise Conference. Tune-Yards. Peelander-Z. Big Freedia. Every Replacements tribute show & shooting the Replacements at Riot Fest last year. Crazy shows in the Entry (Death Grips, Guitar Wolf, Melt Banana). Record Store Day photo essays. So many life-changing friendships.
Where can people find your work (exhibits, album covers, publications, etc.)?
Primarily at City Pages. They've been supporting my work since 2010 and I've been cranking out a steady stream of my best work for them since then. Also on Instagram/Twitter (@fivesixzero), at my on-again, off-again blog Noise Damage, on walls at galleries and coffee shops here and there, occasionally in Vita.mn, NME and a few other publications around the world. I also do regular event, editorial and commercial photography for a variety of clients as well.
What is your favorite part of music photography?
That feeling when you're at the right place at the right time to record a singular and unique moment. That feeling when you realize you just might've nailed it, that all the preparation, practice and patience paid off.
What dos/don'ts do you have for young photographers who would like to pursue this type of work?
Don't be a jerk. Never stop making. Understand: it's not about you. Travel light. Don't compete. Do collaborate. Stay out of the way -- people paid to see the show, ideally without you and your camera in the way. Respect the fans. Respect the band. Respect the venue. Edit brutally, find your voice, and tell a story. Pick your background deliberately. Don't forget the drummer. Don't forget the deadline, even if it's your own. Don't expect anything, earn it. Start with what you know, shoot whatever you can whenever you can. Never. Stop. Making.
If you intend to make a business out of it: Pitch early, pitch often. Find mentors. Join ASMP and/or SPJ. Diversify your business but focus on your strengths. Never stop learning. Insure your gear. Rent to test before you buy. Buy only when you can pay cash. Live frugally. Find a good tax person and pay them well. Back up your data. Your gear is assured to die a valiant death: budget for repairs (it's always more expensive than you think). Don't work for free unless it's with people you truly respect (and who truly respect you). Work for trade is great but be wary of any barter you can't pay your landlord with. Study copyright and publicity rights, particularly as it relates to editorial and commercial licensing.
Never give up your copyright and never work "for hire" unless you're getting a few months rent in exchange. Know your rights, protect your copyright, don't let unauthorized commercial use slide. Your archive is your legacy: organize it well, keep it safe. Never undercut rates, you're better than that. Keep making, the work will come. Don't be a jerk.
It's been a great journey these last five years. Looking forward to many, many more. Massive thanks to everybody that's supported me over the years, especially through what turned out to be a very difficult 2013. See you at the show!
More profiles of the best Twin Cities music photographers of 2014 will be on the site soon. Stay tuned for a poll.
Kasey Jean Noll