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Capture the Moment

Cam Hay.
Concerts create memories that last a lifetime. We meet two rising stars who dedicate their careers to capturing that experience for all eternity.

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The common saying ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is of course accurate for all aspects of photography, but there’s a heightened meaning when it comes to the avenue of gig photography. 

For a music lover, a concert is a visual representation to a raw, visceral feeling that is otherwise confined to an aural experience.  A single snap can take an adoring fan who’s travelled for hours or even days to see their favourite act back to the time where happiness was at an all-time high, singing word-for-word to songs that have made an impact in their lives. Or experiencing a new sound for the first time.

Gigs create memories, experiences, relationships that last a lifetime. Gig photography captures the essence of those memories and brings them back to life. 

In most countries, live performances seem like a distant memory thanks to COVID-19. And while New Zealand’s return to fluctuating alert levels has had an impact on the music industry here, the contingent of Kiwi photographers like Cam Hay and Frances Scrimgeour have been among some of the only ones across the world doing their job in recent months.

Cam Hay.

Originally from Ashburton, Hay’s photography journey was slow and gradual, eventually buying his first camera to take photos of clothes he had learned to make with the help of his grandmother. After dipping his toes into numerous genres of photography and becoming inspired by the works of David Bowie's photographer, Mick Rock, Hay became fixated on gig photography. Hay eventually moved further south to study in Dunedin, Aotearoa’s hub of underground garage bands of all variety. 

Photo: Cam Hay.

“To be honest I went to gig photography because it's exciting. You’re young, full of energy, indestructible. Gig photography was just something I could do, and was the first photo avenue that would pay me.”

Photo: Cam Hay.

Since then, Hay has captured 98 gigs at 72 different venues over 14 countries of 44 different bands, including Kiwi indie bands Mild Orange, Mako Road, Marlins Dreaming, The Butlers and Soaked Oats, as well as international acts like Ocean Alley, The Growlers and Sticky Fingers. 

Photo: Cam Hay.

Photo: Cam Hay.

“From shooting in a tiny underground dark bar in Dunedin to the main stage of All Points East Festival in London, I have learnt so much and feel so comfortable with every situation I am placed in.”

Fran Scrimgeour.

Unlike Hay, Christchurch based Scrimgeour hasn’t yet had the opportunity to take her talents across the globe. However, her determination to capture some of the world’s biggest bands while on our home shores has proven to be a winning formula for the 23-year old’s rising reputation behind the lens. 

“I go out of my way to be in the right place at the right time, which is convenient for bands and people organising gigs,” she says.

Photo: Fran Scrimgeour.

A perfect example of that was in February at Christchurch’s prime-time summer festival, Electric Avenue. Scrimgeour got the attention of Australian indie duo Lime Cordiale (below) with a quintessentially quirky offer.

Photo: Fran Scrimgeour.

“I really wanted to make Lime [Cordiale] remember me, or at least have a humorous exchange. As a thank you for putting me on their media list, I gave them some avocados. 

“After their set, there was a special moment where I waddled over and squeaked out a hello. Louis (Leimbach) pulled out the avocados from his pockets with a grin and we all stood together watching Matt Corby (below) perform to a rain-drenched crowd.”

Photo: Fran Scrimgeour.

Photography came late to Scrimgeour’s life, spending most of her early and late teens performing classical music on the violin and piano in orchestras. Her creativity could still be utilised in her new-found love of live gigs as tertiary study began, and has since gone on to be the visual story-teller for a host of bands within the New Zealand indie scene.

Photo: Fran Scrimgeour.

Photo: Fran Scrimgeour.

“Despite being able to play music the chances of me joining a band were slim,” Scrimgeour explains. “I still desperately wanted to be involved. I wanted to be more than just a supportive mate but was allergic to the title of ‘groupie’ - so photography solved this predicament.”

Photo: Fran Scrimgeour.

Collectively, both Hay and Scrimgeour's ability to capture the pure emotion in the eyes of the crowds and performers has taken them both places they respectively never imagined. They now get the chance to share advice with budding photographers, dreaming to follow the same path.

“Talk, meet and smile with strangers. You never know, perhaps you can use your skills to help them. Perhaps they can help you too,” Scrimgeour offers.

Hay likes to keep it simple. Be yourself.

“I base my photography off my values. I want to be respectful and trustworthy. I want to go unnoticed and be a mystery to everyone at the gig. I don’t want to interrupt or hinder anyone's experience.”

Photo: Cam Hay.

As Kiwi gig-goers begin to construct their summer plans, so too do Cam and Frances. There’s no doubt you’ll see these two extremely talented photographers soaking up the scenes from their viewfinders, and loving every second of it. 

Photo: Fran Scrimgeour.

Photo: Cam Hay.

Written by

George Berry

1 Sep 2020

George Berry is a 22-year old Freelance Journalist and Musician.

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