A Chinese concert and a revelation

What many people don’t know is that photography isn’t my only creative outlet. I am also a musician – or at least I used to be. I hung the guitar up many years ago, and it has sat collecting dust ever since.

Lately, however, I have started to feel the draw back to music. I’ve thought about getting a band together and gigging here in Saigon. Music never truly loosened its grip on my heart, and now I feel it tightening its clutch just a little bit to remind me it’s still there.

I thought about the decision to make photography my main direction and the simultaneous one to lay music to one side, wondering about how much I really have to choose between the two. There are certainly ways to combine the two – like concert photography, enjoying music and photography at the same time. This is when I remembered the time back in 2007 that I attended a Chinese concert in Guangzhou. It was a show by David Tao (陶喆), and the first and last time I had attempted to capture the feel of a concert with my camera.

David Tao Prelude 1

I clicked my way to the folder that held the images, excited to share them with you all here on my blog. I remembered how proud I was of those images all those years ago (OK, so 5 years is not exactly a lifetime, I know). When my eyes connected with the photos, I felt something akin to a hard slap in the face!

Guitar 4

Were these really the photos that I had been so pleased with?

How could it be?!!

Looking at the photos, I felt a sense of disappointment. The composition was OK, but OK is far from excellent. There was little creativity or sense of dynamic motion in the shots. On top of that, they weren’t particularly sharp. They weren’t rubbish, but they certainly weren’t anything I would be proud of now.

David Tao Live 2007 Guitar 1

That’s when the realisation came.

I had grown.

I was proud at the time I first shot the photos because they were better than previous images I had created, and I was looking at them with eyes that were less sensitive to flaws and that had not imagined how much better the shots could be.

My technique had improved. My eye had become more refined. My standards had risen.

Final 3

Finally I could see the progress I’ve made in my craft over the last few years, and this revelation made me excited to see just how much further I will go. The day I stop improving will be the day I no longer walk this earth, and I am full of anticipation of the day I look back at the photos I take today with that same feeling. I am pleased with some of the work I create now (never fully satisfied, but sometimes pleased), but I’m sure it pales in comparison to what I will produce in the future.

David Tao Live 2007 Silhouette 1

I honestly can’t wait until the day I next attend a concert and can put my more finely tuned skills and technique, my enhanced vision and 5 more years of experience to work in creating some truly satisfying photographs.

David Tao Live 2007 Final 1

To see some concert photography that has inspired me, check out my nomadic friend Charlene Winfred and her fellow sojourner Flemming Bo Jensen‘s work here. I especially love the blue one about halfway down the page, but there’s quite a few amazing images in the photoessay.