Editor's Pick

A Photographer's Take On South By Southwest

I was so excited to be asked to shoot SXSW with NPR Music this year. I have been photographing shows with Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton of All Songs Considered for about a year now and always have so much fun. When talk of SXSW came up, I made it clear that I could clear my schedule for the trip.

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Knowing how much is involved in covering just one live show from Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club, I knew it was going to be a lot of work, so I planned accordingly. With two cameras, a laptop, spare batteries, and cords all packed nicely in my camera bag, I set out on a four-day shooting adventure.

Both of NPR Music's showcases were fantastic. On Wednesday, the opening night of the music festival, they put on a show at Stubb's BBQ. Stubb's is a large outdoor venue and it was completely packed, so making it back to the sound booth to do my quick editing and uploading between sets was nearly impossible — and there were five sets. After The Walkmen, who played second, I realized there was no way to take the pictures, get to the back where my laptop was, upload, do a quick edit, and return to the photo pit for the next artist in time. So I decided just to haul everything up there to the front and file from the front of the stage. Fortunately, there was a nice spot to the right of the speakers where I could sit and work. All went well, and that made for a successful evening!

The show at The Parish the next day was more my style: lesser-known bands in a small club. I reused my plan of attack from the night before and decided to edit from the front — except there's no photo pit at The Parish. After shooting a few songs, I would kneel down on the floor, upload, edit and post with plenty of time to enjoy the remaining set before having to shoot the next artist. Aside from a small Internet connection problem, things went great and the people around me were so friendly and courteous of my space!

After shooting the two showcases, I was exhausted, as were all the NPR Music staffers. It was like shooting a regular show in D.C. for All Songs Considered, times 10! But everyone worked together and things just went great! After the Thursday showcase, I rested, then went out to catch some bands that I enjoy, including an awesome set by Wye Oak, Lou Barlow, and Seabear. I also shot photos to illustrate Sam Sanders' piece on Morning Edition about the underground economy that has grown up around the festival.

I've spent Friday photographing bands who were shooting video sessions at the Driskill Hotel and portraits of the artists Sam is interviewing for a piece on female musicians. I completely enjoyed photographing the sights of 6th Street and all of the beautiful buildings and scenery in this city!

View all of NPR's South By Southwest coverage from Austin.

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