The age old story for aspiring young photographers: finding an old point and shoot camera in your basement and letting the passion blossom into something from there. The story is no different for North Carolina based photographer, Bridgette Aikens. Although what she does with her camera make her stand out from the crowd. Reluctant to put a definition on the genres she shoots, Bridgette has traversed the country photographing festival after festival capturing the essence of live music on both film and digital. Which does she prefer? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out!
When did you start to show an interest in photography? What was it about photography that drew you in?
I began shooting when I was about 13. I would photograph my friends at their local “Battle of the Bands” shows with the most basic point and shoot I owned and it grew from there. I was able to get a photography class put into our high school curriculum and then eventually I continued onto college and received a degree with a focus in photography. What drew me in was the way it made me feel connected to just about anything, especially people. I learn something new every day and it challenges me regularly. It had always been a consistency in my life. I’m thankful for the strong bond I have with it.
When, where and what was the first show that you photographed and what was that like? Looking back, what advice would you give to your young concert photographer self?
I photographed a lot of smaller pub shows, but my first show in an established venue was Vacationer at the Visulite Theatre in Charlotte, NC for the music blog Speakers In Code. I was pretty excited considering it was the biggest show I photographed at that point. I remember how casual it was and it was very refreshing. The advice I’d give myself is to remain patient and continue to show yourself in your work. It speaks volumes.
To get into gear a little bit, what is your typical shooting setup? What camera, lens, etc?
Current set up is my Canon 5D Mark iii and either my 24-70mm or 70-200mm. As for film — I have rotated between my Canon AE-1, my Canon 1N, and occasionally my Graflex. A camera I’ve had my eye on is the Mamiya 7.
Out of all of the photos in your portfolio, which photo are you most proud of and why? What is the story behind it?
This is a tough question to answer. I think as my work continues the list of favorite photos continues. If I had to pick I would say a photo of Matt Shultz from Cage the Elephant I shot at ACL last fall. Their stage presence is what most photographers dream about and I was eager to have the opportunity to finally photograph them. The energy is visible and radiates off of this image – it justifies the feeling of their set.
Cage The Elephant
You’re based in North Carolina. Can you tell me a little bit about what the music scene is like there both in terms of local bands and other music photographers? Do you feel like there’s more or less competition than other places or do you feel like it’s a healthy amount?
The music scene is fairly large here considering the amount of local bands. There are handfuls of different genres that keep each night catered to finding new music. Music photographers – I would say there is a healthy amount. Competition isn’t likely to be so competitive. A lot of us shoot together regularly so it’s enjoyably to see familiar faces each time entering the photo pit or venue.
You’re currently shooting Lollapalooza in Chicago, but you’ve also shot Shaky Knees Festival and ACL Festival. What is shooting festivals like for you? What draws you to them? And what is your dream festival to shoot?
I love shooting them! I’m drawn the opportunity to see & photograph so many amazing artists in a short amount of time in a new or familiar city. Setting up portraits to connect and work one on one is a wonderful bonus. As for my dream festival — this is a tough one because the list could go on forever and continue to grow as festival’s continue to grow, but perhaps one of the Lollapalooza’s in Brazil or Paris.
You’ve shot live music in both digital and film formats, which do you prefer or are they just different? Why do you choose to photograph in both and do you think you will ever switch to shooting film full time?
Truthfully, I enjoy both. However, there is certainly a love affair I have with film. Essentially, I feel a deeper connection with it. I’ve found it helping me grow as a photographer. I’m constantly learning something new, whether it’s simply new techniques, film brands, or camera I have yet to use. It gives me an opportunity to get to my subject, make what is in front of me comfortable and really focus on the moment being captured. Also, there is no other greater feeling than getting my work back from a roll I just snapped and seeing what I’ve created. It’s like Christmas morning (haha).
Lastly, what is the best advice you could give to any aspiring music photographers out there that are reading this article?
If you love what you do, the opportunities will come. It shines through your work and draws people to it. Keep shooting, don’t be jaded and certainly do not compare yourself to others. Your artwork is a part of you and that should never be compared.
The Flaming Lips
Photo of Bridgette by: Katya Harris
Interview by: Jess Williams