After his great uncle left him with a heap of analog photography supplies, Brighton, UK based photographer, Joshua Halling fell in love with the art. He got his start by shooting film photography at a local show at his University, where he took an interest in light and shadow. Joshua has spent the last five years indulged in the music scene, documenting life on the road for bands like Neck Deep, Architects, You Me At Six, The Kooks, and many more.
When did you start to show an interest in photography? What was it about photography that drew you in?
It was kind of out of the blue and unexpected really. I’ve always had an interest for it, though. Growing up I was given an Olympus digital flip camera which had a 4MP sensor (mainly because I wanted to take sick MySpace selfies) but ended up shooting quite a few shows from the sweaty front row (mostly blurry, of course) and really trying to take advantage of that 11x digital zoom haha. Anyway, many years passed on and lots of friends were discovering the beauty of 35mm photography. Being in bands, myself, and then studying Audio & Music production at university, I was always inevitably surrounded by photographers and creative people. During my final year at University, my great Uncle passed away – leaving me a bunch of old analogue photography gear. I got so heavily wrapped up in wanting to figure out how to use it all through trial and error (many many awful rolls of first 35mm film attempts) and online research, that I ended up completely blanking my University degree, because I just wanted to take photos of friends, friends in bands, so I’ve only really got into photography when I turned 20 years old which is pretty late. Before I knew it I was packed into a van with 6 sweaty dudes, and 5 years later it’s been my full time job ever since.
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 think the first show I properly photographed was at my University. The bands I shot, Morain and Harbour were really great. I shot both on 35mm and digital, and the 35mm shots actually impressed me and made me fall in love with playing with shadows and lights at live shows. I showed Morain the photos a few days afterwards and it was from there that I formed a friendship with them and went onto working more together with them – opening many doors for me very quickly.
As for advice for myself, I honestly wouldn’t change how I came about where I am now. For others, I would say to not to be afraid to jump straight in with a new passion. It’s easy to think your work is rubbish from the get go, but as long as you see progression and you are stoked with a few of your own results, that’s all that matters. Communicating and networking at an early stage is also key; just talk to bands after shows, be a regular face for your local shows, and before you know it you’ll be on a tour in no time.
Out of all of the photos in your portfolio, which photo are you most proud of and why? What is the story behind it?
Tough one, really! I mean, I’ve got a handful of photos I’ve taken over the years and think, “damn, yeah that’s pretty sick,” but I still don’t have a shot where it’s my favourite or I’m super super proud of it. I always try to get smarter and weirder with my photos, especially shooting portraits. If I had to say a photo which captures a point in my ‘career’ that captures the chaos of the last few years, though, then it’s probably the one of Ben (Neck Deep) laying over the crowd barrier in Canada during a rainy Warped Tour show, with the crowd around him trying to get as close to that microphone as possible. It honestly looks like a pop punk version of The Walking Dead haha. A few music magazines used it as posters and a lot of fellow photographers praised me for the framing and the moment captured, so I guess that for now is a photo that means a lot to me!
To get into gear a little bit, what is your typical shooting setup? What camera, lens, etc?
I’ve gone through one too many Canon 6D’s. I love them, but I definitely put them through their paces… I’m also very bad at not trying new gear and just perfecting what I have. I had a Canon 550D for two years before the 6D and primarily just shot 35mm before that!
Currently though its: Canon 6D body, battery grip, Sigma 35mm 1.4, Canon 50mm 1.4.
This one is a couple of questions in one: You got to tour with Neck Deep for a bit, including Vans Warped Tour in 2015. What was that experience like for you? Would you say that Warped Tour is photographer friendly and what did a typical day on Warped Tour looked like for you? Would you do it again?
It was super great. I feel like that summer with Neck Deep, we really created some great content and were both on top of our games for consistent photos & video throughout! Those guys took me around the world and we all got to see and experience a lot of things people dream of doing. They’re one of the best live bands around at the moment to photograph. They make sure to put 110% into their performances and every crowd around the world, without fail, is ready to jump around! I love them both as friends and musicians.
Ben Barlow of Neck Deep
As for warped… Warped Tour is Warped Tour haha. You love it and sometimes you can hate it, but its a hub of 100’s of creative people together waking up each day in another city and becoming a family for the summer. It’s a very special festival, but at the same time can take its toll on you. At the end of the day it’s just car parks, tarmac, and distant football stadiums, so being able to mix up your work each day is the real test. It definitely helped form me into the photographer I am now and i’ve seen it create careers for others too. It’s also maybe the friendliest photographer community – everyone is up for helping the other succeed. I’ve broken and borrowed gear from several people, and I know many have done the same.
I’ve done it 2 times now, but would definitely consider doing it again down the line… Maybe next year haha. Although seeing all my pals who did it this year who literally JUST finished it, I don’t miss that completely out of gas feeling they’re all definitely feeling right now haha, well done for surviving dudes.
Coming from America and only ever photographing shows in a particular part of America, what is the music photography scene in England like and specifically where you’re based? What is competition like?
The UK is much much smaller then the U.S. (duh Josh), therefore we definitely have a smaller amount of photographers ‘competing’ so to say but I feel like the community I’ve been lucky enough to be apart of is super tight! We have a Facebook group set up for younger and more experienced ‘rock/pop/punk’ photographers to discuss anything and everything to do with photography and the positivity in that group is really really great to see! The rise and empowerment of female photographers also finally getting a chance on the ‘scene’ for touring ,and overall just killing the game, is amazing to see as well! I’m very much tired of seeing their work being brushed over far too quickly due to this reason… There’s so much hidden talent out there that deserve much more recognition than myself also. Same goes for the USA, younger photographers are really finding their feet fast and 80% of the community don’t see it as competition, and praise each other for creating what they want to create and that’s awesome. Massive shout outs to: Jenny McCord, Martyna Wisniewska, Elliott Ingham, Ashley Osborn, Jordan Curtis Hughes, Thomas Falcone, Mike Wilson, Jay Wennington, Kayla Surico, Matty Vogel, Doug Elliott, Ed Mason & many more who are out creating exactly what they want to create. Warm’s my heart when i’m half way around the world and still manage to bump into one of these lot and know that next time i’ll see them will probably be 1000 miles in another direction.
This one is also a couple of questions in one: As someone who has a pretty large following on social media, you have a lot of young photographers and fans that look up to you for general inspiration and photography inspiration. What does that title mean to you and how do you handle it? What role do you think social media has played in your career so far?
Haha this is a funny one, really. Social media, Instagram mainly, has created a platform for me to be able to put out photos with bands I work with and keep my name current to people around the world and future clients. For that, I couldn’t love it more. It’s helped me create this, at first little hobby, into a job and live out a dream. On the other hand, it’s quite toxic. I used to care so much about numbers and likes that it used to bum me out when a photo performed worse than the previous, and that people didn’t like my work as much? Like that’s crazy when you actually think about it! haha. Since I had some time out from social media last year and focused more on creating content for myself and not for my Instagram feed, i’ve enjoyed posting a lot more! It’s really easy to get wrapped up into that world, and I do feel lucky that I somehow have that crazy amount of followers. Because i’ve veered off from the whole Pop-Punk scene more recently, (75% of my followers followed me for Pop punk shenanigans and pizza) and now they’re mostly supplied portrait work, pop acts and my day to day life and now most of them don’t really pay much attention to my posts anymore hahaha. But thats fine! They followed me for a specific reason and if they’re not into what I’m documenting now that’s totally understandable but if they’ve stuck around because they still just enjoy viewing my photos as a photographer then that’s amazing and I appreciate it! It’s still crazy to turn up to a show, though, and for another photographer or a band’s fan to know who I am, that’s mad and something i’ll never be able to deem as normal.
You’ve made your own preset packs and sold them via social media. What was the process like for making the presets and what has the response been to the presets?
I did! It was kind of a social experiment in a way. I wanted to try and get other photographers to step out of their comfort zones. I’ve been there, when you feel like you’re going in circles and creating the same piece over and over and over again, so creating and experimenting out of my comfort zone really helped me break that barrier and onto a new path! In March 2016, (after 2 years of back to back touring and completely out of creativity) I tried making my lovely sharp digital photos look as much like Slide 35mm Cross Processed film as possible. I’d been sat on a tonne of presets that I had made for that experiment for a long while and had the idea to just see if other people wanted to try them out, and miraculously it went super well and it’s been very humbling to see people give them a go all around the world! However… a few people didn’t agree haha. A lot of people asked me, “aren’t you worried everyones photos are gonna be like yours?” Which, I completely understand, but I’m confident enough with my work that even if someone had the same preset as me, my photos would still stand out as, ‘my’ work because ‘I’ took it. These presets are just a base to help create inspiration. Whenever I release them, i’m already a few weeks/months ahead working on new tones and experimenting with something new for myself. I never try to settle, and keep striving to push my stuff as far as possible.
Lastly, what advice would you give to any up and coming photographers and/or fans of your work who are reading this article right now?
Stay true to what you want to create. It’s easy to see other photographers doing well and think, “why aren’t I achieving that?” If you stick to what you think looks amazing and you believe in your work, the rest will follow. Also to remember someone’s life on Instagram isn’t a real representation of their life behind a phone. On Instagram people’s lives are so easily viewed as perfect, but they still go through the same stresses as we all do with being creatives so don’t forget that. Touring the world was the most amazing thing to happen to me, but it also completely nearly diminished my mental health. I had to put down the camera, stop traveling non-stop, and enjoy life around me for a few months to realise that there is more to life than followers and likes. Keep creating what you want to create, be happy, and treat everyone the same who’s on this mad journey. If you’ve been following me from the start and still enjoy my work, than that means the world and thank you for sticking around!
You Me At Six
Interview by Jess Williams
Photo of Joshua by Baylee Sowter