10 years Wannabes
Concert photography recalls too often the plain image of a singer behind his microphone, caught in dramatic lighting. For over ten years now music photographers collective Wannabes attempts to bring something far more original. You won’t find an intimate look behind the scenes or intriguing portraits of musicians. However, you will discover pictures taken in the heat of the moment, full of energy and passion. The only thing you have to do, is imagine the music. Ten years already the Wannabes lie in wait for that one perfect moment that captures the atmosphere of the evening: time for an overview exhibition!
We had a chat with Tim Broddin, one of Wannabes' founding fathers, and Thomas Geuens, another member of the collective since 2011. Both straight outta Antwerp.
Tim Broddin: “Today the close relationship between photography and music is a self-evidence. Ten years ago however press texts ands music blogs came at the utmost with a small picture. As a reaction, co-founder Anton Coene and myself decided to set up a site in which we could gather all our concert pictures in big format. That’s how our collective Wannabes was launched, which counts now around fifteen active members.”
This Is Antwerp: How have you seen the Belgian music photography scène developing in this relative short length of time?
Thomas Geuens: “In technical terms a lot has changed off course. A music photographer always has to work with the setting of the moment. Because of the sensitivity of the sensor of older cameras, grain in the picture was guaranteed. Nowadays cameras are much more developed: even in bad circumstances you can still obtain a clean image.”
Tim: “As a fresh breeze, in the early days we were still considered charming. Rarely our requests for photographing a concert were rejected. Today this is totally different. With numerous concert photographers and music forums on which one can freely post their pictures the competition is huge. And if you get permission, you can only photograph the first three songs before you have to move over for the security. Although lately we also see the opposite movement: because off the budgets getting smaller music articles without pictures are not an exception anymore.”
TIA: How do you manage to distinguish yourself from the many photographers in the front stage?
Tim: “Above all because of our independence. We have no one to account. Which allows us to post pics online that differ in style. Without creating a uniformity like you often see in papers. Every Wannabe has his own style, from black-white to color and from high to low saturation. I think I can easily tell who’s the photographer of every picture in our archive, just by looking at them. And this freedom also applies to the subjects: I guess you won’t find a picture of the naked front man of Kapitan Korsakov anywhere else soon.”
“That’s how we obtained some reputation in the circuit, nevertheless the many rivals in the field. Nowadays we’re the house photographers of the Pukkelpop festival. Each year we run a marathon there to capture all bands, from the headliner on the main stage until the singer-songwriter on the camping site. Exhausting, but a great experience. In addition, we always edit our pictures and put them online on the spot. I think we can safely say we were the first in Belgium to do this.”
Thomas: “Of course we can maintain our independence because we all do this on a voluntary basis. Occasionally our pictures are bought by websites, but it’s mainly a hobby. Some of our members are nonetheless professional photographers.”
Tim: “Making an income out of rock photography alone is near to impossible. Anton Coene, co-founder but now Wannabe on rest, is one of the few who could manage this. By travelling with Belgian bands as Trixie Withley, Black Box Revelation en Balthazar, he gets the opportunity to take intense pictures that give a beautiful impression of the life on the road. Magnificent work, but in return he had to give up a large part of his (financial) luxury.”
TIA: On voluntary basis or not: in the ten years that you exist, the Wannabes clicked together an impressive archive. The Belgian music scene is a small world and the possibilities of concert photography appear to be limited. On the one hand it is a spontaneous métier, on the other hand the subject that you work with is relatively constant. How do you keep things interesting for yourself?
Tim: “It’s true that you bump into the same artists a lot, although I can say we had a variety of bands in front of our lenses. We can surely appreciate a photo series of K3 from time to time and we photographed with great pleasure the artists who performed at Rimpelrock, but we will not explicitly seek for it.”
Thomas: “Although the band you photograph can be the same at times, the setting is also important. Mainly on festivals the lighting, the stage, etc. can differ, which certainly forms a challenge.”
“And of course acts like Triggerfinger or the Jeugd van Tegenwoordig are a pleasure to work with, because of their on stage energy. There’s a reason why they keep re-appearing on line ups: they know how to work a crowd. Capturing a classic singer-songwriter is a bit more difficult. There’s always the risk of going home with a set of not so different pictures. And that’s probably why festival organizers program them at the beginning of the day, when the crowd is still laid back.”
TIA: And that’s when it’s an advantage that photography is a thankful medium to create a certain mood, one that isn’t always corresponding with reality...
Thomas: “Exactly. Sometimes you arrive home after a day of festival with a bunch of pictures that breath fun and happiness, while in reality there was little to experience. Still as a photographer you always try to pass a positive image. It’s never our intention to portrait an act in a negative way. Which off course doesn’t mean that we never take pictures of an artist that makes a strange face.”
TIA: The last decade Wannabes took a massive amount of that kind of pictures. On your website you estimate your vigor on 1720 photographed artists and 29147 photos. How difficult was it to make a selection for the expo?
Thomas: “The organization was certainly not a walk in the park. It took a while before everybody, also the older generation, had sent us their pictures. Concerning the selection we haven’t been too critical. We mainly just eliminated the doubles. After all, nobody is waiting on fifteen photographs of Stijn Meuris.”
You’ll have to imagine the rock and roll backstage stories by yourself. The exposition is all about the pictures. Thomas and Tim wouldn’t tell more than the usual stories like a cleared out press area before a Lauren Hill concert – at which Lauren arrived two hours late. Maybe you’ll have better luck, this Friday, after the Wannabes emptied a couple of beers at the kick off party.
You can visit the expo ’10 jaar rockfotografie’ from 20 until 22 May in JH Kavka, Antwerp. Entry is free.
The starting shot is given 20 May from 20PM with a show by Humo’s Rock Rally finalist High Hi. Afterwards there are DJ’s. Important detail: this evening you can buy for the cheap price of just 5 euros a set of 10 memorable concert photos. One lucky bastard will find in his or her set a VIP ticket for Pukkelpop!
Plans already? Make sure then to visit the exquisite site wannabes.be. Chances are high that you will find here a picture of your favorite artist in action!
Text by Saar De Permentier
Pics by Wannabes