Promotional and live photos have always been important in the music industry. Whether it be for record covers, magazine articles, or anything else you can think of, photos have always connected the artists with the people who listen to them. They put faces to the music you love. With all of the attention that bands get on different social media platforms now, music photography is more important than ever. Today’s fans are always looking for new material when it comes to their favorite bands and artists.
Danny Barrett is a university student from Liverpool, England, studying photography, but he already has a pretty solid start in the music photography world and he hasn’t even graduated yet. Danny is the music photographer for rising UK pop punk band WSTR. With a focus on behind the scenes images and capturing the moment, he has a unique style that really gives you a feel for who the band is offstage. He was gracious enough to do an interview for us, and you can read what he had to say about his experiences so far, as well as check out a few of his images, below.
How did you first become interested in photography?
I studied art for most of my life so I had always had an interest in artistic subjects. When I was on my first college course I studied general art and design, which had a couple of photography modules, which were to create work in the style of another photographer. I did some studio portraits in the style of David Bailey and after doing some very extensive research on him I just fell in love with the idea of creating amazing images – I’m not quite there yet.
What made you decide to pursue a degree in photography, and would you recommend it to other people who are interested in photography as a career?
After that photography module on my first course I just wanted to focus on getting as good as I could at taking pictures so I just thought I’d study it in depth and go for it.
It can be a bit hit and miss with studying photography. For me personally I may not have been doing what I’m doing without the guidance from my tutors and what they taught me, but some people are different; some of the greatest photographers ever lived dropped out of their degree because they didn’t like it, so its hard for me to recommend studying because it depends on the individual.
How did you get connected with WSTR? Were you already involved in music photography before you got started with them?
It’s a funny, but long story so I’ll try and keep it as brief as I can. I became friends with the guitarist in WSTR – Danny Swift (Swifty) – when we were in year 9 I think and we used to just play football in the street etc. but near the end of secondary school we kind of separated and didn’t talk for a while. Fast forward a few years to my photography degree, I wanted to do my end of year project on a group of people. I was interested in documentary photography and wanted to create work similar to Bruce Davidson’s, but I was struggling to find a group of interesting people – not necessarily a band – willing to have me follow them around for 4-6 months. I then out of the blue met Swifty on the bus one day and had a quick catch up and he told me he was in a band but they had no singer and I said I was looking to do a photography project so we sorted out the details and he said “come down to our practice room, man”. So I did. I shot them for a while solely in that practice room, all this behind the scenes work, but at this time they still had no singer so they weren’t playing shows or had any lyrics to any songs and eventually split up. I then moved to London to try and make some kind of career for myself in photography and after around 6 months Swifty called me and was saying they’re starting up a new band with a new bassist and a new singer and they had some exciting stuff happening and wanted me to be their photographer. I was obviously unaware just how well this would go but I was willing to give it a shot and I wasn’t fully enjoying London anyway so I moved back home and began shooting WSTR. So I suppose that was the first time I was properly involved in music photography. The first gig I ever shot was WSTR’s first ever gig in Manchester at Pinky Swear fest.
Do you plan on making music photography your career, or are you planning to go into something different?
Yeah, all my attention and energy goes into music photography, but at heart I am a documentary photographer. I’m lucky that I can still document with bands and get the thrill of live shows, but there’s nothing saying I wont move on to different things in the future, I take it one day at a time.
What type of camera do you use?
I shoot with a Nikon D7100. Not my ideal camera but it does the job for now.
What are your favorite lenses to shoot with?
At the minute I only shoot with one lens. A Tokina 12-24mm f/4. I’m not a fan of fisheye lenses but I love something a bit wide because it gives you the width you need in small venues to get a decent amount of your surroundings in the shot and also when your documenting it’s better to get close to your subject, its more personal so with something that wide it forces you to get right in to the action.
Besides your camera and lenses, what other gear is essential to you?
My flash and its TTL cable. I’ve become a huge fan of flash photography lately as you’ll see if you look at my most recent images and having it separate from my camera body is essential for me to have full control over what I am lighting within the shot.
In your opinion, what is the most challenging thing about music photography?
Probably separating yourself from the many other music photographers there are. There’s a lot of competition in the photographer’s pit at a gig.
What’s the thing you’re most proud of so far?
Just in general what I’ve been able to achieve in the short time that I’ve been shooting music. I’ve had some very cool experiences and some quite big opportunities that a lot of people who have been shooting a lot longer than me haven’t had. I’ve had images used in Rocksound and Alt Press, which is kinda surreal.
What’re some of your best memories with WSTR?
The whole ‘Hi There’ tour with Best Years was amazing, it would be hard to select individual moments from that tour we had a blast.
We had a night out in Birmingham on a tour with Speak Low If You Speak Love, which is Ryan from State Champs’ solo project and It was Ryan’s birthday so we went to the club night afterwards. It’s kind of a blur but it was a really good night. I shot a lot of it for the tour diary on WSTR’s YouTube channel.
What would you say is special or unique about your photos and your style?
I’m not so sure about special, but I try to keep my work as different from others as I can and that’s why I’ve recently started shooting with an off-camera flash. It’s brought a whole new life to my images and made them a lot more dramatic. I’m still practicing thought and I forever will be.
Do you plan to tour with WSTR in the future?
I plan on working with WSTR for as long as they want me. They’re some of my best mates so it’s a massive pleasure being able to tour and pursue our careers together.
What are you most excited about project wise that you have coming up?
I am working on my final degree show at the minute based on the behind the scenes aspect of WSTR and it has the potential to be shown in the Open Eye gallery in Liverpool, which would be quite cool, so I’m looking forward to see how that works out.
I can’t wait to shoot the UK dates of this current tour they’re on with Neck Deep because they’re all big venues up to 1,700 cap. And also Slam Dunk! That will be amazing.
What advice would you give to other music photographers, especially those who are just starting out?
Erm… the only thing I could really suggest is to shoot every day. As much as you physically can. If you want to make this a career don’t hesitate to put all your time and money into it. That’s what I did and its what I’m still doing. I’m constantly broke but it’s all been worth it so far.
What are your biggest dreams for the future when it comes to your photography?
My goals are to be in the same position as – to drop a few names – Elliot Ingham, Adam Elmakais and Ashley Osborn. At the moment they’re my favourite photographers / videographers in the industry, their work is amazing and I’d kill to be able to just constantly tour the world and do what I love without having to worry about a job in retail to support myself. If I can land work with a load of other bands, magazines, labels I’d be made up, but I think I still have a long way to go.
To check out more of Danny’s images or get in touch with him about photography projects, add or follow him on: