15 May 2022

Music through a lens

From Standing Room Only, 12:15 pm on 15 May 2022

For more than 20 years, Dave Simpson has been competing with other photographers to capture those split-second, unique images of music legends performing on stage.

Flying Nun 40th Anniversary Party - 24 July 2021 - Auckland Town Hall

Flying Nun 40th Anniversary Party - 24 July 2021 - Auckland Town Hall Photo: 2021 Dave Simpson Photography Ltd

Elton John, Alice Cooper and Robbie Williams are included in his extensive portfolio along with local talent including Benee, Six60 and Reb Fountain. 

RollingStone, Vanity Fair, Billboard, Getty Images, and several American and British newspapers are just some of the organisations who buy his photos.

Dave has also just judged this year's Music Photography Awards, part of the Auckland Festival of Photography 

The winner was a shot of Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl.

“It's a picture of Dave Grohl standing in the middle of the crowd. You can see the crowd in the background. He's looks confident, he's relaxed.

“It's raining, you can see the rain on his face. And it's just a beautiful image.

An image of Julia Dean snared second prize, he says

B&W Image of Dave Simpson photographer.

Photo: dave simpson photography

“She was playing just in a little domestic garden. There's a little series of shows just after we came out of the last lockdown of female artists.

“And this was taken by Shelley Te Haara at one of those shows back in April. So pretty recent.”

Dean is also performing in the rain, he says.

“The Dave Grohl image of rain felt like, you know, sort of celebrating and pouring love on the artist.

“Dean's picture, it felt to me almost like it was a sort of battling against the elements and Covid. I mean, obviously, this is me reading my own story kind of into someone else's image. But it really felt like that sort of performing against adversity.”

Music photography presents a number of challenges, he says.

"You've got unpredictable subjects, your musician may be jumping all over the place, you've got lights, which are varying quality, sometimes they're amazing, sometimes less so, they're always changing, flashing around, you've got crowds behind you screaming, you've got the noise of the band. And then if you throw in outdoor shows and rain as well, it does get actually quite a challenge.”

He got into photography as a music obsessed teenager, he says.

“I've always been a music fan and as I was growing up as a teenager, I used to get the fortnightly NME and Melody Maker and Sounds and I'd read them cover to cover and cut out the pictures and stick them on my wall.”

He encourages any aspiring photographer to start small and build a portfolio.

“If you love music, you love photography, bring the two together and your brain will explode with greatness.”