Melody J. Myers
MAKING NOISE 012: London-based photographer Holly Whitaker
Hi Holly! Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer my questions, how are you?
No problem! Lockdown is very much starting to grate, but I’m learning German and picking up trumpet again, which is helping a lot.
How did you get into photography?
Honestly, I was originally pursuing acting, and was doing okay at it, but started finding it very daunting and intense, so ultimately I found it far less anxiety-inducing being behind a camera, one of which was handed down to me by my mum, and it went from there.
How did you know you wanted to work in music? How did you start?
Around 2014, some friends and my boyfriend at the time were starting bands and playing venues, which we’d never been to before (really), being *just* underage, I thought they were so cool. I’d had a few experiences of it before as my sister had been in a band for quite some time by then, but I hadn’t experienced it for myself. There was something really exhilarating about being by the front of a stage and watching the people you care about performing something that they’re proud of, to a crowd of whatever size, so I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.
What is your current go to camera equipment?
I don’t actually have one at the moment as I’m keen on trying out different ways to shoot and what to shoot on, it varies!
Who was one of the first bands you ever photographed?
Earliest band would be my sister’s, Evans the Death, who were so captivating as a live act, but they broke up in 2017 and I was very young when I took the photos, so I didn’t really know how to use the camera to my advantage. I think the first band I properly photographed was Shame in 2014 and I did their first press shots in the kitchen and practise room above the Queen’s Head in Stockwell, we were all still babies then too, though.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos in a live environment?
That grown men will elbow you in the face to get the shot!!!
What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a music photographer?
It’s a very crowded field! So it can be tough when it feels like competition, but it’s so much nicer when you support each other and understand everyone’s different styles and processes.
You’ve previously toured with Squid, how did that come into fruition? What was that like?
I’d worked with them for a year or so by then doing live photos and we worked pretty well together so they asked me to come with, which was lovely. They are so much fun and have the most fantastic music taste, and we’d often make playlists together for the journeys to different cities. The day off at the Peak District was an absolute highlight.
Do you prefer to go on tour or get booked for shoots with bands?
I have a lot of fun doing both, but touring holds a very special place in my heart really. I enjoy that you get basically a day in each city, you see the highlights and meet amazing people. I enjoy that it can be fast-paced, but also with a lot of downtime. Moreso for photographers than the band really because I don’t have to soundcheck hehe, but I find the freedom and getting to know a band and tour crew very enjoyable, it makes for lovely photos.
What shoot are you most proud of?
Recently, I shot my friend Aramidé’s new clothing collection that she hand-makes, (https://arammide.co.uk/) and it’s absolutely beautiful. I also got to photograph my very good friends wearing it, so the whole experience was very exciting, and I can’t wait to see the future of her work.
You got to shoot the cover for Shame’s album, what was that like?
I had documented the startings of the band in the Queens, at the Windmill, Dropout Studios, so it seemed like a nice natural progression to do some work for the album. I ended up shooting the cover at the micro pig farm and the press photos around London, it was 3 days worth of work, but was very worth it. I ended up on the album too, if you listen closely on ‘Angie’.
How did you go about finding your style?
Really it was through looking through photos of my parents that my mum took when they individually moved to London sparked an interest in a certain way of photographing. She would take photos of her friends and the parties they had, they were so warm and natural and it influenced me very much. I also like to adapt to who I’m working with, so it was through practise and experience with lots of different people that changed the way I shoot for the better.
What was one of your all time favorite moments while on tour with a band?
Days off are a huge highlight! Peak District with Squid in a big hostel while Louis and Anton fixed their guitars in the sun outside and Laurie played big chess and playing with chickens at the pub is a very fond memory, and when I was with Goat Girl on tour in the US, we got a day off in Indiana at an Airbnb by a lake, they all went swimming and Rosy and I made a BBQ, it was lovely. Also going to Mutter Bar in Hamburg with Pixx, we met the best people there.
You’ve been able to work with some super cool bands, who would you love to photograph next?
Lil Nas X
During our current situation, what’s one thing you miss about tour/music photography?
I miss being outside (!!!!!!!) I’m really missing live music so much, venues, and exploring, and tiny parties, meeting new people in different cities and getting to know a band well.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start music photography?
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and take a camera everywhere just in case. Be nice to people, no elbowing!!!
If you could recommend me someone to interview next for “Making Noise,” who would it be?
Ina Tatarko! Master band manager and genius.
Thank you to Holly for being a part of Making Noise! She can be found on Instagram @hollyemmw. Keep an eye on her socials for any projects she might have coming up - especially if the UK is lifting lockdown in time for summer!