Alison Lea on the 3 song rule

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With a 30 year career in Rock N Roll photography under her belt, Alison Lea is well versed when it comes to photographing bands and dealing with photo policies.

Currently in town promoting her exhibition “A View From The Pit 1978-2010” taking place at The Deli (54a George Street, Thebarton) Alison was happy enough to sit down and share her thoughts and experiences with me during opening night.

Alison Lea - Rock Photographer
Alison Lea - Rock Photographer

What are your thoughts on the 3 song, no flash rule?

It really annoys me. I think bands are still trying to get control back. They don’t have control in lots of other ways and it’s just grabbing control back. I understand that flash is really annoying. But I don’t use flash, you don’t need to use flash, so I don’t see what the problem is with that part. I loathe flash.

Why do you think a band would NOT want a long shot from outside the pit area after the third song?

I really don’t know. It’s absolute control. What really annoys me is quite a lot of bands, Nick Cave especially, will have really low lighting in the first couple of songs and he’s doing it deliberately. I know him quite well and it is a deliberate move because the lights come up after the third song. I had this conversation about it with Mick Harvey (of the Bad Seeds) and he said I’ve got no idea what he’s playing at. So a lot of games are being played. I don’t understand why, because people love looking at the resulting work and you’re only promoting the band. If someone doesn’t know a certain band, they might listen to them after seeing a great photo of them live!

Why do you think some bands WOULD allow shooting after the third song from outside the pit?

That’s unusual. Most bands wouldn’t allow that. At Brixton Academy in London I’ve had to put my camera backstage to go and watch the rest of the show, there are lots of rules like that.

What about photo releases? How many have you not signed? How many have you altered before signing?

I just ignore them, or I’ll sign a false name. No one checks them at the door.

Iggy Pop - Alison Lea Photography

Why do you think some record labels/bands assume all photos taken by a freelance photographer instantly belong to the label/band after the show?

Again, it’s the control thing. When I shoot a band and my pass has come from the record company or the band directly, I offer them a set of prints from what I shoot and that’s usually all they want.

I always try and give back. That’s one of the issues with a lot of photographers at the moment, bands do feel that they just take, take, take – there’s no communication between the two, the band never sees the photos and they never see the photographer again. If you can build up a good rapor between yourself and the band, that’s really important. The Birthday Party have my photos on their website, Mick Harvey asked me beforehand. It’s a two way thing. It’s about being nice to people.

In London at The Brixton Academy, I’d always go and shoot the support acts and during that time I got to know security. That is invaluable. Get on securities good side. Don’t be arrogant about it. Be nice, courteous. A lot of photographers aren’t personable.

What’s your favourite photo in the exhibition?

Mark Lanegan with the bead of sweat on his chin (below). He was really funny to photograph because he’s really boring because he doesn’t move. I had quite a low-cut top on and I caught him looking down at my tits! It was one of those moments!

A View From The Pit is on display until 26th September 2010 at
The Deli
54a George St
Thebarton SA
8354 4878

A View From The Pit