A recent trip to Atlanta, on Virgin Atlantic‘s new 787, turned out to be more than just a flight on a new aircraft.
Along with this unique ‘gig over the Atlantic‘ flight it was a chance to see the city that Delta calls home and meet some very interesting people. One such person was a fella who seemed to have a camera continually strapped to his hand – portrait photographer Tom Oldham.
Now Tom was there to work and work he did throughout the three days and two nights we spent celebrating the new Virgin Atlantic route and 787. On the Friday night, I managed to grab a few minutes to chat with him as we were driven to the launch party. Once there though he was back shooting the bands and guests.
On the flight home I managed to grab Tom’s contact details and his Twitter account. It was on Twitter, a few days later, that I saw his ON OFF Photo Book project .
What’s it all about?
It’s an unseen insight into live music to raise money for War Child. Having shoot loads of music portraits for various magazines Tom wanted to capture a live music project that tied in portraiture, to really show the energy exchange that occurs around a performance. To combine these dynamic elements in a really consistent way so music fans could see in the simplest form what a band really looks like before and after a show.
“The style and tone is deliberately stripped back, removing location, colour and any distraction from the honesty of the two shots. It’s also a nod to Annie Leibovitz’s early days Rolling Stone work, which I admire.”
What do these photos tell us about live music?
These shots are a true insight into live music – Tom never shouted any direction, the artists would just return to the spot in front of his light where they had stood prior to walking on stage, and act how they felt.
“It’s supposed to be loose and free and straight and therefore an honest reflection of the show, their performance and the vibe between the band.”
“Shooting the gig itself is commonly a rehearsed performance and I wanted a more genuine record of the tension and release in the incredibly private seconds before and after a show. Hopefully you agree this was achieved.”
Tom (weirdly) found the final shoot for the project, featuring Rudimental at the Roundhouse, one of the most pleasing shots – it felt like a real moment.
“They’re wonderful fellas and were really happy to be photographed for War Child – they have nothing to hide and only love to give. They look brilliant and are really living inside the moment, this is their time. It’s all in the shots.”
Having met the guys on the Atlanta trip they really are a great bunch, grounded, dare I say normal and most definitely talented!
What’s the best story or anecdote you earned from the nights of hard work?
There are so many stories that Tom has whilst doing this project.
“Liam Gallagher managed three frames before saying ‘FOOK THIS’ and walking off, that’s him leaving frame you can see.”
Beady Eye – ON/OFF Photo Book
“The mighty Prodigy were amazing – it was quite terrifying waiting backstage awaiting the after shot, listening to their booming set. I had 17 seconds before they were ushered off site.”
The Prodigy – ON/OFF Photo Book
“Tom the singer from Pulled Apart By Horses puked, then walked into our after shot. I could tell you something about every one of these, they’re all really special to me.”
ON/OFF Photo Book
For Tom the most surprising act was Janelle Monae.
“She was astonishing, I still think she is the most wonderful live artist and it was a delight to shoot her for the project. Janelle really understands what’s required photographically and it shows.”
And the loveliest?
“Rudimental hugged me afterwards. MIA was really warm and kind. Janelle Monae and Grimes were super friendly and grateful for their involvement too. Anyone who is nice in that moment and can focus on other people is very generous I think.”
If you talk to Tom you’ll find out how the artists he photographed really felt about the project and how some went above and beyond to make it work.
Muse stood in the mud in the freezing cold backstage gazebo to do this for us. Their management were annoyed but the band didn’t care, despite it ruining Matt’s new sparkly pumps. That’s love. They’d just done a two hour, headline set at Leeds Festival and hardly had a hair out of place afterwards. Only the towel suggests it’s even an after shot. Like – what would make them actually sweat?
But why has Tom decided to do this for War Child?
Who else? War Child is the most respected charity working with the music industry and it was completely logical to try to support their work with this kind of project. Especially now – I can’t remember a more chaotic and destructive time in recent world history than 2014 so to have the opportunity to contribute in this way means a great deal to me and everyone who buys the book, I’m sure.
Don’t be shy, help Tom raise some money for a decent cause. You can give just £5 and there are prints and book options too. Just visit here