Inside View - An Interview with DRW Images

I thought for this weeks inside view I'd switch to the other side of the camera and have a chat with a local photographer that I've admired since I started my own journey. DRW images, or Andy Watson to his friends, shoots both models and live music, managing to capture fantastic emotion and movement in his images. If you're a fan of music and haven't already come across his website you should certainly go and check it out soon!  

Hi Andy, I've been a fan of your work pretty much since I started, so how long have you been a photographer?

I have been shooting for about 7 years give or take a few months now, but when i first started out I was totally clueless, I have learnt so much over the last two years.

Which came first the model shoots or the music? Which do you prefer and why?

The music came first, when I first got my camera I used to go to watch my cousins band (The Siege), I took the camera to a few shows and did a few promo shots for them as well. Model shoots i have been doing for about three years now.

I love them both equally, with live music you never get the same thing twice, with model shoots you can do so many different styles it never gets boring.

How did you break into concert photography, I imagine its very competitive?

After shooting The Siege a few times, I contacted a local promoter asking if I could pop along to one of his shows and take photos, to my surprise he said yes! The first gig I shot was Exit Calm who later had one of the images off me to go on the sleeve of their first album.

After shooting a few gigs I emailed a few website/magazines asking if I could shoot for them. I had no luck from these so I started my own little review site and managed to get a few bigger gigs for that. One of the websites I had emailed (a few times) was Brumlive.com, but just when I was starting to give up on the idea of shooting for anyone else, I bumped into Brum Live founder Steve Gerrard (go check out his work he's amazing) at an Eskimo Joes gig at the Rainbow, I got chatting to him and asked him about shooting for them again. Steve said to drop him a message and let him know what gig would I be interested in shooting for them. After a few exchanges of email I ended up shooting Art Brut for them at the old Academy 3 (I also had to write a review of the show ( Steve said after that as a reviewer i make a great photographer ). Luckily my images must have been ok as I have ended up shooting for them on and off ever since, along with a few others like Gig Junkies, Brum Notes and for the last two years i have been shooting as in house photographer for the O2 Academy in Birmingham as well. 

Music Photography is hard quite hard to get passes for shows when you first start out but its also even harder to make any money from these days.

You've shoot some pretty big names, who's been your biggest and favourite so far?

Ermmm the biggest name would have to be Madonna for live photos and Tinie Tempah for a portrait shoot. I can't really pick one band or artist that's my favourite to shoot as each gig is so different. Normally the bigger artists like Madonna etc you have to shoot from the mixing desk so it can be pretty boring to take photos, the smaller shows are normally more fun. One of my favourite experiences has to be the time I've spent shooting My Ruin on their last three UK Tours. When I was younger I used to have posters of  Tairrie B the My Ruins singer on my wall (when she was with her previous bands Manhole/Tura Satana ), after an off the cuff Facebook message that I sent to Tairrie a few years back telling her i was a fan and would love to come a shoot one of her shows, I was gobsmacked when a few hours later I got a reply, not only inviting me to go shoot there show in Wolverhampton but asking if I wanted to take some portraits before the show. Of course I said yes, after the show myself and my friend Jodie got invited by Tairrie and her husband Mick Murphy to go to shoot them at Hammerfest in Wales a few days later. At the festival Jodie and I got to hang out with the band as well as shoot the show. Tarrie has gone from someone who used to be on my walls to someone I now call a Friend. Tairrie in the past has paved the way and inspired many other women to grab the mic and take centre stage. not only in Rock/Metal music, but also in Rap/Hip Hop as well (Tairrie used to be signed to  Ruthless Records under a new imprint called Comptown Records run by NWA's Eazy-E, this was Comptown Records only ever release. 

Any nightmare diva experiences?

With music shoots only one... with a singer called  Mr.Hudson, a friend and I were supposed to do a few shots of him before his gig at the Rainbow a few years ago, but as he said he was too hungry to have his photo taken. We even offered to take him for food but he refused.  On the upside. the tour manager got us a shoot with his support act that day, TinIe Tempah! Tiny was so welcoming and let us shoot him getting ready to go on stage and then another shoot after he came off stage. I'm not sure what Mr Hudson is up to these days, but Mr Tempah is selling lots of records! ( I'm not saying thats down to me by the way haha, but being nice to people is always a good thing )

What do you enjoy most about it all?

Everything , mainly how much I have changed as a person since picking up a camera, its given me a lot more confidence than I ever thought I would have

What is the worst thing?

Long hours editing sometimes.

I see your work in Elite magazine a lot, what's your involvement there?

I've shot for elite for about two year on and off now, I mainly just shoot, then send the editors images to see if he wants to use them, I have also recommended a few models to them as well. 

You work with great models, does your involvement with Elite mag help pull these names in?

I'm not sure to be honest, I've never had anyone say they only want to shoot because I shoot for Elite. It was nice when Natalie Philips who Elite was planning to do a feature on asked if I could do the shoot, and we ended up with the cover of that issue.

Do you have a muse? Who are your favourites?

Not really a muse, but i have a few models that I shoot regularly and I know that if i wanted to try something new out they would  be happy to model for me. As for favourites , most people that know me will know the two names I will always say first, Chloe Francis and Kristina Labahn , but there are a few others who i always have fun shooting,  Ali Amour, Colleen Deary and Salleh Sparrow. (You should interview Salleh shes a great model and photographer) - Already on it, watch this space!

Any bad experiences?

With models no, with me on shoots, yes haha. Falling off a bridge, dropping a flash into the sea, dropping a flash on a balcony, dropping a lens under the stage during a gig, twisting my ankle and damaging the ligaments in my foot walking down 3 steps on a shoot, cut my legs a few times at gigs, got kicked by the singer of a band in the chest  and  ... lost my socks after shooting in a river. (I put them in my shoes but my shoes stayed in the same place but my socks had gone, there was nobody else around apart from a herd of cows) 

How would you describe your style of photography in three words?

Rock, Fashion, Glam (I'm not sure if that covers it but I don't really think i have a set style?)

What are your favourite three images to date and why?

I couldn't pick just three, I like all the images I take but at the same time I'm never happy with them. I think the day you're happy with everything about the images you take is the day to stop, as your telling yourself you cant learn more and you always can. So can I say my fave images will be the next three I take and then the three after that?

Where would you like it to take you in the long run?

I would love to be in a position that i could shoot full time or have my own studio but I'm a long long way from that!

What would your dream shoot be (anything is possible)?

Music -  Promo shoot with Faith No More, wouldn't care what the location is.

Model -  Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Milley Cyrus and Kendal Jenner for a group shoot and solo shots. Maybe on a rooftop in New York.

Male Model - Johnny Depp or David Beckham in a studio shoot

I also have a bucket list of bands i would love to shoot live but to many mention!

Any tips for someone starting out in the music photography business?

Don't expect to make a living from it!

Where do you get your inspiration from for both genres?

For music photography its from the music, I try and capture images that match the music the band makes and for model shoots, I always try and capture a little bit of the models personality in the images, even when we have planned ideas in advance, there are  few photographers whose work i always try and check out on a regular basis,

Vitor Augusto

Mariana Lima

Magic Owen

Walnutwax ( Stuart Mitchell )

Mute Media ( Lel Burnett )

Salleh Sparrow

Katja Orgin

Steve Gerrard 

Lee Allen

Magazine wise, Kerrang, Rock Sound, I-D, Hunger, Dazed and Confused, V Magazine ( there are also lots of small indie mags worth checking out,  Dark Beauty, Elite Online, Editorial Magazine ) 

Finally, just before the quick fire round, I have to ask. Whats in your camera bag?

Canon 5dmk3 & Mk2

Canon 24-70mm 2.8

Canon 70-200mm 2.8

Canon 15mm fisheye

Canon 85mm 1.8

Elinchrome Quadra ringflash

Elinchrome Quadra studio head

Quick fire favourites:

Website - Facebook, Purpleport

Drink - Water

Food - Chicken and rice, chocolate

Music act - Faith No More ( will always be my fave band)  but there are so many good bands around that don't get radio play or even signed.

TV Show - Suits, Big Bang Theory, Rookie Blue

Movie - True Romance .Natural Born Killers, The Crow

Joke -  Why is 6 scared of 7.... because 7 ate 9

Day off - Spending time with my best friend and shooting ( I work full time and shoot on my days off ) 

Quote - We live in a society where we basically live and strive on what people think about us. We’re more visual people so what we see is basically what we believe which is not necessarily true.” - Mike Tyson

Thanks Andy, for taking the time to answer my questions. I really enjoyed this one as you're a fellow photographer thats brushed  shoulders with celebrities which is the genre I'd personally love to shoot! Here a few more of my personal favourites of yours.