Q&A with British experienced music photographer Adam Kennedy, shooting concerts for years around the world

"In terms of affecting people, I think the biggest compliment I receive as a photographer is that one of my images moved someone enough to go and investigate the music or see live the artist who they saw in the image. In terms of socio-cultural impacts, if my work contributes to the promotion, encouragement or participation in cultural activities such as concerts or festivals, that can only be a good thing for all."

Adam Kennedy: The Image of Music

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US.                            (Photo: British experienced music photographer Adam Kennedy)

(Photo: British experienced music photographer Adam Kennedy)

Adam Kennedy is Radio DJ at UK Independent Blues Broadcasters Association, Sub-Editor at Blues Matters Magazine and Photo Journalist at HRH Mag. Adam says: "What I love most about the art of photography is that moments are only temporary; they can not authentically be repeated or reproduced. Photographs are a vehicle for preserving those important occasions we experience within our lives forever." Adam Kennedy talks about the music, photo art and his experiences

Interview by Michael Limnios            Photos: © Adam Kennedy / All Rights Reserved

How has the Jazz, Rock n' Blues music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Music has been an integral part of my life for over 30 years. Although photography has always been a passion of mine, it was live music photography that opened the door to my career in the world of photojournalism. So, music overall has been incredibly influential on my journey throughout life.

Working on my virtual music photography project, I have worked with artists in 45 different countries, 32 US states and 6 continents. The result of this project has been the conclusion that music is a universal language, and that no matter where we are in the world, it can bring people together.

What were the reasons that you started the photo art experiments? What do you love most about the art of photography?

During the lockdown here in the UK, I thought about how I can keep myself creative as a photographer but still within the music world. I decided to try and conduct portrait photography sessions online with artists from the music world to prove that there can still be creative and photographic collaboration even in isolation.

When I started thinking about this project, my motivation was that this period we are in right now is historic. Never has there been a time where every musician on the planet has been off the road, with concert halls, clubs, and theatres all being closed. So, I wanted to capture this time as a historical and cultural reference. I hope that in time people will want to look back on this era, and essentially this project will be a means of doing so.

What I love most about the art of photography is that moments are only temporary; they can not authentically be repeated or reproduced. Photographs are a vehicle for preserving those important occasions we experience within our lives forever.

"Music has been an integral part of my life for over 30 years. Although photography has always been a passion of mine, it was live music photography that opened the door to my career in the world of photojournalism. So, music overall has been incredibly influential on my journey throughout life." (Erja Lyytinen © Photography by Adam Kennedy)

Which meetings have been the most important experiments? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Regarding my virtual photography project, I would have to say that my first virtual photoshoot with Finnish slide guitar player Erja Lyytinen was the most important shoot of the project. When I spoke to Erja about conducting remote photoshoots, she was immediately intrigued and wanted to participate. The beauty of that first shoot was that we both got what we were looking for from our photo session. Even though we were thousands of miles apart and we were collaborating online, I got the feeling of being creative as a photographer. Likewise, Erja got the feeling of being an artist again through being in front of a camera. It was a unique experience for both of us, and it showed in those initial images which we shared on social media. This first virtual photoshoot with Erja also gave me the confidence to take this project further and work with other artists in the virtual environment. Since that first session in April 2020, I have completed over 550 virtual photoshoots, including three more shoots with Erja.

My career highlights to date include my induction into the Blues Hall of Fame for my photographic work. Having one of my images featured on the official poster for the Montreal Jazz Festival. Subsequently, I had one of my photographs of Vintage Trouble used on a billboard campaign across the USA, where one of those advertisements even hung in the halls of JFK airport in New York City. Furthermore, I always enjoy seeing my work regularly in print in magazines such as Blues Matters and HRH Mag, to name but a few.

Are there any memories from shooting times which you’d like to share with us? What is the hardest part of your work?

In terms of live music photography, some of my favourite experiences have been during tours with Vintage Trouble. This includes photographing the band at Madison Square Garden in New York, opening for The Who. I also enjoyed shooting the band on stage at Hampden Park in Glasgow in front of 80,000 people during Vintage Trouble’s run on the Rock or Bust Tour with AC/DC.

In terms of my virtual photography project, there have been so many great memories. I have enjoyed being able to capture images of artists all over the world. I may not have been able to travel since the start of the pandemic - but I have been able to do photoshoots with artists in such remote locations as Freetown - Sierra Leone, Porto Allegra - Brazil, and Sydney – Australia, to name but a few. I am grateful for all the connections I have made around the world. The artists I have worked with have become dear friends, and I will always appreciate their support during these strange times. As a music photographer, the hardest part of my work is that no two shoots are the same. Each show, tour, venue, location, lighting setup and artist is always different. Therefore, no matter how many photoshoots you have done, you are always learning, and you have to be consistently at the top of your game.

"If I had a time machine, I would love to go to Woodstock in 1969. As a concertgoer and a photographer, I think it was the pinnacle of music festivals. I have always enjoyed watching the movie, listening to the soundtrack, and studying the iconic images taken by the likes of Jim Marshall and Baron Wolman." (Robert Cray © Photography by Adam Kennedy)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I think what I miss most from the music of the past are the personalities and the artists themselves. I would have loved to have been able to see performers like Freddie King, Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf. But unfortunately, I was either too young or not even born when they passed.

My biggest fear is that line to the original bluesmen is fading, with only really Buddy Guy left from the old guard. But every day, I come across new artists, who may not necessarily be pure blues artists, but I would regard them as interpreters of the blues. It is the next generation of artists who I hope will become the torchbearers for the blues greats of yore.

What would you say characterizes UK music scene in comparison to other European and US scenes?

You won't find too many differences between the three scenes. The big difference being some artists or genres might be more popular in particular regions or markets than others. What bothers me the most, particularly in the blues world, is how standalone each market is. For example, you do not find many UK blues artists touring in the US. It is a difficult, expensive, and competitive market to access or break. I would love to see more mutually beneficial collaborations within the blues world between artists and organisations from each respective market to break these barriers or walls down further for everyone.

What is the impact of music and photo art on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?

In terms of affecting people, I think the biggest compliment I receive as a photographer is that one of my images moved someone enough to go and investigate the music or see live the artist who they saw in the image. In terms of socio-cultural impacts, if my work contributes to the promotion, encouragement or participation in cultural activities such as concerts or festivals, that can only be a good thing for all.

"My biggest fear is that line to the original bluesmen is fading, with only really Buddy Guy left from the old guard. But every day, I come across new artists, who may not necessarily be pure blues artists, but I would regard them as interpreters of the blues. It is the next generation of artists who I hope will become the torchbearers for the blues greats of yore." (ZZ Top © Photography by Adam Kennedy)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music and photo paths?

I think the most important lesson you can learn as a photographer is that equipment is not everything. You can have the most expensive camera equipment, and it will not make you a better photographer. I always quote the old saying that the best camera you can have is the one you have with you. And this a sentiment I have embraced fully during my virtual photography project. Instead of spending money on equipment, first practice your craft. Shoot as much as possible, and spend your time learning the fundamental technical and compositional principles of photography.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

If I had a time machine, I would love to go to Woodstock in 1969. As a concertgoer and a photographer, I think it was the pinnacle of music festivals. I have always enjoyed watching the movie, listening to the soundtrack, and studying the iconic images taken by the likes of Jim Marshall and Baron Wolman.

I have had the privilege of speaking to and even interviewing artists who played Woodstock, and it always blows my mind to hear their stories. Plus, to see artists like Jimi Hendrix, CSN&Y, Joan Baez, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Ritchie Havens and Johnny Winter in their prime would be an incredible experience.

Adam Kennedy Photography - Home

(Derek Trucks © Photography by Adam Kennedy)

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