Getintothis’ Martin Waters sits down with photographer Michael Kirkham to find out the importance of side projects in building your experience and, keeping photography interesting.
Most of the Getintothis photo team will tell you that, aside from shooting gigs and events, they all seem to have some sort of side project on the go.
For a lot of the team it is generally something personal, something they do to keep things interesting and to challenge themselves.
While some of them, my own included, never see the light of day, you could argue that Michael Kirkham’s Urban Goals projects has taken on a life of its own and now, as well as dealing with our regular calls asking him to shoot various gigs, he’s fielding calls from UEFA and Liverpool FC. We sat down to find out how it all started, chat about gigs, what advice he’d give and where he sees Urban Goals heading.
Getintothis: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography.
MK: Well I kind of fell into photography after discovering a passion for it while travelling South America back in 2008. I bought my first point & shoot Canon from a market in Colombia and never really looked back. It became my profession, full time, in 2013. I shoot all sorts of things from weddings to riots, sometimes the line is blurry to be honest! I’ve always loved the camera’s ability to record history though; you’re literally freezing a moment in time. That’s kind of cool really. Liverpool throws plenty of opportunities a photographer’s way too, musically and politically, so I’m kept on my toes.
Getintothis: What was the first gig you shot?
MK: Tough one that! Think the first band I photographed live was Sidney Baileys No Good Punchin’ Clowns. They were playing an event that I was the photographer for. Great them, by the way. Not technically a gig though. I shot Sound City 2012 not long after. That was a great learning curve.
Getintothis: So what’s in your camera bag when you’re shooting?
MK: Nikon D800 with a 28mm 1.8 and my trusty 50mm 1.8, a few fully charged batteries and plenty of memory cards. A flashgun for when there is just no light and something to clean the lens with always comes in handy; you never know what you’ll get thrown at you.
Getintothis: Which is your favourite shot?
MK: Oooft! That’s like being asked your favourite band?! My favourite shot is the one I’m yet to take.
Getintothis: Any terrible or fun shoots you’d like to share?
MK: Haha! No, most folks you work with are cool really. Shoots that start with a pint are always a winner though.
Getintothis: So what’s your favourite bit of kit?
MK: Used to be the 50mm but since I got myself the 28mm it’s taken over the title of favourite. So versatile and has that 1.8 aperture you need in low light. Great bit of kit.
Getintothis: Any particularly difficult musicians?
MK: Now you’re really trying to get me in trouble! Haha! No, honestly never had problems with any musicians. Some don’t like getting their photo taken, which is odd but fair enough. All my musician experiences have been cool. I’ll let you know when a bad one comes along.
Getintothis: Who are your favourite Liverpool bands to shoot?
MK: Loads at the minute. Such a great scene in Liverpool. Clean Cut Kid, Psycho Comedy, Lying Bastards (when they keep still enough), Bathymetry, The Probes, The Floormen. Loads really, the list goes on. I’m yet to see, or shoot, Pink Kink so suspect they could be top of that list, come the day.
Getintothis: Where’s your favourite place to shoot?
MK: Ah man, we all know I’m going to say The Kazimier. Everyone says The Kazimer, right?! I’ve been going to gigs, raves and festivals for 20 odd years and that was up there with the special venues. It had it all. Amazing group of individuals behind the scenes, on every level. Yeah, The Kazimier. If you pushed me now I’d say Invisible Wind Factory, can’t wait to see more down there. The Zanzibar is a winner too; loved discovering bands there back when Sound City was in the city centre.
Getintothis: What one tip would you give anyone starting out?
MK: Take your camera everywhere, photograph everything. Is that just one tip?! It’ll do.
Getintothis: Best advice you’ve been given?
MK: Best bit of advice was the advice I’d give to anyone starting out, shoot everything.
Getintothis: What’s the worst advice you’ve been given?
MK: To stick to one photographic discipline, and one only. I disagree strongly with this. Shoot everything that interests you. If you care about a subject you are far more likely to get a shot that makes the viewer feel it too. I feel if you try and put limits on what you can and can’t do you find you’ll meet those limits. It’s better to excel, no?
Getintothis: Any favourite photographers?
MK: Don McCullin, Nan Goldin, Robert Capa, Martin Parr the list really does go on and on. We have some great photographers right here at Getintothis though, photography is another scene in Liverpool awash with talent right now. Maybe it’s time for a Getintothis exhibition, we’ve got tons of shots in the archives.
Getintothis: What would be your ideal gig to shoot?
MK: Keeping it simple and saying Nirvana in The Kazimier.
Getintothis: I have to ask you a bit about your Urban Goals project. What can you tell me about it, how did it come about and what’s next for it?
MK: A lot of the work I shoot is based around class, society and the state. These are the things that grab my interest, I suppose. I’m often seen out at big demonstrations in the city, there are plenty on too as we figure ways to fight the huge swathes of cuts imposed on us by a Tory government. We’ve seen a surge in the far right recently too, and I feel the need to document this. The fantastic counter response to all of this from the wider city has been an inspiration. I’m always shooting one project or planning another. One of these, Urban Goals; which I’ve been shooting since summer 2015, has been getting a lot of interest. I’ve been all over the UK shooting it and have trips to Barnsley, Oldbury and Bury on the cards. All the glamour, I know. The Echo did a great feature on it and I got my first TV appearance with the good folks at LFCTV. Loads more to come from that including, hopefully, a book. Watch this space for more news.
You can see more of Mike’s work here:
Urban Goals: http://urbangoals.tumblr.com/