With tales of sneaking camera into gigs, taking photos in a pre-digital age and Slipknot in Dublin Getintothis’ Martin Waters catches up with Gary Coughlan.
Sometimes things stick with you at an early age.
You build a fascination with something leading into an enduring love and passion that lasts a lifetime. For Getintothis’ Gary Coughlan, that passion is photography.
By day, a Mechanical Technician in a research lab, and by night, a camera-wielding Getintothis photographer, Gary Coughlan has been living and shooting in Liverpool for almost nine years.
During that time he’s seen the changes that have affected the local music scene and is another one of the team who highlights the dear departed Kazimier as still a favourite venue.
Like many of the Getintothis photographers, Gary started out sneaking cameras into gigs and he’s old and wise enough to remember the challenges film-only used to pose.
Getintothis: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography.
Gary Coughlan: I couldn’t pinpoint an exact moment I got into photography, it kind of grew over the years. I used to be in awe of a sliver SLR my uncle used to own. Being under 8 years old I was never allowed to use it but I couldn’t help being drawn to it. It looked amazing.
On early holidays with family it was usually me wielding our flat Vivatar 602 film camera, loading the film incorrectly, cutting people’s head out as a result, over exposing, missing focus, all sorts of results but occasionally I’d get it right. In my teens I was the only one of my friends who cared to bring a camera anywhere, showing my age but pre-digital/pre-camera phones were a real pain for most people to bother with.
So if we were skateboarding or if one of my friends had a gig I’d try to document it. Some film and video that I’ve taken from those days still haven’t see the light of day. One day maybe.
Getintothis: What was the first gig you shot?
GC: I’d probably discount my sneaking film cameras into gigs when I was younger, although it took some inventive hiding of cameras/films and effort to get to the front of a mosh pit for some shots. I love a few images from those days that I’ve yet to digitalise. Again, one day.
My first photo pass gig was Blue Aeroplanes in the O2 for Getintothis. I think I was the 3rd person into the venue, super early, super keen. Kashmir Kids were supporting and I was the only person in the pit for them, for Blue Aeroplanes only one other shooter joined me in the pit so it was a good introduction as I was nervous about a crowded pit.
Getintothis: So what’s in your camera bag when you’re shooting?
GC: The Nikon D3s is my current camera body. It’s a beast for low light. Lenses would depend on the venue/act. A 24-70mm or 50mm usually start the night on my camera and I judge the rest as it comes. I try to travel light to gigs, so the less I have the better for moving around the crowds or photo pit.
Getintothis: Which is your favourite shot?
GC: That’s a tough one. Slipknot supported Metallica in Dublin in ’04, they’ve a moment in their set where they get everyone down on the floor for a “Jump the f*** up” moment. I was in the pit near the front and I had my camera with me so I was compelled to try and capture it. A sea of people lowered down in giddy anticipation. I didn’t nail the jump moment (no 11fps to rely on), but what I love about it is how there are no camera phones, just people looking around enjoying the moment. Unfortunately, I don’t have a digital version.
Getintothis: Any terrible or fun shoots you’d like to share?
GC: Just before the GIT Awards 2017 I was taking my 24-70mm out of my bag for a photo and the lens dropped and bounced across the concrete. Time stood still. It’s still in for repair and I’m going to be out about £650 for that mishap.
Getintothis: So what’s your favourite bit of kit?
GC: I could make a case for my current camera body or when I’m not dropping it my 24-70mm. I’m very lucky with the kit I have. If I’d to give it all up for one lens one body it’d be the D3s + 50mm f1.4
Getintothis: Any particularly difficult musicians?
GC: I’m not going to go into details, but Vidar Norheim. What a diva.
Getintothis: Who are your favourite Liverpool bands to shoot?
Getintothis: Where’s your favourite place to shoot?
GC: It used to be the Kazimier. It had everything, great bands, great sound, different viewing areas, good lighting. I haven’t shot in all venues in Liverpool yet, so I’ll probably reserve judgement until I shoot more venues.
Getintothis: What one tip would you give anyone starting out?
GC: Right, I’m having two, but they are related. Respect and Etiquette. Respect the paying punters in the venue or the fans that have paid to see their idols. Etiquette in the pit for other shooters and the bands. Having a pass and a camera does not give anyone the rights to carte blanche.
Shoot and move on. Nothing has stuck in my mind too much although Michael Kirkham and Mark Holmes have given me some great advice.
Getintothis: What’s the worst advice you’ve been given?
GC: “Just use your pop up flash”
Getintothis: Any favourite photographers?
GC: W Eugene Smith Jazz loft project is incredible and I like Dustin Diaz, Neil Van Niekerk and David Hobby for some of their Strobist portraiture work. I really like to see what local photographers like yourself, Mark Holmes,Peter Goodbody, Michael Kirkham, Georgia Flynn and recently Tom Adam and Lucy McLachlan are doing in the same venues/gigs. I love seeing their results from gigs I’ve attended or shot. Comparing styles and approaches.
Current mainstream gig photographers can bore me a little and can have a pampered life with their triple A passes, perfect lighting, shoot all show long, and multiple gigs to plan and execute shots…. I’m not jealous, not jealous at all.
Getintothis: What would be your ideal gig to shoot?
GC: If we are living in an ideal world then I’d like to time travel and do Queen Live at Wembley ’86. Or follow Rory Gallagher on his tours in the mid 70’s.
In the real world I’d love to shoot Tool, Metallica and Queens of the Stone Age.
You can see more of Gary’s work at: