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Josh Rouse, taken during a soundcheck in Newcastle, England, in 2006

Last year I hosted my first exhibition of my soundcheck photography project, which I’ve been working on in fits and starts for the last 10 years or so. I live in London, but the exhibition was in a venue with the same name as this blog, the Zorki Photo Café in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The world can be a very small place.

If you find yourself in Paris before the end of March, you can see the second exhibition of this project at a bar called Au Chat Noir in the Parmentier district.

There’s 15 shots of bands including Manic Street Preachers, The National, Franz Ferdinand, The Maccabees and Lambchop. And the Au Chat Noir is just the kind of corner wine bar that brings hordes of tourists to the City of Light; fantastic wine for next to nothing, unpretentious surroundings, the buzz of French conversation. For a few weeks, some of my pics are gracing the walls.

These black and white shots were taken during soundchecks before shows in cities in the UK, Luxembourg, Russia and New Zealand. All of them are on black and white film push-processed so I could shoot without flash – often up to 6400, which adds to the grain and atmosphere.

James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers

These are part of a longlist taken from a decade’s shooting and thousands of frames of film, and whittling them down to a few dozen shots I think are strong enough to show.

Even film photographers see much of their work through a digital filter – we might shoot on film, but we share and look at our work on computers just as much as those who shoot digital. Seeing them as prints is a completely different experience. These were printed by Bayeux, one of the best photographic labs in London.

They include a few of my favourites from that first decade shooting bands; Lambchop’s William Tyler caught in an isolated moment before a show at London’s Barbican, John Stirratt of Wilco at a soundcheck for a one-off London show with Neil Finn and members of Radiohead, and a sunlit band practice in Napier, New Zealand with David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights (if you’ve never heard of them, rectify that immediately).

Below are a few more of the pics being shown. All of these shots are available for sale as limited-edition 16×12 handprints. Drop me a line at stephendowling@yahoo.com for more details.

Tom Maginnis of Buffalo Tom, illuminated by backlighting
The Maccabees at London soundcheck in 2009
Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam amongst the beams
Beth Gibbons of Portishead among the lights of Hammersmith Apollo


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Stephen Dowling
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Radu Serbanescu
8 years ago

Congratulations on that exhibition from Cluj. Your Soundcheck Sessions are full of atmosphere.