Last week, I was up in Birmingham covering Crufts at The NEC in my guise as The Dog Snapper. When arranging to shoot this event, I searched the web to see if there was any interesting live music to see in the area and was pleased to see that Sam Lee had been booked by Moseley Folk to play at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. Sam had huge success last year being nominated for both Folk Singer of the Year at the Radio 2 Folk Awards and receiving a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize for his debut album “Ground Of Its Own”.
Having got more and more into folk music over the years, I was really looking forward to it. The Hare and Hounds, a Grade II listed building in a South Birmingham suburb, is a small music venue with a rich, diverse mix of regular music nights spanning all sorts of musical genres. As you go in, the pub is on the ground floor and upstairs there’s two venue rooms. On that night, one hosted a comedy gig and the other, Sam Lee and friends. Sam has spent the last few years learning songs first hand from various Gypsy traveller communities around the country. The album comprises of contemporary and unconventional interpretations of these songs. On stage, Sam is polite, charismatic and keen to explain the story behind the song. Joining him on this tour is Thomas McCarthy, an Irish traveller, singing unaccompanied from his own immense repetoire with the most amazing voice.
From my own point of view, I’ve been looking to get a personal project off the ground doing portraits of musicians and singers, mostly in the folk mould. During the break, I asked Sam if I could get a few shots of him performing and afterwards a very quick portrait of him on his own. He very kindly said yes, so I checked out the venue for a suitable place to do it once it was all over. This wasn’t going to be easy. I knew that I’d only have a minute or two and the ambient light in the venue was practically non-existent. There was no lighting in the gig venue apart from the on-stage coloured lighting – never mind, everything was going black and white anyway. Downstairs in the pub, it looked a little more promsing with some of the original Art Nouveau tiles and panelling still lining the walls. I decided that in front of the panels would be the best place for the portrait as there was at least a light overhead which should provide just enough illumination for a slow shutter, prime lens shot.
So thank you, Sam Lee and friends, for a great gig and for being the first to take part in my Folk Portraits Project. Hope you like the pics.