IT'S ONLY ROCK 'N' ROLL BUT WE LIKE IT
BY GAVIN STOKER
When you’re a veteran photographer fighting in the trenches of the rock wars, there is no tougher posting than the world’s most popular and revered music festival: Glastonbury. The sheer diversity of acts and entertainments ensure that encompassing its essence in a select number of still photographs is quite a feat. But it’s one that Olympus UK brand ambassadors Jill Furmanovsky, Denis O’Regan and Mick Hutson pulled off with aplomb this year, each armed with an OM-D E-M1 in their pursuit of killer shots. Small, light, portable, yet packing a punch in terms of results, this weather resistant camera was clearly able to withstand the mud, sweat and beers that regularly get slung at photographers in the front line, or rather front-of-stage in the photographers’ pit.
“Dolly Parton was the star attraction at Glastonbury this year, beating Metallica and Kasabian onto the front pages of the press,” Jill Furmanovsky recalls. “Lordy she was fun! Even the security people at the front of the stage joined in, improvising their own dance to the chorus of ‘Jolene’.”
Photographer Mick Hutson, who has been taking photos at the festival for the past 18 years, also had his own perspective: “This camera made me smile when I’m taking pictures for the first time in ages,” he says of the OM-D E-M1. “It was also the first time I’d done Glastonbury with a completely different camera, and without a brief, which was fantastic. Yes I’d played with a couple of the other Olympus cameras and started with Olympus cameras: OM1’s, OM2’s, OM4’s, so, although the OM-D was a very new camera to me, it was one that felt familiar in my hands.”
“The result is that I now ‘am’ Olympus and will carry on being Olympus. Previously, over the course of 18 years I’ve used many different brands, but they’ve always been chasing the same kind of thing, which has got a little bit boring. It stopped being about the camera for me, but rather the tool for the job. With the Olympus OM-D and especially the E-M1 it’s started to become a little bit about the camera again… how I feel about it and how I hold it, which was how it was back when I started, which is a lovely feeling.
‘The three of us – Jill, Denis and myself – have been doing Glastonbury for many years and I felt that this year, since we’ve been allowed to go out with these Olympus cameras to shoot the way we want to shoot, we have come up with a very similar vibe as a result. I’ve got a feeling it has a lot to do with how we relate to the camera – and how intuitive to use it is.
“Glastonbury is a huge city. It’s phenomenal. And to be there is a huge privilege, as Jill says. I found myself still walking around at the festival very late at night trying to capture images that encompassed what it was all about. That was down in no small part to the Olympus OM-D. Normally after a day of shooting 10 bands I would give the wander around a miss: but with the Olympus, because it’s both very solid and very easy to carry around, and people aren’t intimidated by it because it’s a small, beautifully made, pretty looking camera, they carry on doing what they’d normally be doing and I can get the shots I want.”
For fellow photographer Denis O’Regan nothing beats the OM-D equipped with a fisheye lens for capturing the expansive madness of the festival; this year singer Win Butler from headliners Arcade Fire grabbed Denis’ camera and proceeded to take ‘selfies’ from the stage. “I think he noticed that I was shooting with a fisheye lens and wanted to capture the moment for himself,” he quips. “And if a band gets boring, at Glastonbury there’s always an audience to photograph: there’s so many flags and so many people, and so many variations on any given day.
Denis adds that he likes playing around with the long Olympus lenses and wide-angle lenses to create some differentiation. “I have a thing about fisheye, because it means that I have to get really close to people, or entice them to get close to me. I really enjoy that. But I also shot a lot of telephoto stuff at Glastonbury because we were simply so far away. Yet with the equivalent of a 300mm lens I can shoot someone halfway back in a 100,000 strong crowd without them knowing about it – and I think that’s really good fun. Otherwise you’re in the photographers’ pit front of stage, and you’re shooting like that [points upwards through 45 degrees] a lot, which is a pain.
“Half of the attraction of an event like Glastonbury is that there’s so much going on other than the music. In terms of how many shots I take at a gig, it depends on what I’m trying to prove. I might take 2,000 shots and then maybe show the band 200, if they’re the ones paying for it. It’s easier to take the photographs digitally because it doesn’t cost you anything. When I shot on film it used to be £1 a picture. You had to buy all the film before you could go out and photograph a show, which might cost £200. Also when you shot on film and sent the results to bands or the band’s management, a lot of the images got lost. So I can have more fun, digitally, as well as having the tools to be able to turn the digital images into the kind of shots I used to take on film, such as the fact that I can add the grain. And I can shoot so many images. I can shoot 10 or 12 frames per second for as long as the camera can hold out.
‘Olympus Goes to Glastonbury’ is at the Image Space London until Sunday 7th September 2014.