Behind the Lens with Ben Donoghue

Photography, like music production, is an art of self-expression. A medium where feelings, soul, or spirit can be articulated in a single shot. As one of our most pivotal inventions, it has revolutionised how people conceive the world. For it’s numerous applications, perhaps the most treasured is the ability to preserve memories, capture special moments or to tell a story. Huy Cao displayed fitting examples back in August with his awe inspiring shots of the dance. As an ameuter photographer myself, I was blown away by Huy’s work, and recognised the potential of the series. In our second photographic feature, Ben Donoghue shares his passion on the art and some of his most prized photographs to date.

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My whole life I’ve never been fond of having my photograph taken. I found that being behind the camera made it easier to avoid this from happening. You can’t be in the pictures if you’re the one taking them (laughs). I was never very good with a camera until I picked up my mothers DSLR, which she never had the time for. I had just been pointing an shooting at whatever until then.

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From then on, I added photography to the already long list of hobbies I had at the time. Messing around with the settings and actually planning what I point the lens at etc. Around the same time I used to go mountain biking and train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so it seemed obvious to apply my new hobby to these ones. The pictures I got always turned out naff. I could never make what I was looking at [through a lens] look interesting in a photograph. It wasn’t until I went along to watch my trainer at a cage fight in Brighton where I discovered a potential talent. I loved the shadows and the lighting of the big dark room, it helped me become more creative, using the empty black spaces and multiple light sources.

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This then inspired me to take my camera to the bar where I worked at the time, and photograph my mates who used to DJ there. They used to go in with their big rigs with lights, lasers, smoke machines, big subs, speaker set ups, all in this tiny bar / pub type thing with a max capacity of around 150, it was like a mini club at weekends (laughs). I don’t know what happened but I was always photographing in there after that. No pay or anything, was just doing it for a laugh.

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After a few months or so of this, I went to a rave in London where another friend of mine had managed to get a DJ slot for a pretty big night. They gave him a staff badge which he gave to me after. When their next event rolled around, I found the back door, showed em the old staff badge, an they let me in! It was held in a theatre, an this badge got me anywhere in the venue. So I was just walking round there, taking pictures of all the artists playing as if I worked there. This was the first of I can’t remember how many raves I snuck into or blagged entry with my camera at. I was doing this for a year or so at my own expense before finally getting recognised and employed in club photography. I didn’t mind that I didn’t get a paid job for a long time, I just enjoyed the music scene, and working to improve my skills as a photographer.

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I don’t limit myself to night club photography either. I’ve done some album covers, fashion, street, whatever really. I like to practise all aspects of the profession, which I think helps me diversify my club work. I also got taught to DJ by a mate a few years back when I was working in that bar. Through watching my mate and my club work, constantly watching all varieties of DJ’s through a lens, I’ve learnt a lot. So I try an put myself out there for DJ work as well. I’ve done some nights before where I did a set and photographed the rave. If any promoters are reading this, get in touch (laughs).

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I’ve never studied photography at college or anything. I got into university on a photographic course, without the necessary qualifications. I believe the best way to learn something is by doing it. If you truly enjoy it, it’s easy to persevere and progress. I’ve got so many ideas for projects in the future. I’m just waiting to upgrade my equipment to ensure they are the best quality I can achieve. Until then, I’m just going to continue to make the best out of what I’ve got. Thank you all who took the time to check this post out, it means a lot. Hope you like the pictures!

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