Behind the camera: Courtney Dabb

SelfieWho are you? Courtney Dabb. My entry into the photography world is purely an extension of my love affair with music. The first event I ever attended was the Big Day Out festival in 1992 as a 13 year old, catching the likes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop and local legends Tumbleweed. I caught the bug and just loved the indie scene. Some 20 years and countless gigs later I wanted to go from behind the barrier to behind the camera.

After religiously following Gerling, one of Australia’s best live acts, I wanted to capture what they brought to the stage and to find bands that equalled their passion and energy. Live performances by artists like Dan Deacon, Y.A.C.H.T and FIDLAR come close and are what a gig photographer dreams of; interactive, intense and without a hint of pretension.

How did you get started? I started taking photos of drum risers and concert stages for Megadeck Staging Systems, an events company based in Sydney and had the light bulb moment that I could expand upon this and shoot the entire show, not just a technical portion of the overall production.

I steadily built up a portfolio after securing a 1 year residency at The HIFI and attended as many gigs as physically possible which provided a great breadth of bands and genres. This gave me the time and experience to tailor my shooting to capture different artists and their distinctive styles.

The Dwarf were the ones who gave me my first break and a leg up into the industry to whom I owe a massive thanks.

What’s in the bag? Nikon D7100, Nikon 50mm F1.8g, Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 and spare battery.

Which photographers do you admire? Johnny Au from the AU Review as he is not just a prolific photographer but I have never met someone who is so helpful, friendly and generous with his time and advice. Jakob De Zwart who covers all areas of photography and his landscapes are amazing.

Your top 3 tips for music photographers?

  1. Save your pennies and buy and the best gear your can afford.
  2. Chat to the other pro’s in the pit, it’s a small world and you will likely cross paths with them again soon. More contacts = more opportunities.
  3. Don’t stop shooting small venues and unknown bands as the next big act could be the tiny support band you shot years before they went global.

My favourite shot is? Jones Jnr, Enmore Theatre, 29.8.13. I love this shot not because it is particularly sensational but rather for what it represented during the show. The venue was packed with punters just standing there like stilted drones until Jones Jnr insisted everyone turn and face someone they didn’t know and dance with them. The very next song saw the whole audience grooving and feeling the love Jones Jnr wanted everyone to share in.

How can we find out more about you and find more of your work?

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