“Stones In Pockets” is an NYC based acoustic-rock band that’s the brainchild and pet project of Neil Bhay, an ex-colleague and good friend of mine. Last month when I received an invitation to their gig at the Leftfield Bar in the lower east side (LES) of Manhattan, I wanted to take this opportunity to not only be in the audience, but also photograph the band. I approached Neil with the idea and he was excited about it since the band didn’t have any decent photos they could use for promotions.
Having never been to the Leftfield before I had no idea about its size, layout or lighting. So on the day of the shoot I came prepared for a wide range of shooting scenarios and arrived 30 minutes early to scout the venue. The Leftfield is a very typical LES dive bar with an unassuming entrance, dim lighting and a very grungy interior; the perfect formula for an extremely challenging shoot. There were two areas, an upstairs and a downstairs, each of which were setup for bands to perform. Downstairs was actually quite roomy with plenty of light, however upstairs was a tighter space and the stage was laid out like one of those typical NYC “railroad” style apartments. As it turned out, the band was going to be performing upstairs, oh dear! A railroad style layout generally proves to be challenging as band members end up sitting very close and one behind the other. This makes it very hard to not only get individual shots, but also shots of the band as a group. To make matters worse, there was a large window right behind the stage with a streetlight pouring in like a spotlight. The cherry on the cake was the stage lighting, there were exactly two big spotlights, one red and one blue and did I mention, flash photography wasn’t permitted? This was going to be fun! Armed with a milk crate for a stool I started taking photos as the band started playing and the crowds slowly started pouring in.
As a photographer, my goal was to capture the mood, the performance and the ambience, all while trying to be as discreet as possible. While the lighting and the tight space made this very challenging, I think I managed to pull this off thanks to the awesome music the band belted out that kept the audience engaged and diverted attention away from me.
I hope you enjoy seeing these photos as much as I did while taking them!