Ever since last year’s GRAMMY Camp®, I have longed for a guest speaker to come in to talk about photography, and this year I got my wish. Rock star photographer, Greg Watermann, came to speak to our Music Journalism track and enlightened us with a different side of documenting events and other special moments in time.
Now known as the guy who stands around at shows, wearing all black and with a camera in his hand, Watermann first began taking photos at a young age of seven. As time progressed, he became interested in fashion photography and became “people’s private slave,” while he interned at several magazines. Moving away from fashion photography and realizing he had no musical talent , he decided music photography would allow him to be a part of the music industry. Eventually he landed jobs with Rolling Stone and Spin magazine.
Since then, he has toured with a mass amount of bands and even provided the photos in a book about Linkin Park. He believes a friendly relationship is one of the most important aspects of music photography and journalism. Watermann also explained, “It’s useful to have direct relationships with the artists,” instead of going through middle men. Another point he made was to never cross the line that could destroy a working relationship with any artist. A goal any photographer should have is to be called back by whoever they took photos of.
Because of his “delicate balance” between business and friendship, he has been able to gain a strong enough status of having all-access for photographing some bands, such as System of a Down. His relationship with SOAD has even allowed him to be on stage while they perform live. Recently he worked on a four-minute video made of solely photographs and an audio mash-up of a 22-song set. He was kind enough to show it to us, as we watched with amazement.
As an extremely successful photographer, Watermann still continues to practice taking photos, even if it’s just shooting photos around his neighborhood. He’s glad he is able to make a living off of doing what he has always wanted to do. He values every single photo he takes as his own “little children,” and hates having to throw any of them out. For the photos that he doesn’t get rid of, he makes sure they are 100% high-quality or he will not send it to the band or artist to use.
With how advance technology has become, Watermann explained that with cameras being digital, camera phones, and high-speed internet, anyone can take photos and post them for everyone to see. “That’s my job going down the toilet,” he stated. He believes that with so many people with the same generic photos submitted to all different kinds of media outlets, a modern day photographer needs to begin with connecting with at least one band in order to ultimately establish relationships with other artists.