Here at Brighton Music Blog we love a festival. The festival we’re writing about today though isn’t actually a music festival but a photography festival. Throughout October Brighton Photo Biennial and Brighton Photo Fringe have events all over town. The event within the festival we’re writing about is music related however – One of the exhibitions that forms part of Brighton Photo Fringe is being held at the Hope and showcases the collaborative photography between Dark Horses and Ali Tollervey, who works so closely with the band that he’s considered a member. Tonight there’s the private view for the exhibition and a Dark Horses gig too, so we sent over a few questions to find out a bit more about his work with the band:
Brighton Music Blog : How did you end up being Dark Horses photographer?
Ali Tollervey : I was already friends with Lisa & had photographed her performing before the band that Dark Horses would become had taken shape. I was actually staying at Lisa’s house for a brief period around the time that Dark Horses were evolving, they were recently back from early recording sessions at the Key Club Studios in Michigan with Richard Fearless. New members were joining. Lisa had played me the recordings from the states, I was excited by the project & believed in the music. It seemed very natural to work together & developed organically. After hearing a demo Kasabian offered them tour support. Things all moved very quickly, within a few short weeks we were on stage at Brixton & Wembley.
BMB : Were you considered a member from the beginning?
TV : Again it’s something that evolved .There was always the idea of collaboration, a collective approach, trying to create an energy, something more than just music. There was visual feedback as counterpoint to the sound..they fed into each other..As I was on board from the start we grew together. It was immersive. I was pretty much at every show / tour for the first couple years. We were a family or better a gang. It felt like we were all working together, my role just happened to be visual. It’s more usual for photographers to be outsiders, quickly meeting a band for a press shot or maybe joining them for part of a tour`. This was different, we’d be lugging equipment together, on stage together, if necessary sharing beds together.. Aside from the photography I was involved with other areas relating to the band.
BMB : What do you remember of the first proper shoot you did with them?
TV : It was a late evening group shot at Lisa’s home which became our ‘clubhouse’. They were taken in front of a back wall which happens to be adorned with a giant floor to ceiling black & white print by Irving Penn of the Hell’s Angels – a group portrait in itself. So there were twice the sets of eyes staring back at me. (On a side note we realised afterwards that every male member of the Hell’s Angels in the Penn backdrop bore a striking resemblance to our guitarist Bobby Waterson, the only band member unable to make the shoot)
BMB : When you’re shooting Dark Horses, how much input do they have and how much is about your vision for the band?
TV : Everybody involved with Dark Horses has their own vision they bring but together it works.. Though it’s a collaboration, we all trust each others individual strengths & input. There’s a dialogue but we have our own areas we work in. So I have freedom… Pierre Angélique the filmmaker behind the videos has played a very significant role also.
BMB : Your work with the band covers reportage shots, promo shoots and live shots, have you got any favourite local locations or venues to shoot them?
TV : I’d say it’s the reportage I enjoy the most… I don’t have favourite locations & don’t tend to shoot that much locally… Anywhere can be good.. There was a particularly hot & atmospheric derelict building we used as a rehearsal space in Malta with an abandoned wedding dress floating in a heavy old wardrobe.. a beautiful forest we explored in Switzerland.. We did a show with Sigur Ros in an 8000 seater outdoor amphitheatre in Perth which was an incredible setting, particularly memorable for me as I’d broken my toes earlier that day so fighting my way through the crowd from the stage at the bottom of the valley to the very top for a wide shot was pretty scary. The best however shots could equally come from a Holiday Inn car park.
BMB : You’ve traveled quite a bit with Dark Horses, occasionally taking an exhibition of your photos with you. Are there any tales you can share, or does what happen on tour stay on tour?
TV : It does to an extent stay on tour. it’s an amazing thing to do but mostly not that glamorous. Some of the best after parties happen in the back of the van.The best part is the time spent together, experiences shared & the people you meet along the way. In Malta (with Kinemastik & Bare Bones) we took over an entire subway underpass as an exhibition space, pasting giant prints directly to the walls, we had a launch party down there too with a bar & music. Rather than being taken down afterwards the prints stayed up long after we’d left slowly disintegrating over time. We’ve spent quite a bit of time with the Dandy Warhol’s & that’s always good. We played an impromptu game of Boule with Pete Doherty in a field in France once. I can’t remember who won.
Bjork by Ali Tollervey
BMB : Is your music photography just limited to Dark Horses, or have you shot other bands?
TV : I’m not solely a music photographer but I’ve always been involved with music in one way or another, I ran a record shop, promoted shows for several years, worked on music videos etc so I have photographed many bands in different contexts.. My first proper official live show where I had a photo pass was Bjork, I had a very basic old film camera & all the old pros in the photo pit must have thought I was a joke. My first real portrait session was with David Axelrod, I got to spend an hour with him which was amazing. Like a lot photographers I used to document the scenes going on around me. I realise I don’t go to so many gigs with my camera anymore though, I think I just want to enjoy the show.
BMB : Finally, will you be shooting the band at their gig on 12th October?
TV : I haven’t decided yet, it will be hard not to but they’ve worked out an amazing set for this one off show so I may wish to simply be a spectator.
Horse Latitudes, an exhibition of Ali Tollervey’s photos of Dark Horses is on at The Hope now and runs until the 2nd November, with Dark Horses playing live tonight.