January 31, 2012
Southern Indiana photographer Stewart honored with gallery Concert shots featured through April 22
By David A. Mann
News & Tribune
LOUISVILLE — Photographing Beatles legend Paul McCartney has been one career highlight. Listening to bluesman BB King share stories was another. And then there were the fun shows — the Flaming Lips’ psychedelic sets or My Morning Jacket’s onstage antics.
They are all memorable moments for New Albany photographer C. Michael Stewart, 54. And through spring, Stewart’s work is being celebrated with a gallery at the Louisville Science Center. The gallery, a part of the science center’s exhibit called “GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World,” features 35 photos from Stewart’s career. They tie in to “All Access,” an IMAX film being shown as a part of the exhibit.
Santana, Trey Anastasio, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson and many more are among the artists featured.
For Stewart, who’s president and chief executive officer of Voluforms, photography started as a hobby.
“Photography is something I’ve done all my life,” Stewart said.
Initially, his camera got a lot of use on family vacations and other such events. Then, as his kids got older and began playing sports, he upped the ante on his camera equipment, he said. After they went on to college, he decided to pursue event photography because music had always been an interest, as well.
“Ever since I got cut from my sixth-grade basketball team, music was my other ally,” he said.
He began shooting concerts for the News and Tribune, Hittin’ the Note Magazine and other publications. Shortly thereafter, Stewart got a regular gig covering the headlining acts that came through Horseshoe Indiana Casino.
“From there, it just kind of worked out,” he said.
He started covering Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., Wanee Festival in Live Oak, Fla., and Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Though Stewart also does sports photography, with a regular gig with the Louisville Bats, he said he enjoys live performances the most because of the hurdles it presents.
“It is the most challenging work in the business,” he said.
For an indoor show, lighting is always a question. For a big outdoor festival, he’s usually cramped into a small space with 80 to 100 other photographers.
Adjustments also have to be made when shooting an entire band as opposed to shooting a solo artist.
“I always overcompensate. I come with several lenses. I’m changing lenses on the fly,” he said.
In some situations, he’ll come equipped with a couple of cameras, so as to switch quickly between a telephoto and a short-range lens.
Most of the time, artists are specific as to when a photographer can shoot a show. Usually, they’ll get the first three songs, he said. Some times the circumstances are trickier — Lady GaGa, for instance, only wanted her sixth and seventh songs shot.
Staying out of the action is also a part of the job.
“They want you to be invisible,” he said. “You’re not supposed to be a part of the show.”
Though it’s work, he admits there have been thrilling moments in which he’s met plenty of high-profile performers.
“Snoop Dogg was totally different than I thought he’d be,” he said. “BB King just loved to talk.”
Some of his favorite artists to photograph have been Taylor Swift, Kiss, Aerosmith and My Morning Jacket.
“They all pose with good light,” he said.
The guitar exhibit is open until April 22. For more information, check out louisvillescience.org. Check out cmichaelsphotos.com for a sampling of his work.