Hazy Eye Music Media is proud to announce the second interview in a series of interviews I’m currently conducting with some of my favorite concert photographers. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and have begun picking the brains of some phenomenal photographers. My interviews in this series focus on “local” concert photographers. That is photographers around DC, MD, and VA. The DMV as we call it.
Anyway, check it out! I, Andy Jillson, was fortunate enough to interview Rob Wallace. Rob is a topnotch concert photographer and has covered a wide variety of great musical artists. Rob truly loves music and photography, and it shows in his work. He is a member of the I.M.P. house photographer team and shoots at multiple venues around the DMV such as The Anthem, 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theatre, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and Wolf Trap. Continue reading below for my full interview with Rob Wallace.
AJ: Hi Rob! How are you?!?
RW: I am doing great!
AJ: Can you introduce yourself and tell us your general location and where you primarily shoot shows?
RW: My name is Rob Wallace and I’m based in the Washington, D.C. area. I shoot all around D.C. and other nearby locations like VA and Baltimore, MD.
AJ: You’re definitely among the most talented concert photographers around DC, MD, and VA. When and how did you start shooting concerts and reviewing live performances?
RW: Greatly appreciate it. I really started shooting in the reggae genre because D.C. has a lot of Reggae bands and it seemed to be the easiest way to get in with a band and start building a portfolio.
AJ: What inspired(s) you as a photographer? Why photograph concerts?
RW: I remember going to a SOJA show in Richmond, VA and seeing their photographer running around the venue, and I thought that seems like a really fun job so I decided to start acquiring gear and taking some photography classes. I ended up meeting their photographer, John Shore, who is a local photographer and he was instrumental in helping me learn the ins and outs of concert photography.
AJ: Do you also write live concert reviews, album reviews, or interview musicians? If so, what inspired(s) you as a writer/music journalist? Why write about live music or musicians?
RW: I have done all of one interview with Phil Anselmo from Pantera and I used to write reviews, but now I mostly just do house photography gigs for I.M.P., Wolf Trap Foundation, and The National in Richmond, VA. I’m not much of a writer to be honest, but I really like capturing the emotion and action of a live performance.
AJ: What are some of your favorite venues to photograph at around the DMV?
RW: I would say my absolute favorites are The Anthem, 9:30 Club, Wolf Trap, and Merriweather.
AJ: What type of camera equipment do you normally use when shooting shows? What are your preferred lenses and camera settings?
RW: I use a very specific set of settings to get my focus to how I like. I also use my two Nikon 750s usually depending on the venue with a 70-200 lens on one and either a wider zoom lens on the other or I will go with a prime wide lens if it is a darker venue.
AJ: How do you edit your photos? Any particular editing programs or techniques you regularly use?
RW: I do all my work in Adobe Lightroom.
AJ: What were the first 3 shows you obtained photo passes for? How were you able to obtain the photo passes? What were the experiences like?
RW: The first show I got was Tribal Seeds at 9:30 club, second was SOJA at Wolf Trap, and third was See-I. They were a lot of fun and the one that was the most special was SOJA because I met their photographer, John Shore, at this show and he invited me to shoot the See-I show at Eighteenth Street Lounge. They played every Wednesday night in a room that is laced with gold walls and he said “if you can shoot here you will be able to shoot at any venue” because there is no barricade, it’s packed, and the lights in there aren’t the best. It really pushes you as a photographer though. It enables you to learn the limits of your camera and what you can do in editing.
AJ: Any photographic or musical projects planned for the near future?
RW: As for the future, I have no idea what that holds. I am usually busy in the summer at Wolf Trap, but with the cancellation of the summer season I’m not sure when I will be back out there shooting shows again.
AJ: When and where was the last show you photographed? What bands were playing? What do you remember about it? Anything particularly interesting about the last show you covered?
RW: The last show I covered was Michael Kiwanuka at Lincoln Theatre and Sammy Brue was opening. He was incredible and was an act I had been trying to see. We are lucky to have so many historic buildings/music venues. Lincoln Theatre is a cool place to see a show if you have a chance.
AJ: How have you been staying active/keeping yourself busy since coronavirus altered our world?
RW: Well, I’m a government contractor so I have been lucky to still be working and still have a constant income coming in. I am also a really big Star Wars fan so I have taken on the task of building a full-sized, remote controlled R2-D2 built completely out of aluminum. That has taken up a lot of my time.
AJ: What have you been listening to? Any particular artists and/or albums you’ve recently discovered or rediscovered?
RW: With the early release of the new Run The Jewels I have been listening to that quite a bit.
AJ: Are you a record collector? If so, what are a few of your most valued/loved records? If not, do you collect something else?
RW: I do collect records and I specifically like to collect signed vinyl. I currently have some signed by Twin Temple, Bully, Tenacious D, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, and Behemoth. I also collect all things Star Wars and have a whole basement full of collectibles.
AJ: Have you watched or read anything interesting lately?
RW: Binge watching Disney Plus or What We Do In The Shadows.
AJ: What are your best memories/proudest moments of being a photographer?
RW: I think my proudest moments are being a house photographer for some of these local venues/companies like I.M.P. and Wolf Trap. They are iconic and I think it’s special that they trust me to document some of their big shows. Also anytime an artist says they like a photo. That means I did my job right.
AJ: Any funny, embarrassing, or awkward moments while in a photo pit?
RW: I think the funniest moment I can remember off the top of my head was Damian Marley at The Anthem. There were a lot of big name reggae acts on the bill and they all had entourages, but by the time Damian took the stage there were over 50 random people and “social media influencers” in the pit shooting the show with iphones and ipads. It was a cluster but I laughed about it.
AJ: Top 5 best concerts you’ve photographed?
RW: These are always the hardest questions for me, but I think off the top of my head (just because they were big names that I considered legends) it would have to be; Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler, Stevie Nicks, and “Vets Aid” which was Joe Walsh, Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban, and Gary Clark Jr.
AJ: Top 5 all-time favorite bands/artists?
RW: I listen to so much this is kind of difficult to answer as well, but I would go with Behemoth, Bob Marley, Run The Jewels, The Black Keys, and Ghost.
AJ: What artists are on your bucket list? Who do you dream of photographing one day?
RW: I think right now Post Malone and Billie Eilish are really popular and I find them pretty interesting so I would like to cover both. Most of my bucket list consists of people that are far gone like Queen (original), Bob Marley, The Doors, Hendrix, and Amy Winehouse.
AJ: Anything you want to add to this interview? Any last words for the readers?
RW: I can’t think of much more honestly except that I can’t wait to get back out to shows and see everyone in person again.
AJ: Thanks Rob! Fin.
Check out Rob’s official website, Mindful Photo, to see more of his work!