Life on Tour: The Journey

December 15, 2009

Pat Graham is a professional photographer who lives in London. He has spent the last 20 years working primarily as a music photographer, traveling the world with touring bands. Pat continues to tour, documenting musicians, as well as shooting for commercial clients. In a series for Converse.com, Pat offers some verbal and visual insight into life on the road.

To me, photographing musicians goes far beyond their live performances. For years I took pictures bands playing on stages, which was fun and still is. To get to the stage can be somewhat of an arduous journey for a photographer. You can end up circling the stages like a certain English band in a certain mockumentary did.

I’ve not only gotten lost getting to stage, but I’ve had travel mis-steps across the globe. I once did a European tour where myself and the band shared a beat-up van. It’s easy to forget that there was a time before satellite navigation, and having multiple non-native speakers trying to follow a map in a different language can get extremely dicey. Lost doesn’t explain the half of it.

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The recent tours have been on tour busses. Both Modest Mouse and The Cribs spent their formative days behind the wheel of vans, driving thousands of miles cross-country. All this driving, and playing gigs, as well as writing great music has resulted in the bands being able to now have the tour bus.

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The tour bus is such an amazing thing to have. It’s like a moving home that you get to share with all your friends. As someone else drives, we get to relax and revel in the changing climates, countries, and cultures. It is a home away from home for most traveling musicians, which comes in handy, especially during the muddy summer festival seasion. The bus is the place to be; it offers solitude from the madness outside, which can take a variety of forms.

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Busses like everything else do have some disadvantages. The loss of control of when and where you are going means you can no longer re-route the van to stop and get ice cream, or get off track and explore on a whim. For me the biggest loss is missing out on the landscapes. The majority of driving happens at night, which leads to plenty of missed photo opportunities, but the good outweighs the bad.

When they do I glue myself to a window and press my lens against the glass. It can be difficult to capture anything when the scenery whizzes by at seventy miles an hour.

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PS: Pat’s first book of photography, ‘Silent Pictures,’ was released through NYC’s Akashic Books and can be ordered from www.patgraham.org. His second book, ‘Instrument,’ is being published by Chronicle Books, and is due for release in Spring 2011.

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