Everyone who has been to a concert knows how difficult it is to take a good photo in a dark crowded room where nobody stands still. The purpose of a music photographer is to capture the moment, the essence of the band – not just a group of people on a stage. Flemming Bo Jensen’s work lets you experience exciting live music events without actually being there but makes you wish you had. We caught up with one of Denmark’s most skilled music photographers to find out what it takes to tour with The Minds of 99 and have the shows unfold in front of his camera.
How did you get into music photography?
I have been taking pictures since 1998. It started with travel photography. I was travelling a lot, but I also had been into music since I was a kid. It just never crossed my mind that you could combine the two… Around 2011 I switched to a compact system of Fujifilm, which meant that I could have a camera on me all the time, so I started bringing it to concerts.
Almost immediately I was able to fully tap into some instinct, it felt so natural. I am a documentary photographer, so I don’t really enjoy posing people and creating scenes.
Music is a childhood passion, my room was decorated with posters of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, all my heroes. It seemed like such a magical scene, an industry of gods who I could worship and where I did not belong. But then I realised – hey, I have a camera and skills, so I can fit in and have my little corner in this wonderful area that is music. Ideally, of course, I would love to be on stage in a band, but we can’t all be that. Lots of people have lots of functions at a concert, and I am happy to have found my place.
What was it like being on tour with The Minds of 99?
It was the most fun and the best gigs I have ever done and, maybe, will ever do! A dream come true. It was my first time actually being embedded on a tour, and I got to start off with my favourite band in huge arenas! The Minds of 99 tour means a lot of hard work with really long days, but you are working with the best in their field. There is a reason why they are considered the best live band, and it’s not only because the music is good. Every single person in the Minds’ crew, whether they do management, production, sound or light, is incredibly skilled at delivering the best live experience. It was so important for me to deliver the best work too. The first day in Aalborg was very special because the Minds’ photo book came out, having arrived at the venue just half an hour before the show. Too many dreams came true in one day! I spent a long time afterwards thinking, “Now what? There has to be a goal…”
How did your day on the job look like?
My day started around midnight, the rough time of coming back to the hotel after the show. I would back up the photos and charge the batteries. You want to avoid the horror of accidentally formatting a memory card!
During breakfast, I would select some pictures for the band’s social media. Then we would drive to the next city, where the stage was already built because the production team doesn’t sleep at all.
The soundcheck is really cool. Some photos can only be taken during the rehearsals when there is no crowd. I also used this time to study the arena, figure out how long it takes to walk from one point to another, where I would stand and how to get there.
When it comes to the concert, I would run into the venue together with the fans because I am a fan too, and I get to say hi to those I have seen many times. The show itself blows by way too fast.
It takes me a couple of hours to edit the photos. There may be 2000 after one show, but I will deliver between 50 and 80. I am not interested in photos that are just okay – they have to be freaking awesome.
Tell us more about The Minds of 99 photo book
The idea has been around for a long time, but last summer we finally decided to make this photo book documenting the entire history of The Minds of 99, complemented by lyrics. As the photo editor, I gathered and organised all the pictures of the band, made by every photographer over the years. I had to make sure that we had documentation of every event, starting from the first trip to SPOT Festival and early gigs. In the end, there were around 1600 pictures for the team to choose from. I know every single one. Pick any of those 1600 and I can tell you where, when and by whom it was taken.
It is not a photography book to be studied by 50 other photographers. It is going to be seen by thousands of fans of The Minds of 99, and that is what I love about it.
What was the most memorable show you have photographed?
I have been working for Strøm Festival in Copenhagen since 2012. They organise incredibly creative electronic music events in unconventional places. We had concerts on moving trains, a midnight techno show with lasers inside the Frederiksberg Swimming Pool. Nobody was sure if it was going to work, but it was just magic. It is hard to pick just one show. Sometimes small events like Strøm are really nice. However, the Royal Arena with The Minds of 99 is still playing in my head.
What do you wish you had known when you started as a music photographer?
The main thing I have learnt is patience. Sometimes you have to put the camera down and just observe the crowd, the lights, and everything else. Spend some time finding good angles. Especially if you are to shoot the whole show, there is no need to rush it. Instead of chasing the action, I wait for the action to come to me.
Please share one music photo that is special to you. Maybe something with a backstory or a special memory attached to it?
This is Anders Folke Larsen of The Minds of 99 in Aarhus. Having ran up to the stands with him, I was about to start shooting, and this big spotlight came on. It hit the camera and blinded me. Because I had a fisheye lens, I couldn’t see what was happening at the sides as I was trying to frame the shot.
I love this picture because it reminds me of how fun it was to run around the venue during the concert, past the fans recognising us, actually making it up there, and not realising until later that the photo turned out perfect on the edges. The fans on one side are going crazy, the couple on the other side kissing. This picture captures people’s love for music and love for each other.
See more of Flemming Bo Jensen’s work on his website.