February 25, 2012 | Posted By: Liem Nguyen
Here's a look back at one of my most memorable nights and huge milestones in photography, to-date. A night where I was given the sole opportunity to shoot photographs for an artist as their guest. This night was for Dia Frampton, her sister Meg Frampton, and their band consisting of Nick Price, Carlo Gimenez, and Jonathan Synder, also known as the cohesive band called "Meg & Dia". This blog write-up will explain to you how the decisions I made the past few months got me this opportunity as well as show you how memorable this first real photography gig was like.
So, everyone biggest question to me was how was I so lucky to get the attention of or even get the opportunity to take pictures for the talented and Frampton sisters and the Meg & Dia band? My answer isn't a simple and short one as it depended on all the decisions I made and all the things that happened through the past few months. What I can tell you is that it didn't require any spamming on their Twitter or Facebook, and it didn't require any bargaining chip. It only took one person to take notice of my photography skills, Meg, and it only took the courage of one person, me, to ask the right questions.
All the decision making started back in middle of December of 2011. Dia Frampton released an announcement that she should be going on tour with Blake Shelton and headline shows in between. When I looked at their schedule for their tour, I noticed that they had one show that's much closer to my house at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia where they open for Blake. Then, there's another show a few weeks earlier in Towson, Maryland, which was further away from my house, about an hour and a half away. As everyone may have already known, I choose the headlining show in Towson over the one closer to home. During this headlining show, I took videos and photographs from the show which can be seen if your read my blog write-up for that show.
After the show, I started to follow Meg on twitter and friend requested her on her Facebook personal page (luckily before she was forced to migrate to a fan page due to the friend limitation). It was a few days after I released the blog write-up and all the footage from the Towson show, and it was when the unthinkable happened. Meg, instant messages me on Facebook chat out of the blue and complimented me on the blog write-up and the pictures I took. She asked me for permission to post some of my pictures on her blog. Without hesitation, I told her it would be an honor for her to use my pictures on her blog. After telling all my friends and colleagues that I was in disbelief that Meg contacted me about using my pictures, I started to hear a lot of them say I should ask if I could be the band's photography when they come back in a few weeks in Virginia. At first, I was against the idea because I didn't think it would be possible and couldn't see why they would choose someone like me. After sleeping it over, I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask her about the photography gig.
The next time I saw Meg online on Facebook, I carefully picked the right words to ask since she obviously doesn't know me well, and I didn't want to come off rubbing the wrong way nor did want to put her in a predicament to make any tough decision. When I did ask her, there was a semi-long pause which I started to worry for the worst, but she responded with asking what kind of camera I had and that I would have to go through the approval process with Blake's record label. She asked for my email address which I gave her and she forwarded on to her manager to get the process moving along.
Just a few hours later, about 1:00 am in the morning, I was carbon-copied on an email from Meg's manager to Blake's record label. The email to them stated that Meg and the rest of the band would like me to come to their Fairfax, Virginia show and that Meg said she spoke very high of me and my photography skills. Just hearing that from Meg's manager made me feel really good and how much my photography skills have grown in just several years. A few days later, Meg personally emails me back and asked me to fill out a photo authorization form. Again, I was in disbelief because Meg could have easily let her manager take care of the whole thing, but she went out of the way to email me back. I read the form and it was very detailed of what I can and cannot do. I had so many questions, but held off on asking until I got approved. At a high level, it said I could only shoot pictures during the second and third song of their set from the sound board, with no backstage access. I had the authorization form filled out same night and had it scanned, PDF-ed, and emailed back to Meg. At this point, I didn't expect much but just a chance to shoot pictures for Meg & Dia.
A week passes by, and there hasn't been any updates from Blake's publicists. During this whole approval process, I still am feel strongly about my "no spamming" mentality because I know how much I hate spamming. On Thursday, a few days before the show, I tweeted Meg to see if she had heard any updates, and she direct messaged me back saying she'll get an update from her manager. The next day I get an email from Meg's manager asking the record label for an update. He also then asked me if I shoot video. I said I can do video too, but it would require an another body to help me out. This required more approval to shoot video and for someone to come with me.
This approval processed dragged on until the day of the show. Fearing that the approval process may not go forward, I recommended to Meg's manager that we should stick with only still photo and myself to speed up the process. I wasn't until about 2:00pm (five and a half hours before the show), that I was officially approved. Meg's manager said that I should come around 6:30pm when doors open and that he'll have more information for me after his security meeting that afternoon. Luckily, I asked my friend Yong if I could borrow his Canon 24-70mm F2.8 professional grade lens for this occasion, so I am expected to take even better pictures this time around.
I decided to go to CVS and have an 8x10" picture of me and Meg and Dia Frampton from the Towson show printed in an hour so they can sign since I am not sure the next time they will be back in town. This would be a good time as any to get it signed. I left to head to the Patriot Center around 5:30pm and arrived at the venue at around 6:00pm. With my camera and my gear strapped around my back and my tripod at hand, I started to walk torwards the bus parking area where Meg and Dia's manager told me to wait for him. I gave him a call and it went straight to voicemail as expected since they were supposedly finishing up sound check for the show. I left a message for him, and he called back about half an hour later. He asked me where I was, and responded by saying I'm next to buses, but it looks to be the wrong bus area. I asked him which entrance he was next to and said he was at the South entrance next to Justin Moore's truck.
I soon found out that I was on the West side of the venue, so I made my way down to the South entrance and found Justin Moore's truck. I gave their manager a call again, and let him know I found the truck. Just soon after we hung up, he found me, and we finally greeted each other and glad to have finally met each other in person. He asked if I was hungry, and I said sure I wouldn't mind getting something to eat. He gave me my backstage pass as well as my media pass. The night has already been more than I have expected. Their manager said that with the backstage pass, I can roam around anywhere backstage except for Blake and Justin's dressing room.
We made it into the small little dining room area where it was buffet style. I got myself some Pad Thai, potatoes, roast beef, and a Sprite. I didn't get too much food because I was already nervous as I was. I sat down with Dia's crew and management team to eat, and I introduced myself. While we quickly ate dinner, their manager said that he would like me to shoot some pictures backstage before the show started, take pictures right on stage during the whole performance, and take some shots backstage after their set is done. My mind was blown. This was when I knew this was my big break, and this is the photography opportunity that anyone could have hoped for and more. Shooting pictures on stage for the artists is so huge and is such a privilege! Dia then came in and also ate something real quick with her Shredder mask on because she was sick. I couldn't remember if she remembered me or not, but I didn't expect her to. She did ask if I was Meg's friend, and I didn't know how to respond, but I guess I'm Meg's friend now, so I responded to answer and confirm her question.
After we finished eating, their manager took me on stage and showed me where I can shoot pictures. He and their crew went through each song to let me know where exactly where Meg and Dia will be playing, standing, singing. It was repeated many times that he wanted a wide angle shot of the crowd with Dia in the picture after the 5th song. This was definitely one shot I didn't want to miss nor mess up. He also said that I could hop off the stage to take pictures from the front row. I looked down and my eyes opened up wide, and in my head I said, "wow, that leap is about a four to five feet jump and that I think it might safer to just run to the stairs". He, then said, that tonight's show is going to very fast pace and that their set is only going to be about half hour, so it won't give me much to work with.
Next, their manager took me to the Dia's main dressing room where all the guys were getting ready for the show. We step in and I can see Carlo on his laptop, and Nick on his drums getting his rhythm down during warm-up. I started to take some shots of both of them. Carlo and Nick started to do some re-enactment to make pictures a bit more entertaining. Jonathan then comes in and starts to talk with the rest of the guys. I continued on snapping pictures. Their manager came in to see how I was doing.
We, then, headed over to the girl's shower dressing room to take some shots of Dia and Meg getting ready. We come in and I start to take pictures of both of them putting make-up on. I was able to take some nice shots of both of them including one with a cute story behind the picture. Meg is on her laptop and Dia tells Meg to get dressed because they go on stage in 20mins. What Dia didn't realize was that Meg was already dressed since she had her jacket on. Meg jumped up out of her chair in high heels and took her jacket off and said, "I'm already dressed, see!" After a few moments, the whole band comes into the girl's small shower room.
The night starts off with Dia and the band opening the show, then with Justin Moore being the middle act, and Blake Shelton headlining his show to end the night. The show is about to start, and the band and their manager start to get out on stage to psych themselves with a little cheer and a little chant. The lights start to go on, and the band gets situated on stage and here we go. I take a deep breathe and see thousands and thousands of people from the stage watching. It was pretty intimidating and exhilarating at the same time to be on stage taking pictures of the band while people are cheering them on.
During the first song, I was only taking pictures from the sides of the stage because I was really nervous and didn't want to get in anyone's view who paid to see the show. One of their crew came up to me and said that their manager gave me full access to the stage and that I should go in deeper to get better pictures, so that's what I did and that's when the fun begins. Knowing that I now have much less than half an hour left, I rush around the stage and off the stage in front row and the floor to get good pictures. It was a good workout! I didn't stay in one area too long and went with the flow where Dia, Meg, and the rest of theband were situated for each of their song performances. Everything that their manager told me about where each person was going to stand was out the door. I didn't remember anything except for the one shot I keep hearing him say over and over again about having a good shot of the crowd and Dia at the end of the 5th song.
Near the end of Dia's set, I can see myself already starting to sweat from running around a lot. You'd see me go from the left of the stage, going in deeper, then run to the right side the stage by running through the dark rear of the stage where I may have trembled over a few times, run off stage to the front rows and near the walk way, then back on stage. I would be doing that throughout the night. Then the fifth song ends, and I prepare myself by standing behind Dia sitting on the stage to take a picture of the crowd. I then finish taking shoots of the last song performance of their set before Dia leaves the stage and the rest of the band finish jamming on stage.
As the band gets off stage, they stage taking about the show and how it went. I continue snapping pictures before they start heading back into dressing room to change out of their stage attire and start showering. They were all complimenting me on how great I was on stage with them. I got in as far as I could on stage and at the same time not getting into their way. They also thought it was entertaining to see me run around taking pictures of them because I was like the Flash. They would look over one second and I was there and they look away turn around and I'm gone.
With Dia's set now completely over, I packed up my tripod that I didn't even use and my camera gear then went to leave it in the trunk of my car and left my photo pass there too. I, then, headed back in backstage and went back into the dressing room hang out and talked with the guys. Nick showed me all the footage he collected from the tour on this video player. He would stick up his video player in different angles at each show and recorded the audio and capture whatever video he could get from one angle each night. I kept telling all of them about how much I loved their "Monster" music video and how creative their glowing heart concept was. Nick told pretty cool behind the scenes story where the glowing hearts were actually a hazard, and it started to catch fire or even burn their skin because of the bulbs were to strong.
Carlo then asked how long I was taking pictures and if I studied photography. I guess they were a bit surprised to find out that I graduated from George Mason University with a business degree. I let them know I've only been taking pictures for the past several years and that I've been doing this for a lot of independent artists. He then tells me that my pictures show a lot of strong personality which makes my pictures unique and stand out. It felt really nice and really good hearing him and the rest of the band say that about my pictures. I then brought up Kina Grannis and her latest music video and how creative her "In Your Arm" music video was. Surprisingly, Nick hasn't heard of her, but Carlo has. They were both very impressed with the Jelly Belly music video. Carlo even made a remark that it would be great if Kina could tour with them one day. If that ever happens, that would be really great.
Meg later came into the main dressing room while Dia gets ready again to perform with Blake later in his set. We started to talk to Meg about how her process of migrating from her Facebook personal page to a fan page was like. It was the first time I've seen anyone seamlessly convert over where their existing friends converted over to a fan page like. She definitely confirmed that she was conflicted to convert over to a fan page because she enjoyed the perks of a Facebook personal profile where she can communicate with her fans which she now can't anymore with a fan page. I then pulled out the 8x10" picture i had printed earlier and asked her to sign it which she did.
Later in the night, the band asked if I ever seen Blake perform live before, which I said I haven't, and they said that I should go check him out before Dia gets on stage with him. Forgetting that I could do so because I had backstage passes, I went out to see Blake perform from backstage. I'm not a big fan of country music, but Blake was great on stage. It was nearly full venue and they were all cheering Blake on and singing along with him. Finally, it was almost time for Dia to get on stage to perform "I Will" with Blake, and I spot her standing next to her manager. I went by and stood next to Dia before she went on. She looks down and smiles and tries to stay relaxed. She finally takes the stage, and I get to see her perform without having to snap a picture. They were great on stage! After they finish performing "I Will", Dia heads back to her dressing room to finally call it a night as I continue to watch Blake perform. I check Twitter and notice Meg took some really nice pictures of Blake and Dia during their performance, so I tweeted a comment back to her.
Blake finally finishes his set and Meg and Dia's manager texts me to see where I was. I responded saying I was heading back to the dressing room after finishing up seeing Blake perform. As I entered in, it looks like they were nearly all packed up and ready to leave for their next show. Meg tells me it was funny how she noticed my tweet to her earlier about her Blake and Dia instagram pictures. The last thing I wanted to do before leaving was get my 8x10" picture signed by Dia. Meg went to find Dia, so I can leave a happy man haha! A few minutes later, Dia came in with Meg and I got the picture for her to sign. She signs it and thanked me for coming to take pictures. I then thanked her so much for having me.
I then say my good byes to Meg and thanked her so much for this huge opportunity. I gave her a hug, and her manager escorted me out. We shook hands and I let their manager know once the pictures were edited and ready, so they can get approved to be shared out to the general public. I was so lucky and fortunate to be able to hang out with the whole band for the whole night. I left the venue with the biggest smile ever.
I spent the next several days editing the pictures. I wanted to have the pictures edited as quickly as possible even though their manager said I can take my time. I knew that I had to be professional and have a realistic turnaround to show I can keep up with demand. I know I wouldn't want pictures to take weeks or months to complete when it can be done sooner.
I didn't start looking at the pictures until the next day because I was so worried if the pictures turned out okay or not. After a few days of editing, I notice Nick was online on Facebook chat, so I quickly just messaged him and said hi. He responded with greeting me and saying that the band was just talking about me. I just wanted to let him know that the picture editing is nearing complete and that they are turning out great.
Once the pictures were done, I had them uploaded to my SmugMug page with a password until I got approval from Blake's record label to have it shared out. A few days before the label approved my pictures, Meg hand chose a few pictures to upload on to her Facebook fan page. I was able to use that to share out to people as a little teaser.
Overall, this first time photo opportunity was such a huge learning experience for me. I was so fortunate that I could this. I'm sure that if I get another break like this, I will be even more prepared.
If you'd like to see the rest of the pictures you can click on the image below or even check out my Liem Nguyen Photography Facebook fan page.
If you're interested to know more about Dia and Meg Frampton and would like hear more music by them, please do check out their websites and social network pages below. As always, go out and support them by going to their shows and buying their music.
Meg & Dia
If you'd like to read up on more shows and see more pictures and videos I've taken at live shows, please be sure to visit http://shows.LiemPhoto.com.