Melbourne photographer Kane Hibberd is a regular between the barrier and the stage at festivals Australia-wide, and he’s documented five years of shooting the Soundwave festival in a new book – Kanye Lens vs Soundwave Volume 1.
You think you’ve got it tough trying to see every band on your festival wishlist? Kane Hibberd arguably has an even tougher gig – trying to photograph every band on the bill while carrying his camera kit through packed festival grounds in conditions that can range from searing heat to torrential downfall.
That he does so from the best vantage point in the house – that inlet of land between the crowd barrier and the front of the stage – is a perk of the job, though it’s not one Kane would be able to enjoy if he weren’t one of the best in the business.
He’s not only been a regular cover photographer for the Street Press Australia network of newspapers and been commissioned by a wide range of companies to shoot their events, but is also the official photographer for the Soundwave Festival. He’s toured the country with the rock, metal and punk music behemoth every year since 2008, the results of which are documented in his first book, Kanye Lens vs Soundwave Volume 1.
“Back in 2008 when they decided to take the tour national, I got approached,” Kane explains of his Soundwave connection. “Originally they said, ‘give us a quote to do the tour’, so I quoted them and it went to ‘oh, maybe give us a quote for east coast’.
“And then it was ‘oh, maybe just do Melbourne’!” he laughs. “Being a start-up festival, you don’t have a lot of funds and it’s always tough for a couple of years.
"So I said to them, ‘I think this is a going to be a really great festival and I want to document it and hopefully do a book one day’. I booked my own flights and accommodation and basically travelled around with it. At the end of the final festival in Perth, [Soundwave Festival promoter] AJ [Maddah] called me into the office and said he’d seen my photos and said ‘send me an invoice and we’ll cover all your costs’.
“I’m so glad that I took the initiative and did what I did, because it’s turned into a beast!”
Nearly six years in the making, Kanye Lens vs Soundwave Volume 1 is a beast in its own right – a 450 hard cover book of over 600 photographs (including Bad Religion, Bring Me The Horizon, The Bronx, and The Offspring) taken on the festival’s five laps of the Australian mainland capitals between 2008 and 2012, and sprinkled with quotes from a selection of the acts involved.
“It is primarily photos – I just wanted nice, big, strong images that people could flick through and get a holistic view of what Soundwave is about,” Kane says of a project that he spent much of the back half of 2012 putting together. “There’s not only artists, there’s plenty of crowd stuff, random crew members, and the book’s flow is set up to be ‘a day in the life of Soundwave’ – from people lining up to get in to people setting up stuff to the day of the festival.”
Kane’s career behind the camera began in 2005, shooting gigs on a DSLR around Melbourne and quickly building his rep via his prior industry connections and word-of-mouth. A return to study with a plan to shoot interiors for a living was quickly nixed by a lecturer who saw some of his live shots (“he said ‘these are fantastic, because you’re really bad at shooting interiors’!”), and he naturally turned to his friends in bands to practice his portraiture skills.
Along the way, he’s picked up a trick or two that aspiring photographers might like to heed.
“You just have to study your craft,” he says. “There are so many people out there shooting gigs – some of them are aspiring photographers, other people shoot it just for the love of it. To really differentiate yourself from that crowd, you’ve got to have strong imagery. Just make sure that you only ever show the best photos that you have, it’s all about quality over quantity.
“It’s better to shoot 50 gigs for the whole year and only get 20 great photos out of it than shoot 50 gigs and have a gallery of 400 photos. You want to make sure that when people do look at your photos they’re blown away – you’ve got to make sure that it’s all impact and wow when you do your work.”
And as Kane prepares to once again hit the road with Soundwave, what else does 2013 have in store?
“I’ve got a few things on the go at the moment that are a bit hush-hush,” he hints, “but hopefully you’ll see me on TV in the next six months if it all works out!”
Kanye Lens vs Soundwave Volume 1, is available now @ http://www.kanyelens.com/.