Maaike Ronhaar has always had a passion for music, and frequently found herself at concerts and festivals, which she explains, gave her a magical feeling. But what she didn’t realise, until she began documenting musicians, was how much hard work and time these artists invest into their music. “It is that commitment that I am trying to capture in my images,” she says.
Maaike’s work in music photography focuses on the passion and intimacy behind the scenes that can only be found when following a band on tour. Joining a tour, she enthuses, allows you to “become part of the team” and “blend in perfectly”, which is perfect for creating her style of images.
To capture these moments, her camera of choice is the α7R III alongside her trusty α7S II, which she still uses occasionally for very high ISO shooting in extremely low light conditions, and which has been by her side throughout the years.
For her series, ‘All That Moves Around Music’ it is Maaike’s documentary images of the artists that take centre stage. “I chose the title as I wanted to highlight that there is more than just the artist on stage, and there is more to music than people realise,” she explains.
Whilst some may focus on the energy and adrenaline on stage, for Maaike it’s the moments when the band are off stage that she is most interested in; “I always try to capture more intimate moments. I have an image where Tyler Bryant is leaning back on a sofa with his guitar - before shows, after shows, he always has his guitar in his hands and he is playing or recording. In the image he is really zoned out in his own world. It is a really intimate time where he is with his own thoughts. For me, this is a magical moment.”
In order to capture natural images of a band, with a real sense of intimacy, Maaike explains the importance of being able to blend in on tour with a band. In fact, she says, as a photographer it’s important to appear invisible. The moment you get on the tour bus you are in the band’s home. She explains, “It’s not about you as a person or a photographer. It’s only about the band, and you have to try to blend in to that.” An example of this can be seen in an emotive image captured backstage, of Dennis Duijnhouwer “taking a moment in the hallway”, before his big performance.
When we think of the scene of a band backstage or on their tour bus, we usually imagine flowing alcohol and late-night parties, but Maaike explains that the reality for most bands is very different. Musicians are human, and like the rest of us suffer from stress, exhaustion and illness, but, as they say, the show must go on.
“One of my images is of Tyler Bryant after a show. He was really sick with flu. He pumped himself up for the show, and then afterwards he had nothing left and he literally just crashed down on the couch and was so sick. I really want to show the human side and the sheer hard work that these guys put in to make the shows magical for the people who come.”
Like any other type of photography, putting yourself in the right place at the right time is the key to capturing the best documentary images, and, of course, that means having a camera on you at all times. For Maaike that camera is the Sony α7R III, which she often pairs with the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens. This combination is light, and small enough to carry everywhere, and has features such as a silent shutter that allows her to shoot discreetly. In terms of image quality, the huge 42.4 mega-pixel resolution sensor and its wide dynamic range offer Maaike flexibility when editing images.
Interestingly, Maaike sets her α7R III to shoot in Black and White. “As I am looking at a Black and White image on the screen or viewfinder, I even remember all of the shows that I have shot in my mind, in black and white. What is really funny is that because I shoot RAW, it is only when I come to post processing the images that I see them in colour for the first time.”
“I am sometimes surprised by the colours,” she continues, “but I will always edit them in black and white unless the colour is really adding something to the photo.” For Maaike, black and white expresses that more than colour does. She explains that if you shoot an image in colour the colours complement the image. However, when you shoot it in black and white it is more about the raw energy and emotion at that moment.
Capturing those moments away from the glare of the stage lights is important for Maaike. Part of the reason for shooting documentary, as well as performance shots is to complete a story.
“Live music and documentary photography are two different things with a very different approach, but I love doing them both. I love following a band, following the whole process. If you shoot both stage performances and the documentary images you can tell the whole story of the band and that is what I want to do. I try to give people an insight in to how much music means to the artist and I hope that through my images I can touch people with what music means to me, and to the bands that I work with.”
"Through my images I want to visualise the magic of music and the artists that make it"