BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Cristel Brouwer really needs no introduction – her photography has literally captured the ABC’s of many of the rock and roll greats, from the likes of Alter Bridge to Roger Waters. In between working at her own Lluky Gallery, Cristel can also be found shooting for Revolver’s Lust for Life, Music Maker, Liveguide and Aardschok, as well as for various other projects and online entities, such as individual band Web sites and promotional photos.
Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, Ms. Cristel Brouwer! (Cover photo of Cristel and Richie Sambora is courtesy of Tim Tronckoe.)
When did you decide to become a photographer? What has been your career path since your decision?
Since I was little I always had an interest for photography. My dad went to a school to study photography as a teenager, but he never finished. I always looked at him, he had a passion in creating images that speak. It was annoying, too, as we were the subjects in the photos too often, and it felt like ages before he had what he was looking for!
When my granddad died, he left us some money. With my amount I just bought my first camera. Living in a digital era makes it easier to find out your flaws and mistakes, and correct them.
Being an autodidact my whole life, this was the best way for me to start discovering the world of photography.
What inspires you?
Emotion! Emotion makes for the best pics, especially when shooting a lot of concert pics. I always want to capture the purity of the music and its creator. I want to capture what the artist means with his music and how he feels about it.
For example, the Anathema pic I took: this was a moment of purity. Vincent Cavanagh was singing “One Last Goodbye,” written by his brother Danny about their mother’s passing and their difficult youth. He broke down at the end of the song, which made it even more intense. I was so lucky I captured that moment!
Tell me your best and worse rock and roll story!
That’s a difficult one!
I think my best was finding out that my credits for the Alter Bridge DVD Live in Amsterdam were actually put in the end credits rights after the concert. I didn’t know about that when I was watching it for the first time. Being a night owl, imagine what happened: three o’clock in the morning and finding out that your were mentioned in the end credits! I was ecstatic and forgot about the time. I called my parents to tell them the great news. Believe me when I tell you they were not as ecstatic as me! They thought my house had burnt down or something!
My worst… hmmm… I think maybe that my work was used for commercial purposes by a band without me knowing and having okayed that. Happens a lot to many photographers lately, unfortunately. I think it’s the negative side from the digital era and Photoshop skills.
What makes your photos stand out?
That is a very hard question, because I really don’t think I or my work stands out. There are so many good photographers these days! I do have a point of recognition in my work though: I use weird angles. My work can be recognized by that.
What do you want to say with your photos?
I love to capture emotion. Not only in concert photography, but also when I shoot animals, kids, babies or when I do a studio shoot. Emotion doesn’t have to be the moving ones all the time; it can also be aggression, or complete and utter sadness.
What kind of cameras do you prefer to use?
At the moment I’m very much in love with my Nikon D750. The capacities with it are endless! Especially using it with high ISO with little noise!
How has digital photography affected your work?
I only know the digital area. It basically taught me how to shoot. I just tried a lot of things with my Nikon D70, the camera I started out with. When I experienced problems I turned to my dad, my photography friends, watched a tutorial or googled it. And then I started trying over and over again until I got what I wanted. I think it’s ideal you can view your pics right away with all specs and you can correct it.
Saved me a few times too: I had a shoot on a dark location the first day and then another day a gig to shoot. Being in such a hurry to get to the photo pit on Day 2 (there was some trouble getting in) and having only two songs to capture, I started shooting like a mad man. Giving a quick look after a few seconds taught me that I still had it on way too high of an ISO, a way too low aperture, and a totally wrong shutter speed. Very stupid of me! Thank God I could correct it right away and finished the shoot with good results.
How do you connect and bring out the best in your subjects?
I always have a talk with people first before doing a studio shoot or play with animals and or kids. That way they can get used to me and it feels less awkward for them to pose. I try to level as much as possible with my “subject.”
Walk me through a typical rock photo shoot and/or show.
So different every time. Depends on if I know the band or the crew in the band.
Let me take an Alter Bridge day – one of the bands I really, really love and love to work with! I do have to mention I’m not their official photographer, so that it will not get mistaken in the end.
Last week I went to see Alter Bridge, I got in quite early. Sometimes I do get to catch a soundcheck, meet up with the crew. Having shot this band so many times, we all know each other quite well, so it’s always nice to catch up with how everyone is doing, receive and give a few hugs here and there! After that, I went to look for a good location to do a shoot with the band, set up everything, test a few ideas and test the light, so they don’t have to wait, and so we can do a quick shoot. Then an hour before the show I see the guys and do the shoot. Always great seeing them, they are such lovely people. Very sweet and really interested, too, in you as a person. So I usually take few minutes to catch up with them, too.
When the show starts and I have an OK to shoot the whole show (which is always the case with Alter Bridge), I start the first three songs on the side in the photo pit so other photographers have some more space. During the shows, I usually move around from the Front Of House to shoot overviews, side stage to shoot interaction with the audience, and photo pit. At the end of the gig, I go up on the drum riser to shoot a pic of the band with the audience and very much try not to fall off!
Then I chat some more, have a beer and head home!
How did you develop your style?
Glad you asked, now I finally get to explain my weird name for my website, Lluky Gallery!
I practiced on my horse! His name is Lluky ( pronounced as Jookie, or for NL Joekie). I have had him since he was 0.5 years old. He is 17 now. Being a happy, cheeky and naughty-in-a-funny-way-foal, he was fast as lightning. I tried so many times to get a good shot of that little guy that I needed to ‘wrench’ my body in the weirdest angles to get one good pic of him. That’s how I got my practice and developed my style.
How did you get to be so well-known and popular?!
Am I?! I guess right time, right place, and getting to know the right people, because of that it helped my get my work out a lot. Am I popular? Don’t dare to say honestly, same goes for well-known. Thinking of well-known, I think of icons or people who, for example, get to tour with the biggest bands, like David Bergman (official tour photographer of Bon Jovi.) I don’t think I am anywhere near that stage! Hope I am wrong about that though, lol!!