Back in Seattle with no camera of any sort to his name, Alexander Hallag decided he wanted to make films. This was “many moons ago”, according to Alexander. Because he wanted to be a director, he didn’t understand why he’d need a camera. “However, I quickly discovered that if I could shoot stills, I could work on sets,” so he went out an purchased his first SLR.
Around that same time, Alexander’s group of friends decided to form a magazine to chase the dream of free restaurant meals and concerts. Because he had the camera, he was designated the role of the photographer. And that’s when Alexander fell in love with live music photography, and he went to show after show after show.
He got very entrenched in the music scene in America and was shooting regularly for concerts and festivals there. However, life changes brought him to New Zealand where he had to start from scratch. “It was very difficult to build it back up again. But I started working in radio — Radio Control in Palmy. And this put me back in touch with music. I started to meet people through the radio, and what I was feeling reminded me a lot of when the Seattle music scene blew up. Everything felt exciting and fresh.”
Now, Alexander is definitely established in the music scene, but he says he still has to make the calls and send the emails to look for more work. Through constant networking he has managed to cover some amazing shows and music festivals — Rhythm and Alps in Cardrona Valley, Bay Dreams in Nelson, and Laneway in Auckland are some of his more recent events. “Live music is really exciting. You have no control over the lighting, it’s always changing. There’s a real thrill in anticipating what the light’s going to do. And it’s great capturing movement, but you don’t want a complete blur. It’s difficult, but when you nail it, at that moment it’s so exciting!”
When it comes to festivals, Alexander generally packs two cameras, the Sony α7 III and the Sony α99 II. He has two go-to lenses as well: his 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8. “You need them for the speed and versatility,” he explains.
To get access to these larger shows, Alexander says it’s generally done several ways. You either work for a magazine or blog, a band, or for the festival itself. Of these options, he says working for a band or the festival is his favourite option. “When you’re working for the festival or the band, there is a bit more freedom, and you have more opportunities to create photographs that others won’t be able to create, for example, shots from the stage. When you shoot from the pit, generally all of the photographs from all of the different photographers are going to look similar. It’s about creating the special photograph where a viewer can feel the energy of that moment and either bring back memories or, for someone who wasn’t there, give them a look into that magic.”
Recently, Alexander took on another challenge. From his time in the New Zealand music scene he has compiled and created a hardcover book of some of the special moments he has captured. Titled Shhh… The Music Is Talking, the book was five years in the making, with only a limited print run of 500 copies. Alexander says he does have plans to produce more books in the future, but reckons he’ll need the same five-year interval to compile the next volume.