Featured Photographers

Digitalab Featured Photographer: John Burrows

4th December 2013 by Alex Ingram

At Digitalab, we appreciate the power of photography, whether it’s personal or professional. We asked John Burrows for one of his images and posed a couple of questions to find out exactly what it is he loves about photography and what he’d say to any enthusiastic photographer hoping to make a career out of their passion.


Tell us a bit about this image and why you chose it to be featured.

Picking an image for this was very tough, but very interesting as it’s not something I’ve ever had to do before!

I’ve decided to go with this image of DJ Ashba from a Guns ‘N’ Roses show in Newcastle last year. The reason I’ve picked this shot is because it was the realisation of one of my ambitions and the culmination of a LOT of hard work.

I’ve been a concert photographer for about 5 years now. I started off shooting work for a small German metal website, then moved onto my own site (ishootgigs.com), then gradually onto larger national sites as I wanted to better myself – to get access to the bigger Arena shows, you need to be shooting for bigger publications.

Eventually though, I needed to scratch the itch of having my work in print. I find photography an amazing art form, but it doesn’t cut it for me when it’s simply on a screen. I need to see a tangible product via print.

I’ve been a reader of Classic Rock Magazine for as long as I can remember, and in March 2012 I sent my portfolio over and had a chat with the Editor there. He paired me up with an absolutely amazing journalist from Newcastle (Simon Rushworth – Rushonrock.com), and told us to hang fire for some work – I think it was 4 days later, we got a last minute shout to head down to cover Guns at Newcastle Arena.

I remember waiting for the issue to come out – because we don’t actually get told which images are being used in advance, and there was a quarter page photos of Axl alongside Simons review. I was proud as punch, but I didn’t realise until later that evening they had actually used this shot of DJ Ashba on top of the drum riser on the inside cover of the mag – practically full page. My first issue, and I’d bagged a prime spot. I was completely made up 🙂

Which styles of photography most interest/inspire you?

I’m into some very dark imagery at times. My first love will always be high contrast black & white work, and for that I have to give props to an unsung hero of mine, Graham Lowe. Seeing his printed output in the flesh is jaw dropping and I’ve not seen anybody else’s work come to life in print as much as his does.

A good friend of mine has also just turned me onto the work of Doug Chinnery and in particular, his ‘Obscura 1’ work is fascinating.

Portraiture is a passion of mine as well (my other site is http://johnburrowsphoto.co.uk), so I can’t get enough of the work of Zack Arias and Joey L. I’ve always loved off camera lighting, and as I shoot a lot of landscapes when I get chance. The recent work of these two guys – they’ve been getting into the panoramic side of things – is great to keep tabs on as it crosses over with my style of shooting (I’m a huge fan of epic wide shots. I don’t generally shoot many close crops. 16:9 for the win).

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?

Always do your research and learn to communicate with people. I find Concert Photography to be 10% shooting concerts and 90% research/preparation. If you want to shoot gigs, you HAVE to be able to get on the phone, find the person handling the PR and chase people.

You’ll get passed from pillar to post, you’ll get told there is no chance, and you’ll have to blag yourself through so many uncomfortable situations to get in there. But if you want it bad enough, it’s achievable. And I think that rule can be applied to any realm of photography really.

If I could slip in a separate bit of advice that not many people seem to mention, purely for aspiring concert photographers – use YouTube before the show. You get 3 songs, it’s hectic, and it’s over in the blink of an eye. There is a LOT of competition for these images. So give yourself a head start by searching YouTube for recent shows by the artist you are covering. The set lists don’t change much from show to show and you can differentiate your shots by being in position for choreographed events that happened at specific times during specific songs. Be prepared and take the pressure off a bit.

I knew Guns would start with ‘Chinese Democracy’ that night, I knew Ashba would be up on the drum riser, and I knew I wanted something with a boat load of negative space in it, because that’s just what I’m into. This is the image I pre-visualised and walked away with and it got me that spot in the mag.

Most of all, no matter what you do – just enjoy yourself. Every now and then remember to take a deep breath, take a look around and appreciate the privileged position you are in 🙂