The third week of our spotlight on Local Spins photographers focuses on the work of Kendra Petersen-Kamp. View some of her favorite photos, along with the stories behind those images.
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Calvin graduate Kendra Petersen-Kamp approached Local Spins in 2016 about taking concert photos, was assigned to shoot a Devin & The Dead Frets’ album-release show at Founders Brewing Co. — followed soon after by Seal at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park — and never looked back.
Kendra’s keen eye for capturing the energy of a live stage show has produced a rich catalog of concert photo galleries at Local Spins over the years, along with assignments for other clients. Oh, and she also happens to be a talented drummer.
In her own words: “I got into music for myself around when I was 10 and almost immediately started drawing alternative album covers to go with my favorite CDs, or for my imaginary band. I got my first digital camera in eighth grade and brought it literally everywhere, including the few concerts I got to go to through high school and early college. (Those photos are scary.) Growing up in rural Northwest Ohio, I didn’t have many opportunities to get plugged into a music scene, or even get to know that concert photography was a thing.”
Later, as a graphic design student at Calvin College (now Calvin University), she joined the Student Activities Board under Ken Heffner and spent two years as a student writer and graphic designer in the Student Activities Office. She called it “an incredible opportunity” to delve into design and photography — acquiring her first DSLR camera, taking digital photography classes and documenting shows for SAO’s social media and advertising.
She shot her first Meijer Gardens show, starring Seal, for Local Spins in August 2016. She recalls: “To be honest, I barely knew who Seal was, so the show really felt like I was stepping out of my comfort zone into a dream world that I had only just started to touch. I’ve been shooting shows for a little over five years now and I still love getting the excited jitters right before an act comes on stage that I get to photograph.”
Today, we look back at some of her favorite concert photos — with back stories about the images — as part of a Local Spins series spotlighting the work of our freelance photographers. And peruse our our earlier features and photo galleries from the best of Tony Norkus and Jamie Geysbeek.
Editor’s Note: Photographers retain copyrights for these photos.
Pink Sky (WYCE Jammie Awards 2019) – I love playing around with concert photography to blur the edges between “fine art” photography and straight documentary. There’s always a time and place for these photos: They’re not always appropriate for an official recap of an event, but my goal with photos like this is to interpret the atmosphere of a performance or the music itself. I fell in love with this double exposure as soon as I saw it. It feels very ‘Blade Runner’ to me. Teal and orange (or pink) is my favorite color combination in photography. I love that Angelica’s body holds the wires and connections of their instruments in her body.
Japanese Breakfast (Fusion Shows Birthday at The Crofoot in Pontiac 2019) – I love the couple of shots I have of Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast) coming out on the barrier and into the crowd at this show. This one feels particularly special to me: She’s caught in the performance, not posing for the camera, and the people in the crowd behind her are obviously thrilled that she came out to them.
Patti Smith (Riot Fest in Chicago 2019) – Riot Fest is the first festival I shot where they limited photographers for specific acts. Normally, we get the first three songs, but for Patti Smith (the Patti Smith) we were sent in two smaller groups, one-and-a-half songs each. The stage was tall, I was shooting in between a ton of other photographers all angling for similar shots, and I had little time to move around and adjust. In this case, the blurs I normally achieved through double-exposure and soft focus are actually another photographer’s bald head and a plastic bag covering monitors on stage from GWAR’s earlier performance that day. I love that those elements narrow our focus in toward Smith, forcing us to feel her slow-burn intensity.
Vince Staples (20 Monroe Live 2019) – One frustrating thing about concert photography on the web is that people can take them from the original publication and claim them as their own. I found one of my photos from this set on another person’s Instagram claiming it is theirs. It was posted with a video where you can actually see me in front of them taking photos. I eventually got it removed for copyright infringement, but it’s always a weird reminder that the things you put on the Internet can never be truly controlled.
Pup (Elevation inside The Intersection 2019) – Shooting Pup is probably in my top five most fun shows to shoot. I got some killer shots (I love all the hands reaching for the guitar held over the audience in this one, taken from the back of the room), but the first three songs had me smiling ear to ear. This shoot gave me the same feeling I got from being in a mosh pit for the first time.
Lizzo (Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo 2017) – I had seen Lizzo at a packed Pyramid Scheme show months before Audiotree and knew I could never miss an opportunity to shoot one of her shows ever again. I’m pretty sure the audience that day showed up just for Lizzo, and it still was so much smaller than she deserved. I think that show took place the week that her now-hit song “Truth Hurts” was originally released. It would be another two years before the song was featured in the Netflix movie “Someone Great” and became a chart topper.
Slow Mass (Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo 2018 – I heard someone say recently that editing in more creative ways is like thinking, “This picture is saying something to me. I want it to say that thing to other people.” That rings true to me; I don’t always try to make use of double-exposures. Sometimes I try to find a good composition and it just doesn’t click, so I move on. Sometimes the show just doesn’t inspire me to try anything at all. Slow Mass’s music does consistently speak to me this way. This photo is from the first time I saw them at Audiotree, and one of the first times I successfully played around with double-exposure in daylight.
Tunde Olaniran (The Pyramid Scheme 2018) – I brought some friends from high school to see this show. It’s fun to bring friends or family to shows that I’m shooting. I love bringing people into the live music/photography world, and it’s extra special when it’s an artist that is so thrilling, powerful and entertaining. At the end of the show, Tunde invited the crowd up on stage to dance together, and one of my friends surprised me by running up there, too. I have a great picture of her face, too, but she would kill me if that one got published.
Major Murphy (Founders Brewing Co. 2017) – I like that double-exposures can bring different parts of the show’s action into one photo. I do almost all of my double-exposures in-camera, so I often have to be patient and wait for exactly the right moments.
Sylvan Esso (20 Monroe Live 2018) – Most of the time, we have to edit photos the night of the show, narrowing it down to about five to 15 photos for publication. I keep most not-terrible shots to return to at a later date. Sometimes it’s rewarding, and I get to find oldies but goodies. Every time I go into this folder of Sylvan Esso at 20 Monroe Live I find new gems. This shot of Sylvan Esso is one that I missed on the first round, but found about six months later. I like the hair blown back and dramatic lighting highlighting Amelia’s eyes.
Twin Peaks (Holland’s Park Theater 2017) – I rarely edit photos in black and white. Sometimes black and white can be used as a crutch to make editing photos in low light a little easier and a little clearer, so I only use it if I really think the mood of a photo is asking for it. This particular photo feels like such a classic rock ‘n’ roll photo: Guitarist Clay Frankel, already pointed out by Tony (Local Spins photographer Tony Norkus) for his crazy stage antics, had just torn off his shirt to draw a pentagram on his chest while playing for the Hope College Concert Series. The black and white amplifies the already iconic moment.
A Day to Remember (DeltaPlex Arena 2018) – In high school, CD packaging for A Day To Remember gave me an extra boost into making designing for music an actual career goal. One of ADTR’s main tour photographers, Adam Elmalkis, has been a huge influence in how I’ve expanded my visual connection to music through photography. In 2018, I finally photographed them at the DeltaPlex. One of my first arena shows, I remember feeling absolutely exhilarated by the quick pace and scope of this stage and lighting. This shot connects me to a moment of absolute contentment in that craziness.
Gouge Away (The Crofoot in Pontiac 2019) – I felt like I had a long dry spell for being in the right place at the right time. For a while last year, I felt like I kept missing the killer moments that make great photos. This shot gave me a jump start of confidence again. A much-needed boost that made me feel like what I was doing was fun again.
La Dispute (The Pyramid Scheme 2019) – I moved to Grand Rapids too late to experience La Dispute in their emerging years, but I’ve felt lucky to become a fan of a band that cares so obviously and deeply for its hometown and its community. This band sets a great example of how to use privilege and platform to advocate for others. This bass drum was specially written for their most recent Grand Rapids show in protest of Betsy DeVos’s negligence of trans students.
Sufjan Stevens (Festival of Faith & Music at Calvin 2015) – Sufjan’s “Carrie & Lowell” album and tour has held a special place in my heart. This was early in my career, and I remember having great difficulty navigating a pindrop-quiet room without being a distraction for the audience. I also did all the graphic design for that year’s Festival of Faith & Music conference, which was the first time I branded anything across multiple medium platforms, top to bottom. A couple of months later, my brother and our friends and I borrowed our parents’ minivan to drive six hours to Cincinnati to see one of the last shows on this tour. My brother also used this photo as a reference for his first tattoo (an outline of the background LED rig).
PHOTO GALLERY: A sampling of the best of Kendra Petersen-Kamp