Today’s entry in our series spotlighting Local Spins photographers focuses on Nathan Purchase, with his favorite concert photos of Umphrey’s McGee, Tame Impala, Billy Strings and, yes, Desmond Jones.
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Photographer Nathan Purchase is one of the latest additions to the Local Spins crew, but make no mistake: He’s an uber-talented shooter with a keen eye for concert photography and an intense passion for the music scene.
In his own words:
“My photographic journey started at 4 a.m. on a warmer than usual, yet slightly snowy November morning as a junior at Michigan State University. After a night of partying, I found myself lying in the snow under some trees in the Baker Woodlot searching for purpose. As I gazed up at the trees swaying from side to side, I had an eye-opening experience. I wanted to capture what I was seeing.
“The next day, I went into my academic adviser’s office and changed my major to photography. I knew that in order to re-create what I saw that night I would need to study a form of art. I scrolled through the different categories and said, ‘Well, photography sounds cool. Let’s do that.’ I had never picked up a camera in my life other than the disposable cameras you’d take on family vacations. My adviser hesitated and asked if I really wanted to switch majors. It would be hard to graduate on time, switching majors so late in my college career. But I had never been more sure of something in my entire life. The following semester, I was enrolled in my new classes and began to re-create the psychedelic tree-like images I had seen in my experience.
“Since graduating, I have put all of my focus into honing my craft and becoming the best photographic artist I can possibly be. Some of it is luck — being in the right spot at the right time. Some of it is spending hours reading your instruction manual to know all the ins and outs of your camera. But most of it is simply believing in yourself and your creative motor, and never giving up on a dream.
“What inspires me as a concert photographer? The answer is easy: Desmond Jones. This group has been a part of my journey since it started at MSU, where I first met John, Isaac and Chris shortly after switching my major. I started working for them in 2016 and since I’ve gotten to know the band on a personal level: Their drive and ability to overcome any obstacle has given me all the inspiration, purpose and push I need. Witnessing firsthand how far this group has come over the years is jaw-dropping. I am so lucky and grateful to work so closely with what I honestly believe to be one of the greatest living and touring bands today.
“Over the past few years, I have been able to cross off so many bands from my photo dream list thanks to the help of Local Spins, The Jamwich, Sound & Silence, my own determination and the support of all my friends and family. Enjoy this collection of photographs and memories from my journey as an artist. I picked these images because they represent my vision and experience.”
So, here’s the Nathan Purchase Top 20, the latest in our series showcasing the extraordinary artistry of Local Spins photographers, with the stories behind their favorite concert images. Check out previous entries in the series spotlighting Tony Norkus, Jamie Geysbeek, Kendra Petersen-Kamp, Derek Ketchum and Anna Sink.
Editor’s Note: Photographers retain copyright to all images. Used with permission.
String Cheese Incident (Electric Forest, 2019) – This is personally my favorite image of anything I’ve captured thus far. This image is the product of being in the right place at the right time.
Billy Strings (The Intersection, 2018) – I have always been a sucker for silhouettes. This was also the first time I got the chance to photograph Billy Strings outside of the festival scene.
Desmond Jones (The Stache inside The Intersection, 2015) – As soon as I made this shot I fell in love instantly. I love catching musicians with their eyes closed, living in the moment. I’m also a sucker for the blue and purple lighting.
The Avett Brothers (Van Andel Arena, 2019) – This was the one of the largest arena shows I have shot to date and my first time seeing The Avett Brothers. After long van rides on tour with John Nowak introducing me to this band, this photo shoot instantly cracked my Top 10.
Blues Traveler (Founders Fest, 2017) – This photo and the emotion from John Popper says enough.
eRoy (The Stache inside The Intersection, 2017) – This image is an example of knowing all the ins and outs of your camera. Believe it or not, this image is completely unedited and done all in-camera using a triple exposure.
Umphrey’s McGee (Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo, 2016) – This image comes from my first stadium assignment and was also the biggest show I had photographed. After snapping this shot I vividly remember confirming to myself that I was on the right path toward reaching my dreams.
Desmond Jones (The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, 2017) – John and Isaac have been best friends since early childhood. Before this, I have always wanted to get a solid shot of them together on stage yet it was difficult with John typically behind the drum set. Once John stepped out from behind the kit to join Isaac on vocals, I knew this was my moment.
Macy Gray (Founders Fest, 2019) – Pew pew. Macy Gray was one of the first concerts I had ever attended back in the Muskegon Summer Celebration days. When I found out years later that I would have the opportunity to photograph her, I pounced on it.
Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish (Rocky’s Bar & Grill, 2018) – This is another one of my unedited double-exposure shots. Anyone who has seen JRCC knows the energy they bring and why they are so fun to photograph.
Third Coast Recording Co. Ensemble (The Intersection, 2020) – This image, to me, is beyond powerful. What else is there to say when 10 women come together for an unforgettable performance? You had to be there.
T-Pain (Electric Forest, 2019) – I just simply love T-Pain’s gaze out to the crowd with the cloud of smoke rising behind him right before he took the forest for a ride.
Railroad Earth (Hoxeyville Music Festival, Wellston, 2019) – The storm was rolling with the rain coming down and the crowd dancing if there was no tomorrow. Seconds after this shot, we were hit with a weather delay.
Tame Impala (Mo Pop Music Festival, Detroit, 2019) – Possibly my favorite silhouette I have ever captured. Shooting this band was a dream come true as they were on my dream list since Day 1.
Umphrey’s McGee (Founders Fest, 2017) – This was taken toward the end of the band’s set before the rain came. I remember I was walking to my car after a long day of shooting in the sun and decided, “One more shot.” Turned out to be my favorite shot of the entire event.
The Legal Immigrants (Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, 2017) – I love abstract art and dragging my camera with the shutter open. I love how eerie and ghostly this image came out.
My Morning Jacket (Electric Forest, 2017) – After learning that MMJ was going to be headlining Electric Forest, I remember jumping with joy. It was my first time seeing the band and it instantly became my favorite band to see live.
Desmond Jones (Kalamazoo State Theatre, 2018) – I know, ‘Another Desmond Jones image.’ That’s what you get when you’re their personal photographer. This moment was one that made us all feel a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of all our hard work.
Greensky Bluegrass (Summer Camp Music Festival, Illinois, 2017) – This was my first opportunity to shoot Greensky. The band’s lighting designer, Lincoln, is my favorite in the game for his simplicity. The composition of this one just hits for me.
Tash Sultana (Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 2019) – I started this list with my favorite photo I had ever captured so I figured I’d end it with my second favorite shot. Tash’s energy on stage is unmatched by any other performer I have ever shot.
PHOTO GALLERY: The best of Nathan Purchase