Keith Baillargeon is a Virginia-based photographer who constantly puts his health (and camera) in harm's way in the good name of music. His live-driven work has quickly made a fan out of me, especially the way he captures the raw essence of hardcore and punk bands in their element. I'm thrilled to have Keith be part of the site's ongoing Photographer Spotlight series.
Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?
I was born in Corona, CA but lived in Moreno Valley, CA up until I was 10. Then in 1995, my dad's job relocated to Virginia Beach, and I've been here ever since. Both of my parents were big into music — lots of tapes, lots of vinyl, some good, mostly bad. They were also big on taking pictures, usually on shitty point and shoot film cameras but I always found a weird sense of beauty in all of that. It definitely started my interest in photography.
What was your first musical love?
The Cars, Black Sabbath, and Tom Petty were on constant rotation on my parents stereo so I became obsessed with all 3 when I was young. Then my brother's friend introduced me to Metallica and it's been all down hill ever since. I blame the Victory Style and early Fat Wreck comps for getting me into punk/hardcore.
What is your camera and post set up?
Digital: Fuji X-Pro 2 with 18mm for shows, adapted Contax Zeiss CY 35mm for documentary stuff. Edits done in Lightroom.
Film: Leica CL for 35mm and Mamiya C220f for medium format. I use an Epson to scan and do minor edits in Lightroom, if needed.
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
Iron Reagan, Rebuilder, Converge, Against Me, and Tarpit are all fun to shoot.
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
It would have been cool to shoot bands from the '80s/early '90s punk and hardcore scene, bands like Black Flag, Gorilla Biscuits and Minor Threat when they were all in their prime. Shows back then looked like pure chaos and I would have loved to have been a part of it. I also would have loved to shoot Botch.
What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?
I usually shoot in small venues/DIY spots/houses and those can be tough due to how tight the space can be. You have to be aware of whats going on to avoid getting your gear/face broken by some super hype kid. It sucks getting hit but it's all part of the fun, I guess. The bigger venues in my area usually have the worst lighting and a no flash policy so you're constantly fighting to get decent exposure.
Is it getting tougher to carve a space out at venues since there are so many people shooting these days? How do you feel about that?
There's usually not a lot of photographers at shows in my area so I haven't really came across this issue locally, but I have seen it when shooting out of town. I was on the photo team last year for The Fest down in Gainesville and at times I was up front with 10-15 photographers at one time. This makes it tough to get good shots but I luckily was able to figure it out. I'm honestly cool with sharing the space — we're all here with the same goal in mind, lets not be dicks to each other.
Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
Spanish Love Songs: their new album is super sad but also very beautiful at the same time. I just recently saw a band called Dark Thoughts and they were killer. Sick Shit is a hardcore band from Jersey and they are really fucking good.
Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?
I'll start with two local photographers. My homie Jake does over at Courage Music Photography who does some awesome show photos, and also my friend Tom Barbee, who is killing it at portrait work. I also get a lot of inspiration from photographers like Charles Peterson, Reid Haithcock, Atiba Jefferson, and Jason Lee.
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists, which one would it by and why?
I would have to go with the photo I shot of Career Suicide at Fest 16 last year. They were probably one of the most intense bands I've ever shot and the crowd was just as crazy as they were. To me, it captures all the reasons why I fell in love with punk/hardcore and why I love shooting photos.
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