Photo Spotlight

Photographer Spotlight: Matt Gill

Matt Gill is a Bay Area hardcore fan who has been documented the underground music scene there for close to a decade now via a camera lens. The photographer isn't afraid to risk life and limb in order to capture the vibe of a moment, no matter how nuts the crowds at hardcore shows get. That's the kind of dedication that I can admire in a fellow music geek.

Let's get to know Matt and some of his work in this new Photographer Spotlight.

Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?

I was born in San Francisco and I was raised all throughout the Bay Area, mainly the Peninsula. Come to think of it, both of my parents were pretty creative in very different ways. My dad grew up playing guitar and my mom was always into arts and crafts. My mom always had random dream catchers and custom bracelets everywhere and my dad would always have some kind of guitar collection he was obsessing over. 

Soul Search at Thee Parkside, San Francisco, CA, 2013. (Photo: Matt Gill)

What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?

Oh man that's a hard one. I think I'm gonna have to go with photography, mainly because I discovered "skateboarding photography" before concert photography. I got into both music and photography when I was in late middle school. 8th grade to be exact. 

Twitching Tongues at The New Parish, Oakland, CA, 2012. (Photo: Matt Gill)

How did you discover hardcore and punk?

Skateboarding, without a doubt. I feel like skateboarding is a pretty common gateway into the punk scene. In 7th grade, I specifically remember watching a skate video and once a certain song came on I instantly wanted to listen to it again and again. That video was Zero's "Mislead Youth" and the song was "Fix Me" by Black Flag. Eventually, I discovered more bands through other skaters from school who were already into punk stuff (specifically AFI and Bad Religion), and soon enough I started going to little local shows. 

Protester at DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA, 2017. (Photo: Matt Gill)

Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years?

The first photographer that I remember really looking up to was Atiba Jefferson. Atiba is a very well-known skateboard photographer and all throughout discovering skateboarding I instantly loved his work. Outside of skateboarding, I remember admiring James Nachtwey for his photojournalist work. James was part of a documentary called War Photographer and it blew my mind that a person could take photography to such a dramatic level like he did.

New Found Glory at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, CA, 2012. (Photo: Matt Gill)

What is your camera and post set up?

I've always been a canon guy. For the past few years I've been shooting with a Canon 60D and before that a Canon 40D. For shows I shoot with either a Sigma 10-20mm Wide Angle lens or a Sigma 17-70mm. Outside of shows I usually just use a  50mm prime lens. The "Nifty Fifty" as some like to call it.

Cro-Mags at Thee Parkside, San Francisco, CA, 2017. (Photo: Matt Gill)

Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?

I'm gonna have to go with Ceremony because of how crazy their shows get. I personally love shooting kind of dangerous stuff (knock on wood), or bands that are known for having sing-a-longs. Bane and Dangers are some others that come to mind. Rotting Out was another fun one to shoot.

Ceremony at 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA, 2012. (Photo: Matt Gill)

If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?

Oh man, so many. Off the top of my head: Throwdown circa early 2000's, Champions Last show, literally any GG allin show, Righteous Jams during Posi Numbers fest. Any Project X show would be awesome. 

Mil-Spec at 1409 N. 10th Street, San Jose, CA, 2017. (Photo: Matt Gill)

What are the toughest aspects to shooting hardcore/punk shows?

I'm sure this can have so many different answers depending on the photographer, but for me it's probably giant stages. I'm just now getting used to shooting bigger venues, but for hardcore/punk, I feel like it's more natural to be in a smaller/DIY setting. The venue that I learned how to shoot the most was at 924 Gilman and another venue called Pioneer in Santa Cruz. Both of those venues are smaller and definitely unrestricted as far as photography goes (in my opinion).

Rotting Out at The New Parish, Oakland, CA, 2012. (Photo: Matt Gill)

Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.

The Bay Area has been coming out with some great bands lately. No Right from San Francisco, Hands of God from the South Bay, Primal Rite, Creative Adult, Drain from Santa Cruz, Toner from San Francisco. Outside of the Bay Area: Diztort, Vamachara, and Step 4 Change are amazing as well. 

No Right at X-Bar, Cupertino, CA, 2017. (Photo: Matt Gill)

Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?

Without a doubt, Martin Crudo. I don't know how that man does it, but to me his photos stand out because of the emotion behind them and he barely does any post editing stuff. I've always admired Todd Pollock since day one also. Dan Gonyea has always been a huge inspiration with futurebreed. Dan Rawe from Southern California because he's a legend. Joe Calixto because of how dedicated he is to shooting and learning, it's amazing. I also admire Josi Hoffman for her dedication as well. I could name so many, it's horrible [laughs].

Harm's Way at 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA, 2016. (Photo: Matt Gill)

If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting hardcore bands, which one would it by and why?

Oh man that's another hard one. I'm gonna have to go with a Limp Wrist photo from when they played in San Francisco a few years ago. To me, Limp Wrist represents all of what I interpret hardcore to be about. Hardcore isn't just about hating the world or moshing, it's also about equality, acceptance, and not giving a shit what people think of you. To me, seeing limp wrist was a clarification of that, which was refreshing.

Limp Wrist at Submission Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2012. (Photo: Matt Gill)


You should check out more of Matt's photo work on his Flickr and Instagram pages.

Tagged: photographer matt gill, photographer spotlight