Rock photographer Dee Lippingwell releases second book at the Vancouver Fan Club
By Cole Grey
I heard one of my camera idols, rock photographer Dee Lippingwell, was launching her new book First Three Songs… No Flash! on March 3rd in Vancouver at the Vancouver Fan Club.
I wanted to be present to celebrate with Dee. For those of you who don’t follow Rock and Roll photography, Dee is the first professional female Canadian rock and roll photographer that I know of. She was busy breaking down the barriers in a male dominated industry not too long before I picked up my first camera.
To be truthful, she was kicking those barriers down all over the place for us girls in the industry. A chance to be there for the official launch of her book was something I could not pass up.
I contacted Dee to let her know I was flying in and was hoping to get a few minutes of her time for some pictures and a few questions. The day I was flying out from Calgary was one of the worst fly days of the year so far. White out blizzard, fog, and wind – couldn’t have picked a better day to fly really. The ground crews at YYC are really quite phenomenal to keep it all smooth on a day like that. With only a short 4 hour delay, we were off and flying in clear skies in no time.
Landing in Vancouver, we had enough time to freshen up at our hotel, have a bite to eat and head to the venue. The Vancouver Fan Club is down Granville Street, a fairly new venue decked out to resemble a few clubs I’ve been in back in New ‘Orleans, LA.
Dee was tucked in the mid floor private bar area with her crew selling books and her signing and chatting with all the friends and industry greats that came to pay homage to this amazing icon. Without mentioning names, we’re talking about representation from all media industries from both coasts present to celebrate this occasion.
The band appeared and took their places on stage. I am not overly fond of tribute bands but Barracuda is a whole different breed of amazing. If you get the chance to see them live, and you are a fan of the music of Heart, go see the show. During their show Dee’s friends had a little surprise for her. Well, it was supposed to be a surprise but the music industry sucks at keeping their own secrets. Roger Fisher, an original member of the Heart line-up and the composer that has his name on most of Heart’s biggest hits from the 70’s, stepped on stage. With an already hot band on the stage, Roger Fisher’s appearance really took the performance up to a whole new level of superb. Heck of a launch surprise for Dee, and a rare opportunity for the rest of us.
When Dee and I finally had a minute to chat, it was getting time to wrap up for all of us. Everyone had to come wish her well and say goodbye before the night was officially over. So I sent her a list of questions and she kindly answered in between the rush of prepping for Music week in Toronto – March 19th – 24th.
I asked Dee what shot was she most proud of in her career, and as in her book, she talked about the shot of Jeff Beck not on stage, but at the stage door. I know it’s one of my all time favorites of any rock photographer’s career. In her book, she describes how that shot came about. One of the things I love most about Dee’s book is reading in her own voice describing what she was thinking at the time of the shot.
I know as a photographer, many of the same thoughts have gone through my head while working. She talks about some of the more difficult situations she’s been in as a working artist in the publishing industry, her sometimes star struck lack of ability to speak in the presence of some of the great musical acts of our time. I know she was surprised at how many of these well respected musicians, actors, TV producers, and other media personalities came to pay their respects to her. She said she was so tongue tied at moments during the evening that she was grateful she didn’t have to give a speech. Her candor is completely Canadian and truly charming.
One thing Dee didn’t talk much about in her book, which I asked her about plainly, was how as a female photographer, how much opposition she faced in that very male working environment.
“When I first started shooting from the pit I was completely shunned by all the “professional male” photographers,” Dee said.
“They thought I was a groupie. Some of them were so rude to me I guess I just wanted to show them what sort of stuff I was made of and after a little while some of them accepted me and the ones that hadn’t were no longer shooting from the pit! But it taught me a great lesson – to always share my knowledge and always be respectful of my peers.
“All of us concert photographers had a mutual respect for one another but it wasn’t until my “soft” book launch in December that one of these photographers told me that I had been an inspiration to him, I had always treated him and all his associates so well and how impressed they were with the launch of my new book. Well that just blew me away when he told me that!”
Throughout Dee’s book, First Three Songs…No Flash! we are treated to pictures of our musical rock and roll history through the eyes of someone who brought her camera for the ride. She tells the story of each of the pictures and takes us back to the time and place. For anyone who has ever been to a concert and experienced the rush of seeing your favorite band live and up close, you will enjoy this book. If you were lucky enough to see any of these performers yourself, you can relive those shows as you peruse this book. With each page, I was brought back to my early years in the industry.
Dee and I photographed some of the same bands at different places in our careers, but her stories are almost my stories and I can relive them all again. The only difference between then and now is the separation from the music artists themselves. It’s so much more difficult to gain access to a show to get the shots you need. The industry had become a little less opening and welcoming to my kind, mainly because there have been a few, and by a few I mean many, photographers who have lost their manners and respect and published pictures that don’t respect the artist. Dee Lippingwell has always been a class act and never purposely published an image that did any damage. I plan on carrying on that tradition in my work for as long as I work. You don’t always have to dish the negative to sell a story.
The rules for all of us in the industry have changed significantly with the leaps and bounds of digital and then there are the new rules for photographers in the business. I asked Dee for any parting words or advice and she had this to share.
“Good Luck!” Dee said.
“I had to learn all aspects of photography, from shooting steaming cups of coffee to doing portraits of dogs! I’ve shot real estate, food, babies, families, commercial advertising shoots….and we must not forget those money making wedding shoots!
“You “Cole Grey” are a prime example of what photographers should do….combine writing with photography. It’s so hard to get into the rock and roll photography business these days. The photographers have to shoot from the sound board – what’s with that? – while fans in the front rows are shooting videos with their ipads and iphones. The pit has virtually disappeared with the larger acts and the gigantic productions that are put on it’s almost impossible to catch all the action….give me the days where I concentrated on one musician at a time from the confines of a guarded area and was happy for just the first three songs!”
First Three Songs … No Flash is an industry standard rule in concert photography. Three songs only so you don’t interfere with the ticket buyers enjoying the performance or so the performers don’t have to worry about what they look like and can focus on putting on a show for the ticket buyers. If you can’t get anything usable in 3 songs, maybe choose a different profession. No flash limits the interference with the artists. Having a flash popping in your face every few seconds is akin to blinding someone temporarily. To be truthful, if you need to use a flash to get the shot, you have no business being in the concert photography business. Stage lighting done properly is usually better than flash anyway.