Iona Bateman - Check out the photo pit of any major
music event in Ireland and you're sure to meet The Professionals. They're
the guys with the massive cameras, with the thrusting zooms, the gung-ho
equipment belts and the faces that are dead of any human expression.
The only time they look remotely happy is when they produce a lens that's
bigger and fatter than their rivals. This is their cue to start comparing
statistics (maximum apertures, megapixels, shutter speeds, frames per
second), while they wait to photograph a band that they're not remotely
When the job is done, they'll all troop back to their
laptops and file a few shots to the papers in town. Each of them will
deliver a boring vertical shot of the act, an equally boring horizontal
and a 'bonus' picture of a young girl in the front row of the crowd,
waving and looking giddy, as directed.
Which is one of the reasons why Iona Bateman is so
refreshing. Firstly, she loves this work. Secondly, she's totally into
the music, and when she's not being jostled by The Professionals at
The Odyssey, she's happily installed at one of the nearby dive bars
or sinkholes of Belfast where local music is messily created.
She understands the essence of rock and roll - all
that clamour, perspiration and harsh poetry. And if you watch her at
work, you'll see her locking into the rhythm of a band, second-guessing
the noisy chords, the peaks and the perfectly mad flights. Most of the
time, she'll come back with images that summarise the best parts of
the night. She favours grainy, high-contrast shots, wise to the drama
of each event. And nearly always, her work is exceptional.
That's an Iona image on the cover of the new Therapy?
DVD. She's also the Queen Bee of Alternative Ulster, giving the new
magazine a visual character, and a cache of shots that show people like
The Darkness in watchable ways. Her work has featured in Kerrang!, NME
and Hot Press. She has worked her photographic passage through Dubai
and Greece, while bands such as The Datsuns, Electric Eel Shock and
The Von Bondies all consider her as a mate. If Iona was a band, we'd
all be demanding a big record deal on her behalf. But a career in pictures
is harder to plot, and so her future is difficult to call. "I wanted
to be a vet," she explains, laughing, "and I was half-way
through a degree course. But I also wanted a part in the music scene,
and so photography was my way in. You have to work extremely hard. You
do work for free in the beginning, and hammer away, until someone picks
up on what you're doing. That's why I have so much sympathy for local
bands. My big ambition for 2004 is to get a good camera and to go to
every festival, with all the best bands."
Ah yes, the camera. Iona uses a little shiny Fuji,
primitive by digital standards, and certainly not designed for the rigours
that she routinely puts it through. The machine is stretched to the
very edges of its potential - to the extent that camera shop assistants
snigger when she asks for enlargements. They patronise her and pity
her lack of pixels. But then the shots come back and they have to concede
that actually, these are quality bits of art.
Two and a half years ago, she took some pictures from
the crowd at a Stereophonics gig. She was using a disposable camera,
but a few frames were alright, and found their way onto the band's official
website. Next time the band played, she was given a proper photopass
and she brought along a basic SLR machine. Another cameraman showed
her the settings and she was off.
She became active on the internet, where she befriended
Scarlet Page, rock photographer. She took the time out to critique Iona's
shots on the web, and they became friends through e-mail. So when Scarlet
was shooting a Foo Fighters session in the jacuzzi of the Clarence Hotel
in Dublin, she invited her Irish friend along, and those few hours were
enough to confirm a career path.
"I'm really bad at technical things," Iona
claims. Still, the digital format allows her to experiment and then
delete at will, hitting buttons for effect, rather than following theory.
And she has used her website (www.soulfluff.com) to good effect, selling
prints abroad, showcasing her best work and then connecting to other
aficionados abroad. "It was a help at the beginning," she
recalls. "It really spread the word. The internet's a great place
to promote yourself, but recently it's been more of a hindrance. Once
you start being successful, people start taking a dig at you."
By her own admission, Iona could do with a thicker
skin. So many of the other factors are in place though, and she's an
example of how a creative industry can be defined by enthusiasm and
novel ways of getting inspired. It is, of course, a vision thing. (text
taken from: www.soulfluff.com).
Rock Photographer / Freelance Music Photographer
Photo Editor - Alternative Ulster Magazine