marc marnie - stagefright photography: Blog en-us (C) marc marnie (marc marnie - stagefright photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:26:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:26:00 GMT marc marnie - stagefright photography: Blog 120 120 CLAY CLAY

My garden has two things of worth
gifted from my day on earth

The axe is sharp as any thorn
to cut you down if you are wrong
Head grounded until such time
as circumstance dictates
Then round and round 
cutting through or cutting down
your tangles or your grandest plan
to clear a path for you
Unyielding and true 
as a blade should be

The rose will wind its way around
insinuate and decorate
Ascend and scent
create a better place on Earth
New blooms from ancient roots 
Thorns riven from the past
from far below, from underfoot
to catch the flesh and feed the flower
blood’s perfume
sweet and rare

The rose grows round the axe 
It knows the shaft
The axe upholds the rose, 
It knows the thorn
It knows the bark

These two things alone
Will mark my time on earth.

07.03.19 MM

(marc marnie - stagefright photography) marc marnie poem poetry scotland writing Tue, 12 Mar 2019 16:01:31 GMT
NEW Exhibition - An Eye For Music at Eden Court, Inverness.

(marc marnie - stagefright photography) art beach. dance eden court exhibition landscape marc marnie music photography scottish stagefright studio theatre writer Tue, 24 Apr 2018 02:03:27 GMT
To Not Have Loved It would be easier to not have loved

To not be blown by feral winds

Or fall to earth for fickle ones

It would be kinder to not have known

Loneliness born of not alone

Nor stand between these trees

A stone.


MM 7.1.18

(marc marnie - stagefright photography) blog diary marc marnie writing Mon, 08 Jan 2018 19:38:57 GMT
Stagefright #3 Plus ca change, plus ce n'est pas la meme chose Maria La Gorda, CubaMaria La Gorda, CubaMaria La Gorda, Cuba
05 December 2014

Picture by marc marnie


Apparently (one of The Boss's favourite words, apparently).

Apparently he has been working on a cunning plan, disappearing for days at a time to a place where, he says, the temporal and the geographic mingle uncomfortably.
This is the sort of thing we have to put up with, but still he goes on;

A place by the sea where Grand Hotel has given way to Granny Flats and frozen families huddle round ice cream cones while others indulge the optimistic misery of mini golf. Where signs warn of surveillance cameras long since stolen. A place we go to kill time, only to discover that it is time that kills us.

Kitty corner from his old high school is a bar where he bought his first drink, a "Black & Tan" (understandably known in Ireland as a "Half & Half"). His young accomplice in crime sidled up to the bar with exaggerated nonchalance and asked, in the belief that this was what people ordered in bars, for "The Usual, please...".

45 years later and the bar is unchanged. Prices are higher. The barmaid is younger, probably somebody's grand-daughter. He has not one, but two daughters older than she. A group of men he may have shared a classroom with sit where they always sit and discuss a recent tour they've just completed. He tried to eavesdrop for a while, assuming they were musicians, but gave them their privacy on realising they were golfers.

In the main street small shops doze like somnambulists from a previous century. The great Ballroom where he sneaked in underage to hear his first live bands is boarded up and could have been written by H.P. Lovecraft. That it was successful in the 1960s and 70s is testament to a different societal attitude to live music, now overwhelmed by Simon Cowell and his soul sucking social asset strippers to be replaced by the junk food of X-Factor. Once upon a time we believed The Blues, Jazz and Rock were the Devil's music. While we were distracted The Devil took Cowell's form and made media deals. 

And if you think The Boss can rant, here's what Hunter Thompson had to say:
"The music business is a cruel and shallow moneytrench, a long plastic hallway where thieves & pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

Apparently there is also a beach of long and level sand, keeping time like John Bonham to soothe all things.

Apparently he has found a property there, going at a reasonable price.

(marc marnie - stagefright photography) Photography art beach. blog diary marc marnie music notes plans scotland stagefright studio update writer writing Fri, 02 Jun 2017 13:44:43 GMT
Stagefright #2 My black T-shirt. Gregg AllmanGregg AllmanGregg Allman at The Usher Hall, Edinburgh
6th July 2011

Photograph by marc marnie

The Boss is not a clarty man, but has spent much of the last week in his favourite T-shirt, a souvenir of the only time he saw a real live Allman Bro.

Nearly the whole front row of Edinburgh's Usher Hall was block booked by friends, many more were dotted around the auditorium. Everyone loves the Allman Bros.

It was the 6th of July 2011.
Photo passes had been arranged weeks in advance, Getty Images were awaiting images. The only worry was a delay in the train returning Janet from a work trip to London.

Texts flew.

Texts also flew to America where there was sudden confusion over the photo pass...

Here's the system: Photographer applies for pass, pass is arranged, photographer arrives at venue, collects the pass and spends the first three numbers making photographs. This is a wonderful example of a universe in harmony with itself. 
Just occasionally, though, there is a bump on the event horizon and the photographer arrives to find that nobody knows anything about a pass. Not only that, but nobody really cares very much about the pass. Other, that is, than the photographer.

The most annoying thing is it's entirely understandable. O
nly the photographer really imagines that, in an evening dedicated to a stage full of Olympian heroes playing actual live music, his role is of any great significance. It really isn't. At least not until at very least the next day when the photos appear in the press or, better still, forty years on when they have become history. 

Imagine you are a Tour Manager:
The get-in and get-out are probably the least of your worries; there's also accommodation, meals, transport, per diems, equipment, merchandise, ticket sales, backlines, lighting, sound, accounting and much, much more. And this assumes the band to be automata - not a wavy brained bunch of artists who are appropriately behaviourally challenged. I don't mean to imply they are all Keith Moons, but certain artist related needs must also be catered for.
Anyway; now you have the band behind the curtain.... the audience, hopefully, in front.. and you get a call to say "there's some guy out here with a camera asking about his photo pass..."
Even as 'some guy with a camera' I know the Boss's sympathies are usually with the T.M. (There are some notable exceptions which will undoubtedly appear in later blogs)
To cut a long story short, if it's not too late, after a number of gut wrenchingly expensive mobile calls to London and New York,  a pass was grudgingly forthcoming and access permitted from a distance for two numbers only.
The backstage portrait got away.

Yet the abiding memory is of the beautiful show
It may have been mellower and sadder than anticipated but from the opening Statesboro' Blues it was clear that the former wild man's heart and soul were more than a match for any aging of the bones. Gregg Allman's voice remains one of the most recognisable and finest in the history of music.
And he wrote Whipping Post.

To cap things off Janet rushed in direct from the train and just in time for the final, and best, four numbers.
Afterwards, claiming she needed a change of shirt after the train journey and
despite protestations from the ever financially challenged Boss, she bought an obscenely expensive T-shirt.
Of course, it later turned out to be a gift for him.
He is wearing it now. 

RIP GREGG ALLMAN (8.12.1947 - 27.5.2017)


(marc marnie - stagefright photography) Photography art blog diary gregg allman marc marnie music scotland stagefright studio usher hall writing Wed, 31 May 2017 08:55:59 GMT
Stagefright #1 Starting at the end. Fred Sims & Bible m111-3-10Fred Sims & Bible m111-3-10Fred Sims & Bible m111-3-10<br/> b<br/>Photograph by marc marnie<br/> <br/>WORLD RIGHTS Fred Sims m111-3-10Fred Sims Fred Sims <br/>Photograph by marc marnie<br/> <br/>WORLD RIGHTS

After 23 years the Leith studio has closed. 

The end of Marnie's Mystical Emporium and the end of a brief but fabulous era.
Where once there were four day parties, weddings, jam sessions, recordings and countless portrait sittings, there are now just boxes and boxes and boxes.
The yellow bentwood chair that sat hundreds and hundreds of invariably wonderful people now sits piled high with dusty books and vinyl awaiting selection. 
The boss is fond of saying he dislikes people but loves the person - each of them has given him the images he made.
His philosophy (and he has a fair few) is that the portrait photographer doesn't take a picture, but is given it.
He never made a lot of money, was never very good at that bit, frequently forgetting to bill the client and always undercharging, but was so happy just to be doing what he does.

Through no fault of their own, he and Janet are divorcing amicably (something he refers to as Jaxit, which he thinks is funny but is probably bravado).
After five months of surprise, denial and eventual acceptance he has now entered his scariest phase: Positivity.
"Art is in the accidents" he says, "Make the pain work for you"; "Comfort is my enemy"... I could go on.
He certainly does.

He has even started meditating before going to the gym of a morning, although he is uncharacteristically quiet about it, saying only "It works".

The office continues as long as there are internet cafes.
The enormous task of digitising the negatives from 1977 - 2004 has paused for breath, but it seems he has a cunning plan.
There are some big announcements on the way...

Love, Light & Peace


(marc marnie - stagefright photography) Photography art blog diary marc marnie music scotland stagefright studio writing Tue, 30 May 2017 19:33:19 GMT
First 3 - No Flash ( was 35 years ago today) As I write this I’m sitting on a rock on Sana Sands, a Westerly point of the British mainland, contemplating a remarkable house built across the bay by pioneering Victorian photographer M.E.M. Donaldson, who died the year I was born.

There was no road to speak of and materials for the building were mostly brought by sea. Donaldson made her own photographic plates, of which more were lost to processing than survived it. Her images have a serenity which belies the difficulties of their capture. They are the more valuable for their scarcity. Relative to her achievements the whole microcosm of Rock Photography has had it pretty easy. Admittedly she didn’t have to ingest large amounts of controlled substances while waiting three hours for Van Morrison or Chuck Berry to allow one quick & ill-lit backstage shot; but then again the rest of our chemicals and the film were pre-packaged, and a couple of hours in the darkroom could produce hundreds of frames. With this profligacy came carelessness – the great advantage of this being the ‘happy accident’ that so often produces ‘art’. Donaldson could ill-afford to employ the irrational yet inspired energy so essential to Rock Photography.

Relatively speaking, my experience as a Music Photographer is of a small move exaggerated more by changes in social perception of music than by the immense changes in photographic technology.

In 1978 I smuggled my dad’s old Practika into the legendary Glasgow Apollo and took my first photos, three frames of Muddy Waters supporting Eric Clapton. There was no ‘First Three – No Flash’ rule and when Clapton finally opened his set with a full-tilt version of Layla, the crowd surged forward and the bouncers struck back. A well directed blow from one broke my nose. Later, covered in blood and in some pain but still high from the show, I processed the film and found some useable images. The quality was rough but I still exhibit the first frame of Muddy, and it has some resonance, not just as my first live photo but also because it carries the context of the time.

Muddy Waters, Glasgow Apollo 24th November 1978 ©marc marnieMuddy WatersMuddy Waters, Glasgow Apollo 24th November 1978
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Muddy Waters, Glasgow Apollo 24th November 1978 ©marc marnie

Backstage access was frequently available, and available was the only honest light I could work with. I didn’t take portraits, I was given them and my greatest photographic skill was patience.

cab calloway m27-1-34.jpgcab calloway m27-1-34.jpgcab calloway m27-1-34.jpg

Photograph by marc marnie

                                                                                                                            Cab Calloway, Theatre Royal, Glasgow 26th June 1989 ©marc marnie


dr ross m39-42-34a.jpgdr ross m39-42-34a.jpgdr ross m39-42-34a.jpg

Photograph by marc marnie

                                                                                                                                                    Dr Issiah Ross, Burnley Blues Festival 1991 ©marc marnie

Thirty-five years later Bouncers are called ‘Security Staff’ or perhaps ‘Audience Control Facilitators’ and are almost invariably nice folk, many of whom shake my hand when I enter the pit. Audiences appear more controllable (perhaps the more extreme characters have mellowed with age or died of their excesses). Photographers are ‘Togs’ and there are a hell of a lot more of us than there were. We photograph the first three songs then trudge home to our computers and deadlines, leaving the audience to photograph the rest of the show. Where once I’d shoot two or three rolls of film throughout a concert I might shoot the equivalent during those first three songs... and it is still almost impossible to make as meaningful an image as that first one of Muddy Waters.

Now I am frequently asked ‘Is Digital as good as Film yet?’

Well there is no ‘yet’.

I have amassed a collection of tens of thousands of negatives which I scan and digitise. I used a vast array of film stocks: FP4, HP5, T-Max 100/400/3200, Delta Max 100/400, Plus-X and my two absolute favourites: Tri-X and recording Film 2475. Aside from these monochrome films I shot a large amount of E6 Transparency & C41 Colour negative. In the darkroom I became an alchemist with potions and recipes and my own book of spells involving different mixes and development times based loosely upon light levels and directions during the show. I made mistakes and a many of them paid off. Art is so frequently in the accidents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Village People, Rewind Festival, Perth 2012 ©marc marnie

The fact is that Digital hardly equates to film; it equates to MP3. The parallel roads of music and photography unexpectedly converged as the new egalitarian technology made everything available to everyone but, in so doing again eradicated many of the potential accidents. Technical excellence has become universally available through high ISO, anti-shake lenses, and Photoshop. The least relevant aspect of the truly iconic image has been improved upon no end.

A old musician friend once described me in a radio interview as having ‘the eye of a four year old’, which I chose to take as a great compliment. That sense of wonder, not financial reward, is what keeps me working. The harsh realism of the Music Business beats most things out of most people, especially the creative souls it is built upon. And Music has spent so long in the market place it is now primarily a commodity, a T-Shirt featuring today’s brief slogan.

That The X-Factor sells us a circus of mediocrity is hardly a secret. Identikit finalists confuse audiences with the current vocal gimmick and a panel of ‘industry experts’ reassure them the result is worthy. But creativity at this level must be extra-ordinary to be noteworthy. In fact ‘The X-Factor’ sells us the exact opposite of what its title suggests, it only sells us vacuous celebrity. And we have developed a voracious appetite for it. The law of supply and demand, of ‘give the people what they want’ is a self fulfilling prophecy foisted upon us by sales hungry media. Warhol was prescient in 1968 with his ‘Fifteen Minutes of Fame’, but so was W.S. Gilbert in 1889 when he wrote, When Everyone is Somebody then No-one’s Anybody.

Art IS elitism. If you doubt this uncomfortable fact look to an internet awash with countless stills and videos accompanied by soundtracks of entirely unacceptable quality. Our expectation has been eroded until the bland ease of an MP3 is generally preferable to the rich warm quality of vinyl. And so we have become complicit in the provision of our own bread and circuses. A complicity which also encourages tribute bands, artistry replaced by forgery. And our taste for ersatz increases, to paraphrase Mencken, no one ever went bust by underestimating the taste of the public.

So now we discuss music the way our forbears discussed the weather, and as they took package holidays to Majorca and Ibiza we frequent music festivals.

What began as a symbiotic creative relationship between musician and photographer is being reduced to an act of souvenir hunting during a paparazzi inspired scramble we now know as ‘First Three – No Flash’.

Footnote: Only when I researched my Muddy Waters photo did I realise today is, by absolute coincidence, its 35th Anniversary.

(marc marnie - stagefright photography) art blog diary marc marnie music photography writing Sun, 24 Nov 2013 01:45:00 GMT
Not writing, but drowning Adam, unsuspecting Adam Usden, arrives as I finish my second pint of IPA in Belushis BarWe greet and I invite him to climb into the back seat of the black CRV with smoked out windows which has silently, one might say malevolently, glided up to the pavement.

During the ten minute drive I explain that he will be photographed, fully clothed, sitting in a shower cabinet under running water. Following this he will probably be asked to climb into a full bath and exhale gulps of air whilst under water. If he blanches at this I don't notice as he is in the back seat. He acquiesces without a discernible quaver and we arrive at the gates to our house.

Did I mention that there are large security gates? I hadn't told Adam either. They close with a satisfying clang and we enter the compound I call Camp Koresh, though few people get the joke now, and fewer laugh.
In a theatrical aside Adam muttered ‘this is probably the closest I’ll get to being murdered by two complete strangers’.
Probably. I liked that.

While I splash around in the shower room happily cursing studio lights and cables, Adam changes into his other clothes at a safe distance. I unscrew and remove the shower door, sit him in the cubicle and turn on the water, forgetting briefly that it runs cold to start with. Adam reminds me.
'No matter, you're a writer', I say, 'plenty more where you came from'.
I’m not big on reassurance.

                                                                      Adam Usden ©marc marnie
                                                                                                                 Adam Usden ©marc marnie

I suppose it’s hard to draw the line having agreed to sit in a complete stranger’s shower, so Adam is soon writing underwater scripts at my behest, his spectacles steam up, water drips off his nose and ink runs .
More importantly, lighting is tricky, pose and angle are too complex and one of my cameras fails.

We move to the bath where I stand above him screaming UNDER… GET UNDER the water….now breath OUT! Blood… we need BLOOD... red ink? Ribena? Okay, we can use Ribena. Not my first choice. I take the picture and am instantly aware it’s a cheap shot.
That’s how it works. You only know after you've taken them.
Often just as the shutter clicks.

                                                                                  Adam Usden ©marc marnie
                                                                                                                          Adam Usden ©marc marnie

I can tell it isn't really working, and we only have one chance at this before I return to photographing other writers at The Book Festival and Adam gets his train South. Our hearts are in it, I, at least, am having a great time and Adam is proving a real gem, but it’s just too complex a shot for the time we have and the details aren't coming to life.

I move the monolight to my studio and, clamping a snoot on it, climb to the top of a step ladder with a wide angle.

                                                                               Adam Usden ©marc marnie    
                                                                                                                     Adam Usden ©marc marnie

This works quite nicely, I start to feel happier and after a few moments we agree we have something.

                                                                                Adam Usden ©marc marnie
                                                                                                                       Adam Usden ©marc marnie

If he leaves now he will still be late. It’s time to go.
Adam packs his wet clothing and works at clearing his now badly blocked sinuses.

‘Um… I’ve had an idea’ I say. ‘Come and sit at the kitchen table’.
I take three or four quick pictures with a slow shutter speed and wide aperture, doing everything wrong as usual, and yes, at the time of writing, that is probably the one we’ll use.

The only explanation I can give my sterling writer was probably not helpful,
‘I had to break your spirit before I could steal your soul’.

I wasn't meant to be involved as a photographer in this project, but someone dropped out early in the process and I willingly pulled the short straw.
The process was ridiculous, chaotic and hilarious but the wonderful thing was meeting Adam and creating  a new thing with him.
A complete stranger, he allowed us to abuse him shamefully, he agreed to all my notions, though most were pretty awful, and he did it with absolute charm and patience.

So thank you, Adam, you are so much more than I could begin to capture in a photograph.

Writer Pictures - Traverse Fifty Exhibition opens on October 21st in The Traverse, Edinburgh

(marc marnie - stagefright photography) art blog diary marc marnie photography scotland stagefright studio writer writing Fri, 06 Sep 2013 00:15:00 GMT