While still in high school, Drew Gurian was offered the opportunity to photograph a family friend’s band. Of course, this is an exciting proposition for any budding photographer, but particularly so when the band is the American alternative rock group Guster, just as they’re emerging into mainstream Top 40 radio.
At this time, Gurian’s interest in photography was just starting, and Guster gave him the ability to be hands-on in the field, learning about exposure and composition. Not only did this experience provide the groundwork for Gurian’s technical chops, but it also shaped his creative eye and provided him with insight into a stylistic range that meets music industry needs. In fact, Gurian now has a portfolio that includes influential industry clients such as Rolling Stone, Red Bull, VH1, Coachella and The Associated Press.
“I’d say 95% of my work is in the music industry, and that’s not necessarily a lot of concert work. I’ve done a ton of that over the years, but to tell the story of who someone actually is as a person is told in a much more authentic way when they’re out of the spotlight,” explains Gurian. “It can be backstage, on the tour bus, in a hotel room. Or it could be in the recording studio as they’re working on a new album, which, to me, is one of the most intimate moments you can get. It’s a very private time, and they’re creating something that they’re about to share with the world.”
Gurian is acutely aware of the flexibility and versatility needed when moving between these intimate moments and the theatrical lighting of stage performance. “With stage lighting, you don’t have control over it. You obviously have to be quite proficient with your camera system because you’re working on your toes. Traditionally speaking, you get to shoot the first three songs from the photo pit, so you have 6 to 10 minutes to produce everything you need. That’s really difficult,” he says.
In order to ensure his images stand out among the competitive field of concert photography, he uses access to his advantage. “If I’m shooting for a band or a publication that has gotten me all-access, I’ll typically shoot on stage with the band for the first three songs. I’m on the side stage. I’m crouched down by the drummer. I’m hiding behind an amp and popping up to take shots of the lead singer with the crowd. Then after those three songs are done, I’ll go down into the photo pit and have the entire thing to use by myself.”