Stockholm Rock City
Michigan-based photographer Stefan Peterson has made a career of standing alongside stomping, thrashing throngs at rock shows and snapping crystal-clear photos of the mayhem. He's been photographing rock music shows and scenes since the mid-90s, and his latest exhibit, “Together in the Darkness,” is made of photos he took while documenting rock in Sweden.
Check out a wicked slideshow of Peterson's rock photos here.
City Pages: Why did you choose to photograph rock bands in Sweden?
Stefan Peterson: It all started when I started buying records from bands in Sweden around 1997. I started photographing bands in general in the mid-90s, but when I started buying records from these bands, I had had no idea what was coming out of Sweden. Also, my family was from Sweden a few generations back. So I was interested because of the music angle and the family connection. Then in 1999 a band called the Hellacopters came to Detroit, and I photographed them, and we had mutual friends. Shortly after that concert, I took a trip to Sweden for the first time. I started meeting more and more people every time I went over. And, of course, everybody I was meeting was a friend with somebody in a band. So I ended up meeting all of these musical people and going to their concerts and shooting them.
CP: You've been photographing bands for a long time now. Does shooting rock shows in Sweden vary from shooting in the U.S.?
CP: Do you ever get roughed up while doing shooting these concerts?
SP: Certainly; every time. I always feel things beating my back, elbows and whatever. If you're part of it, you expect to get roughed up. But you just brush it off, or move a little; whatever you have to do to shift our harm's way. Sometimes I'll have friends who, if they see someone is really not paying attention or giving me a hard time, they'll stand behind me and block for me, which is helpful.
CP: You still do a lot of shooting with film and develop in a darkroom. Why don't you make the shift to digital?
Swedish band Randy.
SP: I don't even own a digital camera. The main thing is, I grew up with film, and it's what I know best. In a way, it's more reflective of how I see: The grain and the grittiness and the imperfection. If it looks too perfect, I won't think I'm doing a good job. I've seen digital work that looks too crisp and clear. Also, I also know how film reacts to certain situations, and I'm not very good with digital.
CP: Why do you shoot almost exclusively in black and white?
SP: I've thought about that actually, and I've tried to use color recently. Black and white is more striking, a little starker. I think it makes people think a little more about what something in the photo might have been like, but in color it gives too clear of a view of how things were. With black and white it's as if you have to use your imagination a little more and fill in the blanks and read between the lines. In a way, it's journalistic and feels like a documentary.
Check out “Together in the Darkness” at the American Swedish Institute through August 3.
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