The Life of a Music Photographer: Q & A with Christie Goodwin

Christie Goodwin is an accomplished photographer, who started her pathway in to photography by studying for a BA Honours at the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp. She began her photography career in the field of fashion, later turning to shooting editorial news photography for agencies. In 2005 she made the switch to music photography, a field in which she has thrived. Christie was given her first big break in the industry photographing Status Quo and these days captures global pop icons including the likes of Usher and One Direction. Christie isn’t starstruck by these celebrities and doesn’t buy in to celebrity culture, rather, she is interested in capturing the beauty of the show, the creativity of the artist and the real people beneath the celebrity status. Perhaps this humanity in the fanatic frenzied music industry is what enables her to produce such fantastic photographs time and time again.

platformPHOTO: Hi Christie, we want to know what it was that first interested you in photography, particularly music photography?

Christie Goodwin: As a kid I was enchanted by my dad’s camera. It was like magic, it could capture one moment in time and hold that moment still for eternity. I ran off with his camera all the time. He would then get his film developed and find photos that I took. Eventually he bought me my own camera. As I grew older and music became a big part of my life, I started sneaking a camera in to gigs. It just took me quite some time to realise that I could do this professionally rather than just for fun.

platformPHOTO: Tell us about your journey to become the successful music photographer you have become today. Were there any key moments in your career?
Christie Goodwin: It’s been a quite a journey and it didn’t happen overnight. It was and still is hard work, shooting an obscene amount of pictures, never saying no to an opportunity to shoot no matter how gritty the circumstances, putting your life as you know it on hold and sacrificing it all just to be able to take pictures. It does mean giving up your social life and weekends and holidays and living in constant uncertainty about tomorrow. The key moments for me were those moments I felt I was walking up against walls and it was just not working. Those moments where I felt like throwing in the towel and selling all my gear and getting a normal 9 to 5 to pay the bills. Just at the moment that I was going to give it all up something would happen, a paid shoot would drop in unexpectedly which kept me going just a little while longer.

platformPHOTO: The first time you were commissioned to shoot a live concert was surely a significant moment. Can you remember it?
Christie Goodwin: I most certainly do. Unbeknownst to me some shots I had made of a pub band had been shown to the manager of Status Quo. He called me one jolly afternoon and offered me to shoot his band. I wasn’t a music photographer at the time and I didn’t know that someone had introduced me to him, so I thought the phone call was a hoax and I hung up on him. I did call him back later after I was made aware of the fact that he did indeed wanted to hire me to shoot a live concert. It was humiliating and exciting all in one.

platformPHOTO: How does it feel to be on stage and backstage with the artists and, to some extent, share their experience of performing?
Christie Goodwin: Artists are by nature very creative beings so hovering around their creative experience is very inspiring. It’s the main reason why I like shooting artists because I can feed off their creativity. But I am not in awe of their celebrity status. To me they are just people, who happen to have a very creative job and are in the public eye.

© Christie Goodwin, One Direction, O2 Arena, London, 6 April 2013. Taken in the movie crew control room. Commissioned by Sony Pictures for the movie ‘1D3D This Is Us’

© Christie Goodwin, One Direction, O2 Arena, London, 6 April 2013. Taken in the movie crew control room. Commissioned by Sony Pictures for the movie ‘1D3D This Is Us’

platformPHOTO: You often go on the road with the artists for weeks and sometimes even months. Do you ever miss home and your family? What is it like being on tour with artists and their crew?
Christie Goodwin: With Skype I am close no matter how far away I am so it doesn’t really bother me as long as I can get a decent internet connection to stay in touch with my kids. Being on tour is the best. You are part of a very well oiled machinery and everything is taken care of for you. Your transport, your lodging, your food… all I need to do is take pictures, process and deliver them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not glamourous, at all. There’s very little sleep, there’s very little time to do laundry, and after a while you have no idea where you are or what day of the week it is. But I like it, to me those are perfect working conditions and I get used to it very easily. It’s quite a rude awakening when you get back home and you have to make your own schedule again. And your own breakfast for that matter.

platformPHOTO: Thinking back to the tours you have accompanied, is there a favourite one that sticks out in your mind? If so, why is that?
Christie Goodwin: I think Usher’s last European tour in 2011 is one of my favourite experiences, mainly because of Usher himself. He is the most professional, dedicated, creative and inspiring person ever. He made me push my boundaries every show, he made me better, he got the very best out of me. He was genuinely interested in what I did and sometimes popped in whatever room I was in and looked over my pictures of the previous show with me. It’s a very stimulating experience when you get instant feedback from the artist on your work. Even if we did not always agree. I can remember wanting to delete a picture which I thought was no good at all and he would insist I would keep it as he thought it was brilliant. I got to see the Usher behind the brand and he is one fine human being.

© Christie Goodwin, Usher, O2 Arena, Dublin, 28 February 2011. Official tour photography. Commissioned by Usher’s management

© Christie Goodwin, Usher, O2 Arena, Dublin, 28 February 2011. Official tour photography. Commissioned by Usher’s management

platformPHOTO: With all that extraordinary artists you have photographed, what do you feel is the best picture you you have taken?
Christie Goodwin: I don’t like to look back at my work. I’ll be on a high today about my shoot and tomorrow I will hate every single picture. Sometimes someone will show me a picture I shot on a CD cover or in a magazine and all I can see is all the mistakes in the picture. It’s tough because I never really enjoy the success of my work. Once a shoot has been processed and the pictures have been delivered I am already looking for the next shoot to do it better as I am forever chasing the perfect picture. It’s the thing that keeps me going.

platformPHOTO: If you could photograph any musician today who would it be?
Christie Goodwin: To me it’s not about an individual or a name, I’m interested in the creativity of the whole show. I love big bright shows with lots of things going on so I can just be swept away and drown in their magical experience. And then hopefully I come out at the other end with some of that magic in my shots.

platformPHOTO: To you, what are the most important qualities required to be a successful music photographer?
Christie Goodwin: Patience is definitely at the top of the list. I think it also helps if you don’t walk in as a fan but as a creative colleague. You gotta have nerves of steel too because it is one of the most challenging disciplines of photography as you have no control over lights, surroundings, subject, movement nor time. You have to totally be able to go with the flow.

platformPHOTO: Do you have any tips for emerging photographers wanting to break into music photography?
Christie Goodwin: Get experience shooting local upcoming bands, get in contact with your local newspaper and see if they want anyone to cover local gigs for them. Start small and get some mileage before you venture anything bigger.

platformPHOTO: Thank you so much for your time today Christie, we have one last question for you. If we sent you to a desert island and allowed you to take only one picture with you by another photographer, what would this image be?
Christie Goodwin: This is a very good question and you really made me think about this one. I think I’d choose Nan Goldin’s Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC, 1991. For some reason that picture gives me comfort, a sense that everything is going to be just fine against all odds.

For more information on Christie’s work, visit her website:

© Christie Goodwin, Ed Sheeran, London, 2 September 2012. Shot for press, promo and merchandise. Commissioned by Warner

© Christie Goodwin, Ed Sheeran, London, 2 September 2012. Shot for press, promo and merchandise. Commissioned by Warner


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