Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Interview: Dane Beesley for Tom Magazine

Read online here.

Splitting The Seconds.

Dane Beesley, the fly on the wall of Brisbane’s music scene, takes a break from preparing for the launch of his first photographic book - a scrapbook of the last decade in music - to chat to Anna Angel. It’s shaping up to be quite a party, with some of the rockers who feature in Beesley’s work heading along to help him celebrate and drink the booze. And why wouldn’t they? ‘Splitting the Seconds: a Photographer’s Journal’ catalogues not just Beesley’s own work, but the evolution of Brisbane’s culture as captured through his lens.

"It’s always been my dream to have a book, even when I was in college," Beesley says.

"I started in the film days keeping track of the exposures, writing notes to go with the photos, and just kept it going."

Scribbled notes and micro interviews on bar coasters compliment a retrospective of Beesley’s shots from the past decade, including the likes of Grinderman, The Lemonheads, Beyonce and Metallica.

"It’s pretty personal, but it’s also a really good time for Brisbane - there’s a lot of bands that I’ve worked with like The Grates, Powderfinger, and more recently Hungry Kids of Hungary, that it’s been great watching grow into international acts."

Having shot for street press and magazines like Rolling Stone, Beesley has become a part of the landscape, and now counts a handful of the artists he has worked with as close friends.

"I’m lucky to have made some really great friends but it’s hard having to charge for my jobs when it’s a friend’s band," he says. "It usually just ends up that they’ll buy me a carton of beer."

That’s not to say he no longer gets butterflies - he counts shooting Nick Cave as a career highlight even though he was "really nervous" on the day. When asked if there are any artists still on his ‘wish list’ he recalls chasing psychedelic outfit The Growlers across LA trying to catch one of their gigs.

"I couldn’t get a hold of them, but I met some of their friends who were pretty wild, and shot some of them," he says.

As a widely travelled Brisbane local, Beesley welcomes the changing attitudes towards exports of his hometown - once deemed a ‘cultural backwater’.

"I don’t know why, when someone comes in from New York we think they must be fantastic but there’s people in our backyard who are just as good," he says.

He says there is now a solidarity amongst, and support, for local artists that didn’t exist when he started out shooting Brisbane bands.

"I was just living in Sydney for the last three months and I caught up with so many Brisbane bands getting out there, and had a few of them crashing on my couch," he says.

"Even if you don’t know them you’ll become best friends just because they’re from Brisbane."

Beesley started shooting friend’s bands when he was still in college, before beginning work for street press like Tsunami. His big break came when he managed to snap Karen O bruised and on all fours after she fell off stage.

"I went to New York in 2009 and I met Karen O, and told her how that photo started me off working with Rolling Stone and she goes ’well, you owe me a beer’," Beesley recalls.

"I said, ’well, actually I didn’t get paid for it so you owe me a beer’. She went to the bar and got me a bottle of champagne."

It’s anecdotes like this that make you wonder if there might be some truth to old roll and rock clichss even today, and Beesley seems like a pretty good guy to ask.

"These days you get in trouble just for looking the wrong way, and it is one of those industries where you’re around alcohol a lot; there are drugs around," he says.

"I’ve been pulling back a bit lately; maybe that’s why it’ll be good for me to get into something else, before I get into trouble."

Beesley is working on a second book of black and white travel documentary images, and considering a move into book publishing after self-releasing Splitting The Seconds. You get the impression he’s a restless worker, always with a new project in mind.

"I’m thinking of going back to study and getting a PHD or something, but maybe I’m more of a shooter than a studier," he says.

Splitting The Seconds: A Photographer’s Journal launches July 22 at Metro Arts, and will be available to purchase from www.photodane.com.

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