From the Bus to the Stage with Heart’s Official Tour Photographer, Kimberly Adamis
In modern day touring, and the heightened artist-to-fan connection platforms available via social media, most prominent artists have added a crucial member to their traveling team. An official tour photographer. This is a trusted professional who the artist recognizes as not only a major part of the overall experience, but also a fellow creator.
Los Angeles-based artist, Kimberly Adamis was with Heart as their tour photographer on their long awaited “reuniting” Love Alive Tour this past summer. Fresh off capturing their many intimate and enthralling live moments across North America, rocking some of the biggest arenas and amphitheaters, Adamis takes us inside what it’s like to be behind the lens every night, as the band takes the stage.
How did you get into tour photography?
I have been shooting live music performances for a number of years (bands/artists) but actually being “on-tour” with a band began for me in 2017. It happened quite organically. My partner in life and art is drummer/producer Denny Fongheiser and he had played with Heart in the early ’90’s. He was actually their drummer for “The Road Home” album as well as touring with them during that time. Decades later Ann (Wilson) asked him to join her on a solo project and he of course said “yes” as he always connected with her musically and is a wonderful spirit.
The first show of this tour was in Seattle at the Moore Theatre which was a cool “full circle” moment because that was where “The Road Home” DVD was done and Denny was reuniting with someone he greatly admired and enjoyed playing with. When I was introduced to Ann I felt an immediate connection and I’ll never forget our first exchange. As I walked towards her she flashed her warm “Ann Wilson smile” and said, “You must be Kimberly” and I replied, “And you must be Ann Wilson.” From that point on I was made to feel welcome and comfortable. I shot the dress rehearsal and opening show which led to shooting more shows during that first leg. I was then asked to go out on the road for the 2nd leg of the tour. We toured all over the states and it didn’t take long until I felt like part of the “family”. Whenever I tell Denny he’s the reason I’m there he says, “I may be the reason you got the opportunity to shoot, but if you took shitty photos you wouldn’t be here.”
As AWOH, (Ann Wilson of Heart) band we toured on and off during 2017 with Ann (vocals, guitar, flute), Craig Bartock (Guitars), Andy Stoller (Bass/Guitar), Dan Walker (Keys/Synth) and a wonderful crew. The following summer of 2018 we were part of the STARS ALIGNED TOUR with Paul Rodgers (Bad Company/Free), Jeff Beck and powerhouse-singer Deborah Bonham. (Yes, THAT Bonham)
When the historical reuniting of Heart was announced I was offered the position of Tour Photographer shooting alongside videographer, Criss Cain for the LOVE ALIVE Tour. I then had the pleasure of shooting photos of Nancy (Wilson) as well. Both Ann and Nancy are cool, creative souls who not only allow me to change up the vibe and experiment, they actually encourage it. It keeps my job fresh, fun and creative. We did 50+ shows this summer throughout US and Canada and there were times I’d ask myself “What am I going to do different tonight?” And lo and behold a new light, angle or vantage point would present itself that would spawn a whole new vibe. That always made me happy.
What is a day in the life of a tour photographer like?
Well, to be honest, when you’re on tour you lose complete track of days and hours. It becomes one endless circle of time. We even lose track of what city we’re in at times. I remember one time sitting outside having coffee by myself and asking a woman who was walking by what city I was in. She came up to me looking concerned and said, “Are you ok? Do you need me to call someone for you?” I explained what I do and she then felt comfortable to leave me. Ha.
So, my day typically goes down like this. Let’s start with waking up on the bus after 2-3 hours of sleep in a new city sometime between 3am-6am. We schlep our bags to a hotel room, sleep for a few more hours, then head to venue around noon. When getting to the venue I usually assess how much room I’ll have in the pit and behind the stage to shoot, then walk around to get my other vantage points. I then grab my 3rd cup of coffee and start editing photos from the previous night. I’ve usually gone through the hundreds of photos the night before, so I can begin actual editing the next morning. I try to break away to catch soundcheck then I go right back to editing. My goal every day is to have finished photographs for Ann and Nancy to approve prior to show. They give me their feedback and I make any adjustments, then upload them and get them to the proper peeps who need them for media. In the meantime, I’ve recharged my batteries, backed up my work and cleared my memory cards. The only thing left is preparing my bag for the show. I shoot with a combo of three “key” lenses, but I feel like one of the most important things is throwing out the rules. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know your camera and “become one with it” but then remember to “play”. Some nights I challenge myself by using only one of my lenses the entire night. It forces me to stretch (sometimes literally) to get shots I wouldn’t typically get and think outside the preverbal box. It’s important to experiment and push the limits.
I LOVE being backstage every night minutes before showtime. You can feel the energy and excitement with every cell of your body. The sound of the crowd going wild when they turn down the house lights never gets old. Every night I raise that camera to my eye I get a rush like no other. I go to another space and time and it becomes only me and the artists up there.
After shooting the show it takes me a little time to come down. I actually feel high and have even been playfully accused of actually being “high”. (I don’t smoke or drink) I get giddy and feel loopy and its all part of it for me. Once we’re back on the tour bus heading to the next city it takes me 1-2 hours to go through and rate all I shot that night. But editing is not even an option. Let’s just say a bumpy tour bus is not conducive to working with a digital pen tablet.
What were some of your favorite moments from this past Heart tour?
My favorite moments were many. But one that stands out to me is from one of the first nights being out in the crowd. They all starting singing the chorus of “What About Love”. We all know this song to be emotional and the way Ann delivers the vocal is enough to give you goose bumps. But when you’re standing out in the audience and feel the energy, wow. I put my camera down and looked around. I couldn’t help but get emotional myself. I thought, “YEAH! What about love??!! What happened to us? Have we all forgotten about love?” And lucky me, I got to experience it 52 times and it never got old. I still get chills thinking about it. I tried recording it but there’s no way to capture the feeling nor did I want to miss the experience. You really have to be out there in the crowd to get it. The love and passion people have for this song and the way Ann delivers the vocals and Nancy’s harmonies and guitar…..this is the magic of a live concert.
They had some amazing artists open on this tour. What was your experience shooting and seeing them?
You’re right, we did have some pretty amazing artists out there. Sheryl Crow, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Brandi Carlile, Elle King, Lucie Silvas, Megan Rose, Emily Wolfe and Sweet Lizzie Project. I can truly say that all of these bands and all people involved in their show each night were more than cool. Elle King is so good!!!! And what a crack-up, she really is as fun as you’ve maybe heard. It was great meeting Lucie Silvas and spending time talking with her and her bandmates over a meal backstage. Megan Rose, Emily Wolfe and Sweet Lizzie Project are three other examples of upcoming cool, talented, passionate artists that the world should watch out for. I enjoyed meeting Sheryl Crow and watch how cute she was with her kids. She hung out and played with them during the day, then went to work each night and sang her heart out. Brandi Carlile is such a talented, kind hearted person. She was so warm and gracious from the second I peeked my head in her dressing room to introduce myself. She stopped everything to shake my hand and said “I’m so happy to be here.” Then told me what a big fan of Heart she was.” That was cool. One of my favorite captures is of Brandi ending her set with a peace sign… and a thank you. Ok, so Joan Jett & The Blackhearts really are as cool as you would think. Watching their fierce energy onstage every night was a great way to get our blood rushing and really set the stage for Ann, Nancy, Denny, Craig, Andy, Ryan and Dan (HEART) to perform their magic every night. And for me to hopefully capture it through my lens.
opening for Heart: Elle King, Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow
It may sound corny but it’s very cool how quickly you can become attached to people and feel like a family when you’re out on the road. We’re all in our little bubble traveling from city to city working toward a common goal every night, which is to put on a kick-ass show that’s even better than the night before. And trust me, they did.
What would you tell someone who would like to be a tour photographer and ask you for advice on how to do it or what to expect?
The first thing I would ask them is, “How much are you willing to sacrifice to do this job?” I mean, I just shared all the COOL aspects of being a tour photographer. If you’re out there thinking you’re going to be singing along with your favorite bands every night I’d say you may want to re-think this. OK, well I do singalong sometimes, but I don’t tell anyone. Being flexible and having the ability to function on little or no sleep is a must. Being on the road is tough but addicting. It becomes a way of life. You’ll feel a little out of touch with normal life as you once knew it. You’ll miss your family, friends, pets and numerous celebrations and gatherings. You’ll travel to a lot of different cities but you probably won’t see much of any of them because you’ll be working. But if you LOVE photography, art and music and are okay sleeping in a bunk on a tour bus with 8 other people, waking up in a different city every day, wearing the same three outfits for weeks, then I highly recommend it. And for me I have the most important reason; I’m able to do what I love, with the love of my life. So that certainly doesn’t suck. What it comes down to is doing what makes your heart happy. I’ve chosen to surround myself with love, art and music so I feel like I’m in the right place. I feel very fortunate and look forward to what 2020 brings.
Until then, I am working on pieces of digital art I’m creating by using random photos I’ve taken throughout the years and combining them with hand drawings I’ve done. I’ve been offered a Solo Art showing at LACDA (Los Angeles Center for Digital Art) in Downtown LA and will have 10-12 pieces hanging there beginning Nov 14 thru Dec 7th. I invite anyone who lives in or near LA to come to my opening:
ART OPENING RECEPTION
featuring the Solo Works of Kimberly Adamis
Saturday Evening, November 16th
6pm to 9pm
LACDA (Los Angeles Center for Digital Art)
104 E Fourth St, Los Angeles, 90013
Join us if you can. And if not, maybe we’ll see you out there on the road someday!
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Peace, love and more peace….K:)
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FB: Kimberly Adamis
*All featured photography by and courtesy of Kimberly Adamis