Article by Danny Hill
Photos by Gig
Strange, some folk; they'll collect almost anything they can get their hands on: stamps, coins, porcelain, bottles, sea-shells… However, these are the words of a non-collector - like myself, guilty of reverting to stereotype, pigeon-holing collectibles into one or two particular items. If you were to ask somebody like Sarah Thompson - aka Gig Junkie (Sal, to her friends), an avid music photographer and artist, what a collection means to her, you would probably get an in-depth answer on the feelings that are evoked, the indefatigable effort and pursuit of piecing a collection together. She would also go on to mention the personal, emotional connection she has with her work, and the delight these moments she so brilliantly captures brings to her.
What also differentiates Sarah from most collectors is that her interest also serves as a vehicle for her impressive band photography portfolio. During the last four years Sarah has been travelling up and down the country, throwing herself into all kinds of precarious positions, capturing the "energy", as Sarah calls it, that goes in to all of these gigs. "The mosh-pits are the worst," she says, laughing. "I remember the Leeds and Reading festival - everyone was throwing chairs and everything - I've been covered in bruises. I've been lost a few times as well."
Sarah's achievements to date are very successful - her work has appeared in NME and Move magazine, amongst many others, not to mention today's book launch and exhibition at The Underground in Hanley. I arrived at around 4.30 to find a couple of The Rebounds and The Sport's lads milling around, and Razorlight booming from the speakers. Sarah has gone to special lengths to modify the live-music venue, placing tripods in the centre of the room with framed 18x12 images featuring some of the most prominent bands and artists in the musical arena today: Ian Brown, Pete Doherty, The View, Kasabian, Editors, Bloc Party, etc… In the centre of the room, a laptop was on display with her website www.gigjunkie.co.uk, emblazoned across its screen, which contains a further array of work from her vast portfolio. A table was set up at the far end of the room where scaled-down copies of her book could be observed.
So, good turnout, Sarah? "Yeah, it's been alright. I was a bit worried that no-one would turn up. But it's going okay, to be honest. I haven't had the chance to get around to talk to everybody yet. It's been a bit of a panic setting it all up."
After finding no takers in the publishing industry, Sarah decided to publish the book herself, but in terms of presentation you would never notice. She contacted an online publisher, downloaded a software programme on to which she dropped her images on. "It was really hard arranging the photos. A lot of the images are personal to me, but might not necessarily be to anyone else, so it was pretty hard finding the right balance."
Sarah didn't stop there; saying that she found the programme's own layout "constricting", Sarah then went to design her own layouts on Photoshop, then drop her work in as full-page images. The result is a colourful arrangement of photographs that practically burst from the book's pages, along with comments from many satisfied bands - not to mention local bands - that have used her work. "To be honest, without the Stoke bands and going to local gigs, I wouldn't be where I am now with the photography and everything - it's the support from them that's held it all up, really."
The book was available to order from today, but Sarah also mentions that she is currently in discussions with Music Mania in Hanley to hold copies of her work. "I'm not sure yet, we'll have to see…" The shop, I understand, also has limited edition framed photos available at its store.
The book is currently available to order at £35, and some of Sarah's other photography can be ordered from her website at various sizes and costs, varying between £45 - £80.
And what's the future for Sarah after the book? "I haven't really thought about it, to be honest," she giggles. "This book launch has taken up all of my time, but I'll basically to carry on doing what I'm doing."
So what is a collectible? I ponder. I now grasp that it's not necessarily a stamp or a coin - it is something one is passionate about, something that drives them to each end of the country and back on an almost weekly basis. It is also something that a collector can proudly stand back and call their own. And in Sarah Thompson's case, it is a series of photographs, a book, for her and many others to enjoy for years to come. And perhaps, in years gone by, it is something on which to reflect and reminisce, a succession of great memories.