Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For 'Tour Tales,' we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it's still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on 'Tour Tales.'
Cam Kirk is known for taking photos, but he's more than a photographer. The shooter has used years of photographing the likes of Travis Scott, Majid Jordan, Chance the Rapper, Future, Metro Boomin' and a number of chart-topping artists to help establish his own creative studio in Atlanta where he hopes to inspire the next great creative.
“I own my own studio where I’m able to foster and mentor the next generation of photographers and provide a safe haven for kids to grow,” Kirk told REVOLT TV.
On this installment of “Tour Tales,” Kirk discusses the church-like vibes Travis Scott, Young Thug and Metro Boomin’ bring onstage, Schoolboy Q’s early tour requests, and his plans for the future.
Who was the first artist of note you photographed?
Skyzoo, rapper out of New York. The one that really put my name on the map was working with Schoolboy Q. When he had a show in Atlanta, I was hired to follow him for his whole two days in Atlanta. That was the first live photography I did that really went viral. That was 2012.
That was around his Habits & Contradictions days. What was that show like?
That was his first headlining show in Atlanta [at The Loft in February 2012] and really his first time performing without Kendrick [Lamar]. Prior to that, he was kind of Kendrick’s hypeman. The show was crazy. He jumped in the crowd. His energy was crazy.
When was the first time you went on tour?
Actually, the weekend that I shot Schoolboy Q, I ended up meeting Young Jeezy. Jeezy was the first artist that took me outside of Atlanta. I got to shoot photos of him for [NBA] All-Star Weekend 2012 that February. My first official tour was actually with Travis Scott, Young Thug and Metro Boomin’ on the 'Rodeo Tour.'
You got this really good close up shot of Thug and Travis from that tour. How'd you know to get that?
For me, I know a number of things. This is when the energy is at its highest. This is when you can get the best shots of them, personally, as well as really close shots of the fans close to the stage. Also, on a practical level, the show is about to be over and you don't want to be the one stuck in the back of the venue when everybody is about to leave. So, you have to make sure you're in the [photo] pit around that time. When they get off the stage, you can head backstage and capture anything you need to capture backstage.
How was that show set up?
It was a real dope show because Thug would open. He wouldn’t really open. He would do three songs and then, Trav would do three songs and then, Thug would do a few songs. They really blended their sets and then, at the end, they finished it together. It was pretty epic. It was really chill. We all hung out everyday backstage and on the buses. They were recording on the bus. It was crazy. That was one of the most historical events in hip hop in the last 10-20 years.
What was the most memorable fan reaction during that tour?
When all three of them came together -- Thug, Metro and Trav -- and performed ‘Skyfall.’ They had the entire arena in red and it felt like they were taking these kids to church. You would see kids in the crowd damn near crying, screaming at the top of their lungs. They may do that song two or three times. I’ve never seen the energy like that. It almost overcomes you. I also think Travis Scott is one of the greatest performers of our generation.
After that, you went on the 'Family Matters Tour' with Chance the Rapper in 2015, another artist that was on the cusp of superstardom.
The 'Rodeo Tour' was in March. Towards the end of the year, in October, I went on tour with Chance, Metro Boomin and DRAM. That was crazy. It was before Coloring Book, so he was still riding off the first album. DRAM had his songs ‘Cha-Cha’ and ‘Broccoli.’ This tour was a lot bigger than the 'Rodeo Tour' in terms of the venues.
What are some shots you made sure to get?
When I went on that tour, my main focus was Metro Boomin’. I was his personal tour manager and photographer. A lot of my job was to make sure he was straight every night.
What was the most interesting rider you’ve seen on tour?
I don’t think I saw any riders that were too over the top. Schoolboy Q’s rider was a pack of Polo socks, drawers and Polo tees. I thought that was very smart to have at every show. It wasn’t too many that stick out to me. Metro’s rider was pretty simple. It’s always a bottle of Moet, a bottle of Patron and a bottle of Hennessy. I’m sure now, it’s much more expensive.
When on tour, photographers have to learn to adapt. What have you had to adapt to?
The biggest thing is stamina. You have to do this thing thirty days in a row, sometimes longer. You’re in a different city every night. You’re not able to see your closest friends or loved ones. The long nights of the show, then the after-party and then the after, after party on the tour bus. Some nights you don’t get sleep. Then, you have to be right back at it the next day. Tour life is not like real life. Nothing that happens on tour is real life. It’s like movie-type interactions with people.
More specifically, probably the first show on every tour. No one really knows you. So, your credentials don’t really hold as much weight. They’re a little more strict on the first stop of the tour. So, you have to figure out, is the headliner going to be mad if you take photos of them? Is security going to let you be in the pit or onstage? How freely can you move through the venue? The first show is the one where I have to do the most adapting.
What do you want to do with your photography from here on?
The main thing I want to do is to continue to evolve. I’m not just a photographer. It’s a never-ending process of showing my vision through different mediums. Obviously, I’ve done my time on tour. I’ve bounced off of tour, and turned into the go-to guy for culture and photography in Atlanta. I own my own studio where I’m able to foster and mentor the next generation of photographers, and provide a safe haven for kids to grow.
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