The Extra Mile That Separates Kane Hibberd From Other Music Photographers

3 March 2016 | 12:05 pm | Staff Writer

Made possible by the Chuck Taylor All Star II

Kane Hibberd is one of the country's best-known, most widely respected music photographers, having captured an absolutely mind-blowing number of acts through his well-travelled lenses over the years.

But it's not just a nice camera and preternatural luck that have helped Hibberd — affectionately known in some circles as 'Kanye Lens', on account of his greatness — rise to the peak of Australian music photography. Rather, as a new Converse-sponsored behind-the-scenes mini-documentary about the snapper shows, a lot of it can be attributed to the dedication and forethought Hibberd applies in order to 'get the shot'.

"I generally try and get there a little bit earlier so I can have a look at the lighting, see the spots in the crowd that are the best, see where I can get around on stage because sometimes stages can be quite tight, so can I get behind the drummer? Can I get behind amps? Am I not gonna knock over power and cut a show?

"And then it's the angles, too, so it's like, can I get up high? Can I shoot over the band? Can I shoot under the band? … If there's a drum riser, can I get under the drum riser to get a point of view that no one else can get?

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From festival and concert photography (including his role as Soundwave's official photographer from 2008 to 2015) to magazine cover shoots (including ours!) and beyond, the concepts and characters Hibberd hasn't shot by now would probably be far easier to count than those he has. Despite the fact that it sometimes seems like he sprung from the womb holding a camera, this wasn't always the plan.

"I never really set out to be a live music photographer," he says in the doco. "I was a partner in a small record label, and it was a really bad record label, and we went broke, but I used to take my little point-and-shoot along to capture our bands that were playing, we'd put them up on the website.

"From doing that, I kind of thought, 'This is kind of cool.' Like, what I could capture on my camera versus what I was seeing wasn't matching up, but I kinda thought, 'This is fun; like, I want to be able to capture what I see in my head on the camera,' so I suppose it started from there."

Now, with a wealth of experience and countless photos to his name, his quest to capture iconic moments — there only has to be one for a shoot to be a success — continues unabated, the seasoned snapper as dedicated as ever to his pursuit of perfection. 

"It can be so difficult — you can be at a gig, especially the small, sweaty punk shows, and there's so much energy and it's coming from the crowd and the artist and it's, like, how do you sum that up in a photo, a visual image, because you can't hear the roar of the crowd and the band and things like that," he says. "It's almost like trying to capture lightning in a bottle.

"I'm kind of like a dog at a bone at it; I will sit in the one space all night just to try and get that one shot. And if I come out of a gig with only one photo, that's all I need, because that's what I want. That's really the ultimate goal, is one photo."