You've seen the work of Ed Steele before. He's a photographer, but his work isn't the kind that slinks by you, unnoticed. Whether it's the super wide angles, unorthodox editing, or spicy subject matter, at least one of his photos has struck a chord with you before. Aside from that, his work is all over the Dallas Observer and the homepages of several local bands and burlesque dancers. Dude has the job that you dreamed of having in your high school photography class and he doesn't take it lightly. Steele is currently in the running for the Observer's "Best Music Photographer in North Texas," which you can vote for here. Read on for some silly questions about photography and cosplay.
Ed. You're weird. Who the hell are you and why are you in Denton?
Denton and I go way back. My parents moved to Denton when I was a kid, and I grew up and went to school here. It’s been amazing to watch Denton grow and change over the years – I remember a time when there was literally nothing to do and now some days there are literally so many great shows and events that it’s impossible to catch them all. I honestly don’t think there are many places on earth that have the music talent and creative people that we do.
You’ve recently been named as one of the 12 best music photographers in DFW by the Dallas Observer. How’s that sitting with you? Are you better than us now or is your head still normal-sized?
Oh Will, it’s been an honor and extremely exciting to be nominated and the support I’ve received is astounding. Have you seen the Frenchy’s van asking Denton to vote for me? When Frenchy sent me the picture I was blown away to be on the Van of Fame! My head is totally normal sized though; if not, my Loki helmet wouldn’t fit.
You seem to be out at the local festivals quite a bit nowadays. What are you looking for when you choose a person or group to photograph?
There’s a “look” some people have that jumps out at me, and it’s difficult to explain. I will typically scan a room and find someone who catches my eye, and then ask them if I can snap their photo. It can be someone with unusual features, interesting hair, a colorful outfit; it really differs from event to event. But that little voice in my head telling me “that’s someone I’d like to photograph!” is always the same.
What’s in your camera bag?
My Canon 5D, a 580EX II speedlite, various lenses depending on the job, extra batteries, the usual. Perhaps the two most important items I’d recommend to any music photographer are a Glotto Rocket-Air blaster for touchless cleaning of dust from lenses and the sensor, and an ASMP Media badge. I recently spoke on a panel of music photographers to a journalism class at Brookhaven College, and one of the challenges many of them faced was access at events. It can be tough if you’re not shooting for a publication and an American Society of Media Photographers badge prominently displayed on your camera strap demonstrates a level of professionalism. I recommended membership to ASMP to the class and a few of them have given me feedback that they’ve joined, which is great!
What’s been your favorite festival or ‘con to shoot so far? Why?
In 2012 I photographed “35 Des Refuses” and it was a blast to shoot for many reasons. Obviously with the sheer number of bands in Denton it’s impossible for the 35 Denton folks to have everyone play, so 35 Des Refuses (which means “of the rejects”) was comprised of bands that just wanted to perform but didn’t make it into 35D. The event was held at Creative Arts Studio and of course it rained, so the main performance area was moved inside and spillover was held at Robin’s photography studio next door. Needless to say it was sheer madness: delays, some bands not getting to perform, more rain, you name it. Denton’s Brave Combo performed at 35DR that night and one of my photos of their set is the insert in their current CD. I literally shot music for twelve hours straight, and at the end of it all I was totally exhausted but euphoric.
If you were to cosplay at a ‘con of your own volition (not as a photographer), what would you dress up as?
Loki or Frank the Bunny from “Donnie Darko.” Some have suggested a mashup of the two, but I can’t figure out a way to wear the Frank mask with the Loki Helmet!
How long does it take you to do your hair?
Haha! Having shaved my head for St. Baldrick’s Foundation two years in a row, it’s quite different to have a full head of hair now.
Asian food or Mexican food?
Oh gosh, I love both and I love spicy food! I’ve spent too long on this question trying to decide and it’s making me hungry….you buying?
Nope. What’s been your favorite band to photograph?
I’ve photographed Greg Ginn of Black Flag, Vanilla Ice, Amanda Palmer, Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless - many wonderful and talented bands. I got my start shooting bands in Denton though, and I’d have to say it’s a tie between Denton’s The Wee Beasties and Brave Combo. In both cases, each band has that magical quality of being able to get a crowd to dance like they’ve never danced before. I mean, it’s one thing to see a crowd go wild over a famous band, but the ability to get an audience that’s never heard you before go wild and dance like crazy, that’s an incredible and amazing talent. I got my start shooting The Wee Beasties and Brave Combo; the members of each have been incredibly wonderful and supportive of me over the years. LoveSick Mary is another great local band that’s been incredibly supportive and I always have a blast photographing them.
Do you prefer to shoot bands playing onstage or getting them in your studio?
I love these questions! That’s really tough because on stage leads to the anticipation of the moment and being in the right place at the right time which is a rush for me, and in the studio leads to all kinds of silliness and fun with props and general conversation. If I had to pick I’d say studio, because it gives me the opportunity to get to know the musicians better and to flex my creative vision and style.
Are there any local photographers whose work you dig?
I’d have to say Robin Gansle. Not only is Robin a fantastic photographer, but she’s also been incredibly supportive.
Who are some other photographers whom you view as inspiration?
I am a big fan of Glen E. Friedman.
What’s your favorite photo that you have ever taken?
Last year I was hired by the band Responsible Johnny to do a band portrait. Rob Michaud of RJ told me he trusted my creative vision so after much brainstorming I decided I wanted to do a spaghetti western sci-fi shoot. For good measure I added a model and two members of the 501st Legion - a group who does Star Wars cosplay. I selected an abandoned train car as the location. The story goes that the train engine is actually two of the remaining engines that were converted from coal to steam and it awaits placement in a train museum. So with everyone in costume and permission from the property owners we did the shoot, the results of which you can see here. I always love it when people ask if the train and background are photoshopped because the only thing that’s not real is the planetoid I added in the top right corner.