Behind the lens of Paléo photographer Anne Colliard

In front and behind each stage at the start of every Paléo concert, there are always a handful of photographers taking shots of the bands, the singers and the action. Many of these official photographers work with the big photo agencies such as Keystone and Reuters etc. However, Paléo also employs three photographers to record the events of the 6 day festival. One of these is Anne Colliard. With her distinctive blonde curly hair and camera poised, Anne is there well before the gates open at 16.30, until the last concert of the evening.

Anne who is from Geneva chatted to Living in Nyon about her work and life as a photographer.

Living in Nyon: “Anne, what appeals to you about being a photographer at events like these?”

Anne:  “I like the drama of  live performances. I try if I can, to capture the emotion of it all, the intensity of the moment.  A performer gives their all on stage and I want to record it, to get behind the person.  The reaction between the person on stage to their setting, the crowd, their fellow performers is always different and it’s fascinating to watch. It’s also a privilege to be in such a close position to take the picture. 

LIN:  “What are the difficulties of being a concert photographer?” 

Anne:  “With each concert, each artist (or their management company) places certain restrictions on the time period that we can take photos. In  the majority of cases we have permission to be there just for the first three songs. The reasons behind these restrictions are various, mainly I guess because in the early stages of the evening the artist still looks good, for example their make up hasn’t begun to to run, they are not perspiring too much etc and also it means that the artist can relax a bit more after we have left. 

Photo above  – the photo restrictions at each concert

This of course can be frustrating as it’s often then when they have warmed up, thats when you get the best shots. It’s when their emotions are high and the artists are more likely to do unpredictable things.  However rules are rules and we all abide by the code, and there are occasions when some artists let us stay for the whole performance.

Photo below courtesy – Paléo.  Anne’s photo of William White in performance .

“The practical difficulties of taking pictures are when you can’t quite get the angle you want from the position you have been given and there’s not much room to move, or the artist keeps his or her face close to the microphone all the time. The other hazard is the use of all the dry ice and smoke in some stage acts or poor lighting.  It can be really tricky for contrast. Having said that I don’t use filters and work very little on photos in the editing process, just a little cleaning up for dust etc.

Photo below – courtesy Paléo.  Anne’s photo of Chucho Valdez

LIN: “How do all the three photographers work together during the festival?”

Anne: “We work as a a team. I usually have a preference for the smaller stages, I’m not too worried about getting the shots of the big named acts, I like to take photos of the “up and coming” artists. So at the start of each festival we sit down together and work out a schedule for us all; who is going to be where and when.  It can be a long day but I’m not complaining, the Paléo week is a very special one, there is a camaraderie amongst us all and we all get the blues when it’s over.

I live in Geneva and when I first started covering Paléo, I used to go home each night and then the following morning I would spend hours uploading photos from the previous day and start to edit them.  But working this way meant I could never really relax. I would often stay awake thinking about the shots and what I needed to do the following day. Now I upload pretty much every concert, deal with them, post them to the Paléo site and then go home and have a good sleep, its the only way you can get through  a long week like this!

Anne originally taught herself photography and then followed this up with a technical course at Studio 23 in Geneva. “Once you learn the basics, it’s then like driving a car, you don’t need to think twice about the mechanics before taking what will hopefully, be the perfect shot”.  She mainly used Canon cameras at the start of her career but has now switched to a Nikon D3S (“it’s just fantastic for low light”)

Photo below – courtesy Paléo.  Anne’s photo of  a vocalist from the Boukman Eksperyans.

LIN: “I see there are a few other women photographers at the concerts but it still seems like the majority are men. What’s it like being in what essentially sems to be a masculine world?” 

Anne: “I didn’t start my career in this business (Anne was a teacher before she turned to photography). So I feel I have the maturity and confidence to deal with certain situations that can crop up in the concert and photography world. Having said that on the whole there is a politeness and respect amongst us all, particularly here in Switzerland.

Photo below – courtesy Paléo.  Anne’s photo of the Solillaquists of Sound

LIN:  How many photos do you take per concert?

Anne: “With digital photography, it would be easy to take hundreds of pictures but I find that around 30 is usually enough to get at least one or two good shots”   

LIN: Do you have time to enjoy the music while you are at a concert or are you too focussed on taking the picture?

Anne: “I do enjoy the music and you can often find me dancing along, I try to pick up on the atmosphere myself it’s all part of trying to capture the image”.

As to admiring the work of other photographers, Anne is particularly fond of Cartier Bresson.

There are other local photographers that I admire, Claude Dussex takes some superb black and white images of concerts that are truly amazing”.

LIN:Which concert at Paléo this year has been the most memorable for you for images?  

Anne: The lead singer from the BellRays what a character, what a performance! I could have taken photos of her all night! (Anne’s photo below –  courtesy Paléo)

You can see more of Anne’s work on her own website here