Photographer Jim Leatherman has been shooting concerts in Orlando for decades now, capturing iconic snaps of everyone from R.E.M. to Björk, to say nothing of his extensive archive of local acts. When we saw that Leatherman was documenting the action in-person during the recent series of Will's Pub livestream shows – you wouldn't know from watching them online, that's how stealthy he is – we had to find out more.
What made you decide to pick up the camera again and document this series of shows?
I saw the Facebook event for the Golden Pelicans playing live at Will's but streaming on Facebook. I really wanted to document this show because Rich Evans was going to be leaving Orlando, moving away to Portland. I was bummed Rich was leaving town – he has been a fixture in the Orlando music scene for a long time. I've been buds with him for something like 18 years.
Will [Walker] was cool with me being there, very welcoming, as he always has been to me. He's one of this town's real treasures. I got there early enough to shoot a quick portrait of the band before the start of the broadcast. I wore a mask the whole night and during the show and made sure to stay back behind the video cameras.
I read that the next Friday would be the Ludes. I am an old friend and longtime fan of all three of those guys. I said, "Man, I would really love to shoot that one too!" So I reached out to Jeff Nolan, and he said that would be great. It went from there ...
Could you talk about your new methodology for shooting these?
Will's is probably my favorite place to take photos of musicians. Right up front next to the stage, you are pretty much always going to get some good pics. It has spoiled me for all other venues. With these Friday live internet gigs, I am shooting the opposite of how I normally shoot shows. I am in the middle or towards the back of the room, using a telephoto lens and a tripod, something I would never do if there was an audience in the room. I don't like to be in anyone's way or draw any attention to myself.
Are there any moments that stand out for you that came close to capturing the spontaneity of a full-audience show?
Orlando is so rich with talented musicians and amazing bands – I hope that this series will continue and showcase more of the good things we have. I am so honored to have been allowed to shoot these intimate events; it isn't lost on me how special these nights are.
I have loved seeing the creative ideas, like the cool Orlando-themed video at the start of the Ludes and those amazing fire effect lights in the front of the stage. The Golden Pelicans with the awesome plaster statues on the edge of the stage: a monkey, pig and of course a pelican! The Sh-Booms with their totally photogenic video screen backdrop – and front-drop too – made it really easy to shoot some great stills.