Music Photographer Interview: Briar Burns

Interview by Yising Kao, Photos by Briar Burns

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Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons

What inspired you to start doing photography?

I went to my first concert when I was eighteen-my friend had needed a ride to San Francisco a few hours away and I decided that I didn't have anything better to do that day, so we made the trip down. Twenty One Pilots were playing at a 1,500 capacity venue, and I had zero idea who they were. We queued from 10am and ended up a row back from barricade. I didn't know a single song, didn't even realize that there were only two people in the band, and I cried at that show. The connection with the crowd, the feeling of being completely present; it was totally unlike anything that I had ever experienced. I knew I wanted to get involved with live music in some capacity and it ended up being with a camera. The thought of trying to capture the magic of shows and trying to put what I felt at that first show into an image is my favorite challenge, and my photography journey truly did start with a concert.

How would you describe your style?

I really love punchy colors, high contrast, and post processing. I went through a period of trying to replicate the film look that is super popular at the moment, but I wasn't enjoying the editing process or the end result. I took a break to look at what I was doing in post, and really thought about what I was conveying with my settings-instead of just moving things until it looked ok, I started working on doing things with intention and thought. One of the things that makes concerts different than almost any other settings is the incredible, bizarre color, and light that you can get. When editing with a film look, I was desaturating those colors, flattening blacks and whites, and generally just pulling away what makes concerts unique, so I decided to go in the opposite direction. Now I love bright, bold colors, textures, overlays, and anything else that can take a photo that may otherwise seem bland and instead, edit to convey movement, emotion, intensity, and the energy of the performers.

Who are your photographer inspirations?

I get a ton of inspiration from other artists, especially more experimental stuff, and I have a few specific photographers that I'm friends with or interact with that continually blow me away with their art. Ruby Boland (@rubyboland) is absolutely crazy. She's always doing new unique edits, and the richness of her colors, stupidly beautiful contrast, and ability to endlessly capture decisive moments at shows has me always thrilled to see what she posts after shooting. Another photographer that I hope to one day be able to be on par with is Cath Connell (@cath.connell). She has such a dope style that emulates a lot of classic rock posters-her graphic design and collage posts always make my jaw drop when I see them while scrolling through my socials.

What’s your favorite concert you’ve shot and why?

I've been really lucky to shoot a lot of bands that I love in 2018-Paramore, Panic! at the Disco, Sam Smith, Troye Sivan-but the one to top them all would have to be Twenty One Pilots. They were the band that introduced me to the beauty of live shows and have been a huge part of my life for the last five years and it was surreal to be standing in the photo pit at a show with 20,000 other people. It was also my 21st time seeing them, and it meant a whole lot to be able to photograph a band that I've grown with over the years.

Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco