Will Binks is based in the North East of England and has been chronicling the regions vibrant punk music scene for a number of years through his photographs which capture the heart and soul of the scene.
Here Hifi Pig talks to Will about his photographs and what motivates him to document the North East punk movement.

HP: How did you get into photography in general and more specifically documenting the punk scene of the North East Of England?

WB: I don’t think I can pinpoint it to one individual reason if I’m honest. My late Father had what I’d call ‘ordinary’ cameras during the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s as he documented myself, my two younger brothers and sister as we grew up into adulthood. I’m pretty sure that left an impression and fascination with me. It wasn’t until 1984 when I asked if I could get a camera for Christmas. I was 18 by this time. My parents took me to Alan Brown’s Photography Shop in Frederick Street in South Shields where Alan advised me on what camera and flash would be best to get me off the ground. It was a Pentax though I can’t recall what exact model it was. Although the results where superior to compact cameras I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I was attending gigs at places like The Station in Gateshead and The Bunker in Sunderland very frequently during this period and being at that age I was enjoying drinking, socialising and hanging out with mates. It soon became obvious to me that not only was photography an expensive hobby but carrying around bulky equipment was a pain in the backside too. Films, batteries and developing wasn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Here I was in 1985 two years before I started my first “real” employment and I was getting by on my part-time Community Programme wages. I ended up only using The Pentax very sparingly. I did a photoshoot with my mates The Fiend around Laygate, The Funfair and Marine Park which was great but music-wise I didn’t do a lot else. I found myself taking my parents Disc Camera out with me to gigs on account of its compactness and relative less financial burden to use but in hindsight, I gotta say, the results were very poor indeed. I kept The Pentax up until 1989 before selling it. It’s a regret that I didn’t explore it more or use it enough and perhaps I should’ve kept hold of it. As they say, you live and you learn!

After that, I had a host of compact cameras up until when my daughter was born in 2007 I purchased my first digital camera, an Olympus 740. This was still a ‘point & click’ camera but it served me so well as I began to gain a deeper interest and thirst for chronicling gigs.
I always enjoyed documenting gigs by listing those I attended, keeping tickets or posters but I can’t think of anything better than looking back on good quality photographs of those great performances by the bands I love and appreciate.
Using the Olympus 740 was fun but it always left me wanting more. I had lusted after a camera with a lens to make the next step up but for a long time, the finances were never quite right. Eventually, at the beginning of 2013, following a windfall, I decided I would seek out advice and purchase myself a camera, a Nikon D3200. I owe a big thanks to Gav Burn who I asked for direction and guidance. The D3200 is a perfect entry-level camera for a beginner like myself but offers so much more too! Also, I need to say many thanks to my friend and work colleague Jim Ryan who has also been too kind with the amount of information, help and instruction and even his generosity in giving me some of his surplus equipment. I owe a lot of appreciation to these two lads!

HP: The scene in the North East seems to be thriving, why do you think that is?

WB: The scene up here has always had peaks and troughs, of course. Lately, there has been a steady rise with a glut of new and old bands recording and playing regularly. We’re lucky with some great venues too. The Black Bull in Gateshead, Trillians in Newcastle, The Museum Vaults in Sunderland to name just a few. Why do I think this is? Hmmm, If only I knew haha! Perhaps a combination of a lot of things. I’m just grateful and feel fortunate I can document such a healthy Punk Rock Scene.

HP: Your Images are full of energy and excitement; how do you go about capturing the perfect shot?

WB: Thanks! Just simple things, really. For instance, if I’m capturing a vocalist I try to make sure I wait until they’re just about to finish a line or chorus where they’re emphasizing the words and their facial expression contorts.

HP: When you go to a gig to take photographs what’s on your bag?

WB: 6+ years on and I’m still using the same D3200 so that’s a given to be first in my bag. I usually use a couple of lenses, a bounce flash and spare batteries.

HP: Do you still get as into the atmosphere of gigs or do you find you are more focused on getting the images?

WB: A great question. Photography, unfortunately, isn’t my job. I attend shows by bands I enjoy. Yes, I wanna get some great photos but I also want to meet up with friends, enjoy a drink and not detach myself from socializing. It can be difficult to balance the two. After all, I’m there to enjoy the live experience first and foremost. Sometimes, I feel my attention is solely on getting “that shot” so I see a lot of bands literally through a lens.

HP: What’s your favourite shot of yours and why?

WB: It changes constantly. Just recently I concentrated on getting a lot of crowd shots from a recent gig by The Varukers. People dancing and enjoying themselves. Some with their tops off and looking a bit battered but they all have a smile on their face which is so great to see. I suspect my favourite shot will always rotate and generally, it will be from my most recent show.

HP: Which other photographers’ work do you admire and why?

WB: Out of the big guns Silvy Maatman is absolutely amazing. Her work on the European Punk Festival circuit is quite incredible. I admire her a lot. Morat’s work is stunning too. You ask why? Well, check out their work as it speaks for itself. I have lots of friends who too enjoy amateur photography and all do a sterling job. Gav & Jim who I mentioned earlier. Lisa Gray, Mark Cartwright, Melanie Branagan, Steve White, Trunt, Mark Tennant & many more.

HP: Do you have any plans to take this to the next level and turn full-time professional?

WB: I suppose it would be a dream to do a job that you enjoy doing. I honestly can’t see it happening any time soon regrettably. I work full time in a large supermarket’s distribution centre where I’ve been for 25 years. Turning professional would probably mean leaving the security of a steady but meagre income. I would probably need to outlay 5-6 grand on equipment to take it up a notch too. Incidentally, I’ve been taking pics for over 6 years and never made a single penny. I always said it’s my passion and not my “business”. Turning pro would change the way I approach what I do and without doubt take away some of the fun I feel.

HP: Other than gigs, do you take other photographs and if so of what?

WB: Gig photography is and always will be my main priority. I have taken some sunrises and sunsets but the live music environment is my devotion. I have also made a conscious effort to document my two children in great detail as they mature from toddlers to teenagers and beyond. “Dad, not more photos” is something I heard a lot in recent years haha!

HP: Are bands asking to use your work for covers and promotional material?

WB: I enjoy working with great bands and good people. I ask for nothing more than my pic is credited, I am thanked and I get a copy of the finished release. The following bands have used some of my pics. Anti-System, Decontrol, Varukers, Uproar, Anord, Rats From A Sinking Ship, Hellkrusher, Force Fed Lies, Kickback Generation, The Relitics, Civilised Society, Aye Hobos, The DeRellas & Weld.

HP: Anything to add, Will?

WB: Yeah thanks so much for the interview and exposure. If anyone is wishing to see my work please check out these links.

You can see more of Will’s fantastic photography on Flikr, Facebook and Instagram.

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