My Experience Photographing a 'Lying-down Concert'
A few weeks ago, I was asked to take photos during a ‘Lying-down Concert’ that was part of a yoga retreat in Zeeland. Although the term seems a little uninspired to me, it does clarify from the get-go what one can expect - at a Lying-down Concert, the audience, surprisingly enough, lies down. There is much more to it than that, however. In this post, I’ll talk more about lying-down concerts, share a bit about my experience photographing in such an intimate setting, and showcase some of the photos.
First off - this was actually not my first lying-down concert. My first experience was during the women’s retreat in Poland I attended last Summer, when a beautifully intimidating Polish woman, Joana (whom I can only describe as a Witch), brought us all in a deep trance - or, in some cases, deep sleep - through 2 hours of drums, singing bowls, and the huge gong portrayed in the picture below. The whole week was absolutely crazy and magical, but this concert was a real highlight- I won’t soon forget lying down on the cold clay floor of the ‘Sound Temple’ and losing all sense of space and time while surrounded by a bunch of crying, laughing, or snoring women. It was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience.
The different new experiences I got during my week in Poland awakened a lot in me, and going back to my utterly sobering Dutch neighborhood and life proved a tough transition. Following my growing interest in all things spiritual, I decided to start shaping my business towards that end as well, and started looking for photography jobs within these branches. Moments after my first Facebook post, I was contacted by the organizer of the Zeeland retreat: her photographer fell through, so would I be interested in taking photos at this lying-down concert next Saturday? Yearning for the smell of sage and Florida water like an addict looking for a fill, I excitedly accepted, but there was a problem - this retreat was in the middle of nowhere (seems to be a requirement), and I don’t have a car. Luckily, the woman giving the concert would be driving there, so the organizer would get in touch with her and see if she lived nearby me and could perhaps take me with. Well, nearby she lived! She did not just live in Utrecht, she did not just live in my neighborhood, she lives in the apartment complex next to mine. Coincidence? I don’t know. Conflicting feelings on that. But it was definitely crazy - there had been a Dutch Joana living right next door to me all this time!
So, that Saturday, I met Peggy outside of my apartment complex and got in her tiny car, which was overflowing with all kinds of instruments I’d never seen before, for a 2 hour ride to Zeeland. When I say overflowing, I’m not exaggerating - I was balancing the rear-end of a huge rainstick on my right shoulder the whole drive. Seeing it all be unloaded and then packed up again, I can again come to only one conclusion - magic.
However, the impeccable packing of her instruments was only the beginning of Peggy’s magic: over the course of the concert, she sung, played and face-feathered (exactly what it sounds like - at some point, she tickled our faces with feathers) her way straight into my heart. As opposed to Joana, who mainly used her monstrous gong to bring us to an alternate dimension, Peggy used a seemingly infinite supply of instruments and sounds to whisk us away. This made it a very different experience - whereas the gong’s deep and repetitive vibrations brought me in a trance-like state, the varying sounds Peggy created all had very different effects, both on a emotional and physical level. There were dreamy sounds, angry sounds, sad sounds, watery sounds, earthy sounds, and they all had a different effect. Some brought up certain hard feelings or memories, while others just made me feel relaxed and happy.
It was a wonderful experience, which brought me back into my body and energized me. It’s hard to believe I was actually on the clock at the same time - what a job!
To clarify: As lying-down concerts are typically done in a very intimate and quiet setting, it would have been very disruptive if I had been taking photos during the whole extent of it. So - lucky me - I only took photos during the first 10 minutes of the concert, after which I plumped down on my own personal bed in the circle and enjoyed the show.
This was my first time photographing such an intimate and spiritually loaded event, which was a little intimidating at first. It’s hard not to feel like you’re breaching someone’s privacy or infringing upon their experience, because it’s kind of true! As a photographer, I’m used to not always being everyone’s favorite person in the room, but this was next level. Still, it would be a shame if this barrier meant concerts like these would never be photographed, and there is definitely a respectful and completely fine way to go about it. Personally, I tried to be the least intrusive I could through a few ways, which I’ll share for any other beginning photographers who might be reading this:
Rather than just following my creative instinct 100% and running crisscross around the room, I only made my way across the room once or twice, stopping at various points along the way to take photos. This felt a little counter intuitive, and I might have missed a potential good shot or two because of it, but it made all the difference in terms of nuisance. Following this same logic, I also really took the time for each shot and “gave up” on a lot of shots before shooting them, as to minimize the amount of shutter-sounds. I would normally do the opposite, as I’d rather select a top 10 out of 200 photos than out of 20, but this also worked out fine. Like with analog photography, it also helps in heightening your focus and thinking more carefully about each shot. Needless to say, I also just generally tried to be as quiet as possible, and I of course only took photos for the first 10 minutes.
Taking everything together, this was a wonderful experience, and it will definitely go down as one of my favorite photography jobs ever. I feel really blessed to be able to work with such beautiful people and experience such cool things through my photography.
Speaking of - I am always looking for more jobs like these, so if you or someone you know might be interested in hiring me, please don’t hesitate to contact me! As probably obvious from this post, I will travel all over Holland and even beyond for you. For more information and portfolio, check out my commercial photography page.
Even though I have already experienced a whole TWO lying-down concerts and am thus well on the way of becoming Holland’s Next Top Guru, I am still quite new to all these things, and would love to hear other experiences. Let me know in the comments if you’ve been to a lying-down concert before or have had other experiences like these that you recommend!