ARTIST OF THE MONTH
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Neal Walters if you have any hand at all in Australia’s alternative music scene, but if you haven’t then there’s an even better probability that you’ve encountered one of his shots without knowing the man behind the camera. He’s made quite the splash in music photography, which isn’t easy to do when there’s twenty photographers to two reviewers at every show you’ve been to in the past year. Having worked his ass off establishing his talent, Walters is now getting rightfully recognised, receiving The Unified Grant of 2016 for his upcoming photography book.
“I guess the process just revolved around me putting in an application”, he shared when describing how exactly he got involved with the grant in the first place, clarifying that it was for something he “believed in”. That something is a book that will capture portraits of music industry figures, presenting something that goes beyond a candid shot before they head on stage.
“Basically the book is going to be based on what makes people happy”, Walters states. Not only will there be a portrait of these people, but there will also be an elaboration as he calls it, “That person in what we’re calling their happy place”. Walters’ project is one of five that The Unified Grant has been awarded to, with other recipients including Ashleigh Hills (the founder of Tram Sessions), Georgia Beach (of Office Gossip Design), Michelle Grace Hunder and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore (of Her Sound, Her Story) and mixer/producer/engineer/audio extraordinaire Aaron Dobos.
“It took me about 15 minutes to write the application”, he noted, “Because I knew everything I had planned it to be”. The point is to provide an insight that goes beyond what you’d see on the surface of a snap, and the strength of Walters’ convictions leaves little doubt that it’s going to be a success. The only question is when. “We’re starting early 2017”, he identifies, “but at this stage, I wanna say that it’s gonna take however long it takes”. If everything goes to plan, you might even have it by Christmas.
Considering how well his career in the industry is going, it’s interesting to consider the fact that Walters didn’t actually start out with a view towards being a music photographer at all. It was “relationships” that made up his path to this point in his life rather than an initial positioning towards this field. “I started by shooting my friends”, he explains. His friends started bands, and now he’s here.
Even though he claims that he’s not mature, when asked about the bands that he’s grown up with throughout his career he makes an effort to point out the longevity of his ongoing relationship with Melbourne outfit Storm The Sky. From where both parties started to where they are now has been a long distance, but Walters points out that they’ve been “a band I’ve been lucky enough to work with” over his and their tumultuous years, having undergone lineup changes without breaking up like many of the bands he started out with. “They’ve matured massively”, he states with pride. “Their last album wasn’t heavy whatsoever, but it was brilliant”.
It’s clear that even though Walters has a passion for photography, he also still cares about music, which is a nice observation to make in a scene riddled by jaded former fans. Walters has some damn good stories to share, some of which he’s probably not allowed to let loose, but he does recount one particular gem of a time that occurred in Germany.
“We were in Berlin with Northlane and Volumes and it was probably 4 am”, he starts his story with. “After the show in Berlin, we had gone out; obviously everyone went to numerous places and hung out. I think the bus was leaving when we got back, and Chris [Moretti] from Hellions was there”, apparently with “no pants on” and “sat on a traffic cone just on the side of the road”. There’s more to the story, as there is to every photo Walters has ever taken, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for his book to find out exactly what he wants to share about the figures that he tours with.
Even though he’s gotten to where he is, Walters still has doubts. “I still pinch myself”, he notes, but he also shares the alarming piece of news that the day before winning The Unified Grant, he almost stepped out altogether. “On that Wednesday, I was like ‘maybe this isn’t gonna work’”, he states. “And Thursday I got the call”. That’s good timing if we’ve ever seen it.
Written by Peyton Bernhardt
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