Photographer spotlight: An Interview With Jason Sheldon (Junction10)

Photographer spotlight: An Interview With Jason Sheldon (Junction10)

21st September 2022

Earlier this year, we launched the inaugural Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards, the first ever awards to celebrate the art of music photography and the talent behind the lens.

The competition ran across a series of distinct categories, with winners selected by a panel of photographers, music artists and creatives. The awards recognised 2021’s most unforgettable, unique and unsung music moments and the varied and talented photographers who captured them.

Shortlisted emerging & professional photographers were unveiled and celebrated at an exclusive awards ceremony, hosted here at Abbey Road.

We recently started profiling some of the talented photographers who participated and had their work shortlisted by our judges, including Rankin, Shygirl, Jill Furmanovsky, Moses Sumney, Sacha Lecca, Dana Scruggs and Simon Wheatley.

You can read some of the previous pieces in the series below:

- Anthony Harrison

- AboveGround

- Chris Suspect (winner of the Zeitgeist Award)

- John Lyons (winner of the Live Music Photography Award)

- DeShaun Craddock

- Riccardo Piccirillo

- Neelam Khan Vela

- Hana Kovacs

This week we spoke to Jason Sheldon (Junction10), who was a finalist in our Zeitgeist category. This category tasked photographers with capturing THE image that defined music in 2021.

Check back every Thursday as we continue to profile some of the talented photographers who participated.

Shortlisted Photo

Zeitgeist Award


Photographer spotlight: Jason Sheldon (Junction10)

Capturing the essence of the performance is one thing, but it’s recognising what’s going on outside of the viewfinder and being able to react in a split second as well. - Jason Sheldon, Junction10

Jason Sheldon, is a Walsall-based photographer who specialises in photography for the music industry - either live performance (concert) images, or portrait/promo shots.

His clients include world famous artists, venues, and promoters and his work has been published worldwide in magazines, newspapers and tour merchandise.

Jason was shortlisted for our Zeitgeist award at our inaugural Music Photography Awards, for his picture titled Rise Up. We recently caught up with the photographer to get his advice for budding photographers and see what he’s been up to since.

How did you fall into music photography specifically?

I was really quite lucky - right place at the right time. I wanted to try music photography so I asked the owner of a well known local venue if I could go along and photograph a few gigs there. He very generously agreed - and without any demands to use my photos, which is pretty rare.

One of the first gigs was an Eagles tribute band who saw my photos and liked them - enough that they licensed them and booked me for a promo shoot straight after. The local newspaper liked the small portfolio I’d managed to put together and I became their go-to music photographer and less than six months later I was photographing the actual Eagles.

And was there a particular image or body of work that was a major inspiration when starting out?

As a teenager, I was a pretty big fan of Sting and The Police, so Jill Furmanovsky was on my radar back then. I loved her backstage and portrait work, especially her portrait of Charlie Watts.

It wasn’t until years later I became a music photographer myself, but it was certainly seeing Jill’s work that planted the seed in my mind and inspired me to become a music photographer.

What makes a good subject in music photography and what makes a good music photographer?

I think absolutely anything can make a good subject in music photography. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the artist. Take Joe Sia’s photograph of Jimi Hendrix’s silhouette on the ripped Marshall stack as an example. Hendrix isn’t even in the shot but he’s still instantly recognisable and it’s an amazing image that captures the electricity in the room, I feel.

I think it also shows a great example of what makes a good music photographer - capturing the essence of the performance is one thing, but it’s recognising what’s going on outside of the viewfinder and being able to react in a split second as well - without running around like a headless chicken.

What advice would you give to someone getting started?

Don’t give your work away for free. If someone asks if they can use your work in return for a picture credit, then it’s good enough for them to pay. This is especially true when you’re looking for a publication to work with.
It doesn’t matter if this is your first gig or your 1000th, your work has a value.

Don’t sign photo contracts that take away or restrict your copyright. Be prepared to walk away if they won’t allow you to cross clauses out. Easier to do when there is a group of you all refusing but still possible to have unfair contracts waived if you’re prepared to make a stand to protect your rights. There is no point in wasting your time photographing a show if you don’t have the right to use your own work afterward.

Take your rucksack off and leave it at the side of the pit. Walk. Don’t run. Don’t risk being a distraction and getting yourself ejected. Anticipate your shot rather than machine-gunning. Pick your moments. The audience paid to be there, respect them - don’t disturb them by persistently making noise during quiet moments or block their view. Be friendly to the venue staff. They can be extremely valuable relationships if things don’t go to plan at future shows.

When building a portfolio, less is more. Don’t be afraid to cull images. 15 killer shots are more likely to convince a picture editor than 300 average images.

How does your approach differ when working with upcoming talent versus established artists?

My approach doesn’t differ because of the status of the artist - I work to the same ethic regardless of how established the artist is - I’ll work to whatever remit they give me, providing I’m comfortable with it. Some artists have said they don’t mind if I join them on stage and get right up close to them but that’s something I’d be reluctant to do unless they specifically request it and the shot is planned beforehand so I don’t trip anyone up or get a guitar headstock whacking me in the face. The audience haven’t bought tickets to see me, so I’d prefer to lurk in the shadows and be as discreet as possible.

It infuriates me when I see some artists these days with one or two people following them with cameras around the stage like shadows - especially when there are photographers in the pit with just 3 songs trying to get shots of the artist but there’s a photographer or videographer in every view. Doing location or portrait work is easier with upcoming artists I suppose as you’re afforded a bit more creative license when there aren’t as many people looking at their watches asking how long you’re going to take.

Do you think there’s a genre of music that naturally lends itself to powerful portrait photography?

I quite like rock shows because generally there is good lighting and interesting clothing and poses - but I wouldn’t say that’s exclusive to rock music. A skilled lighting director is always godsend, regardless of the musical genre.

I like to look for portraiture styling in my live work - where the shot looks like it may have been directed and posed. It doesn’t necessarily mean I have a better chance of the shot being used for coverage, but that’s the style I find myself leaning toward when shooting and it doesn’t matter if it’s a rock singer or a jazz drummer…I try to capture those fleeting moments where it looks like it could have been a portrait session.

Do you have a preference of working on location/on tour vs in a studio? How easy is it to create “tour energy” in a studio? How easy is it to get “studio focus” on tour/on location?

I prefer live work to studio - I enjoy photographing in a studio environment but I prefer having no control and just having to fly by the seat of my pants. You’d think I’d prefer to be in a studio where you can direct the artist and have complete control over the lighting, but I just feel more at home with live work.

How does the photographic process differ between working with introverts and extroverts?

I think all performers are extroverts, to some degree - don’t you have to be to be able to stand on a stage in front of thousands of people? I think there are, however, people who can get on a stage but still feel uncomfortable if they see a camera pointing at them so if I sense that someone doesn’t feel comfortable I’ll try to shoot from somewhere well out of their line of sight or if I have enough shots I’ll call it a day. The last thing I want to do is spoil someone’s performance just for the sake of a photograph.

Have you ever been starstruck when photographing someone? How do you overcome that?

I haven’t become starstruck when I’ve photographed celebrities, not yet anyway. I do get nervous sometimes, but that’s just me hoping I don’t screw up on the job. It doesn’t matter how famous they are, they’re still just people at the end of the day. I’ve found, for the most part, celebrities I’ve come across are really down to earth and easy to talk to so that celebrity status isn’t an issue. It’s usually the handlers around them creating unnecessary issues.

How has social media shaped music photography, both as a craft more generally, as well as your personal work?

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I think it’s a great way to discover other talented photographers, but sadly too many people and businesses think if an image is posted on social media it’s ‘public domain’ and free to take and use elsewhere - it can cause a huge financial loss to music photographers who rely on the license fees for the use of their work, in the same way sharing MP3 files harmed the artists and record labels.

Who is someone, alive or dead, you’d love to photograph?

Someone dead I think it would probably be Jimi Hendrix - portrait or performing.

Alive - I’ve photographed these performing but being able to take a portrait of Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen or Robert Plant would be on my bucket list, definitely.

In one word, how would you describe your photography?


How did it feel to be nominated in the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022?

It felt amazing to be nominated in the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards.

The nominated photograph was of a pretty depressing scene, showing the impact Covid restrictions had placed on music venues, but highly relevant to the state the industry was in at the time so it was great for some positivity to come from it after such a long period without the live music experience I was used to.

Why do you think it is important to create a platform like the MPAs to showcase music photography?

I believe it’s really important for music photographers to have a platform where their work can be showcased and recognised by the music industry. I’d hope that it might also raise awareness of the real value music photography provides as well.

It’s already extremely hard to make a healthy living from it with the restrictions placed on music photographers. Too many naive photographers are being exploited by people demanding the rights to their work free of charge so the next generation of photographers think it’s acceptable to give their rights away, or give their work away in return for a picture credit which only ends up devaluing music photography even further.

There’s a huge amount of talent going unnoticed and considering how important imagery is in the music business, I think it's way past time photography was given a chance to shine, and having the MPAs is a fantastic start, particularly with an household name like Abbey Road Studios behind it.

What have you been doing since the Awards? And what do you hope is next?

I’m currently coming to the end of my photography Masters degree which I’d actually started before the awards as something to do during lockdown when live music was shut down. I had started to document the impact of covid on the music industry as part of my degree project, showing how the venues were reacting and the people, who normally work behind the scenes, had to look for alternative careers and may not be in a position to return to the industry.

Unfortunately, it proved too difficult to get the cooperation needed in time. It was really disappointing since the aim of the project was to highlight the plight the industry was suffering from and to raise awareness on how the lockdowns affected, not just the performers, but the wider community around each venue. I might revisit that idea in time but for now it’s on the back burner.

As for the future, I’m always open to offers.
Don't forget to head to the official MPAs website to get a comprehensive overview of all the participants, nominations and winners.

To keep up with Jason, follow him on Instagram at and his website.

Related News