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Focus Interview with freelance journalist Peter Garner

This week FeaturesExec interviews freelance journalist Peter Garner. Peter writes on music and travel and combines this with photojournalism.

His Freelance Journalist Directory entry is available at (photography)

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
My main speciality is covering music events as a photojournalist (more “photo” than journalist at the moment) and I combine this with travel writing as I tend to travel long distances to events. For example I’ve done many weekend trips to Czech Republic to cover dance festivals but I’ve also spent a lot of time in London nightclubs shooting the same kind of thing. I also have a work in progress in which I’m trying to document the “Vanishing East End of London” but it’s a race against time…

Where are we likely to see your work?
At the moment, most of my images are seen on the web. Due to the specialist nature of my subject I submit images to dance/clubbing web sites and many of my Czech Republic travel pictures are now being seen on Czech tourism sites. Latterly though I’ve been approached by a couple of free newspapers to write short articles so I’m hoping to get more exposure that way.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
That’s a very difficult one, but I think it has to be the Q-Base 2007 dance event held at Airport Niederrhein at Weeze near Duisburg. Quite apart from the challenge of getting to an obscure location (1 flight a day, 4am start), the physical challenge of staying awake taking pictures at an event that lasted 16 hours and that featured some of the hardest (loudest/energy intensive) music in Europe was incredible. This was another no-hotel event and I slept on the plane there and back. I took over 600 pictures and spoke to countless partygoers from all over Europe.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d like to cover the Burning Man Project in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. It’s an “annual art event and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance”. What a tremendous photojournalistic opportunity!

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
I sometimes get asked by DJs and PR agencies to cover an event, but again, in my specialist subject it’s easy to come up with ideas as the subject is quite narrow. Other times I come up what I think the market wants and approach people I think might be interested.

How can PRs be useful to you?
The biggest obstacle I face right now is getting the right level of photo/access pass to an event, so PRs that can arrange on-stage/artist access can be very useful. If I’m shooting a live band, the “standard first 3 numbers + encore and no flash” is just about better than nothing, but it doesn’t make good quality pictures easy!

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Email is preferred as I monitor this constantly, mainly using my cellphone. This is especially important if I’m in Europe as I can fit in “extra stops” if need be and I’m often sending pictures and blog entries back from the event that way, so I can pick up emails at the same time. If the assignment’s in the UK I’m happy with a couple of days notice but a European trip will need a couple of weeks if only to plan/book flights.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Extremely useful and in the music biz absolutely essential! It’s frequently a very good way to get access to DJs/performers at a time when they’re not focussed on their job. A good example was during an outdoor event in the Czech Republic: I was backstage after photographing DJ Katcha and met a couple of DJs from London who I later photographed at one of their parties in London.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I’d just ask them to be more timely – if they can let me know whether they need me/don’t need me for an event I need them to tell me sooner rather than later then I can organise something else.

Do you have a PR pet hate?
Yes, not answering emails is very unprofessional, and bearing in mind how easy it is to stay in touch these days I’d say there’s no excuse.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I have a day job which is why I’m freelance. Right now, journalism would not pay the bills, especially in the music sector which is renowned for “having no money”.

If we gave you £1,000, how would you spend it??
I’d be off to the next Burning Man Project – a cheque would be fine thanks!

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Books: Confessions of an English Opium Eater; Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.

Magazines: a couple of issues of magazine.

Blogs: my own

[lnk| (photography)|_blank|Peter Garner]
[img|jpg|Peter Garner]