Review: Andy McKay's Photo Exhibit: This Was Our Time

If a punk band puts on an incredible show and nobody was there to capture it on film, did it really happen?

It may have happened, but how would we know? How would we get even a taste of the overwhelming energy that sometimes spontaneously erupts without photographs or video? I cannot think of any other way.

I attended a photography exhibit at Groove Records in beautiful downtown Norfolk to try and wrap my head around the importance of live music photography.

The photographer displaying his work was Andy McKay. Born in New Bedford, MA into a military family, Andy has lived in Chesapeake, VA most of his life. The first time I saw his work, it was the day after the FLAGIIII show that we both attended. I also took photos that evening but they, in no way, captured the intensity that I saw in the images he shot.

What is the secret I wondered... Is it the equipment, skill, editing, luck or some kind of magic? Being from a time when the only way to witness a distant punk show were images in magazines, photographers like Glenn E. Friedman and Edward Colver were as crucial for the rest of us as the acts they photographed.

Andy's images somehow have the power to convey the energy in a room. They capture the intensity in the performers and the appreciation of the crowd somehow. I arrived a few minutes early and browsed through the store. A steady flow of people was there admiring the work and talking with Andy, so after shaking his hand and introducing myself, I used the few minutes of opportunity in between well wishes from the other attendees and quickly asked, “What’s the secret Andy? I’m an amateur photographer, what’s the secret.... is it the camera, skill, practice, editing or luck?”

He smiled and said,"It's all of it I guess, the equipment, practice, some luck and definitely lots of editing." He added, "Everything was taken purely as a hobby, as well as documentation of what was going on around me. Nowadays, we take it for granted that you can document everything around you. Nearly everyone has a camera in their pocket that can capture stills as well as video. As you know, that hasn't always been the case. Taking photos was my contribution to the hardcore scene. I have no music ability, I never ran a label or booked shows regularly. I took photos of what was going on around me."

The photos on display were mesmerizing. Different settings and techniques were obviously used but each photo had a life and energy all it's own. The images exhibited were taken over a period of two decades but one thing was certain: after learning that although he works in the field, live music photography is really just his hobby, so obviously, a great photographer has been gifted with an invisible, natural talent just like the subjects they are drawn to.

The photos displayed are available in a print-on-demand book from Amazon:


Pic Gallery below, photos by Andy! ...dig it.  

Brian McDonald

I am a 49-year-old child who refuses to grow up and put away his childish ways.  I have lived in the Tidewater/Hampton Roads/7-Cities/Coastal Virginia (wtf, decide on a name) area my entire life.  If I'm not in the Atlantic Ocean with one of my daughters, I'm listening to punk, metal, hardcore, or any hybrid of the three.  I still think I'll be the drummer in a killer band one day.  I'm really just a simple fan of truthful, brutal music, and happy if that's all I ever am.