LANY, Machine Heart: A Tale From The Photo Pit


LANY; photo Lauren Ratkowski

After shooting shows for several years, I’ve learned that it’s always worth it to talk to the fans. I arrived at the Observatory in Santa Ana to find out LANY’s show was sold out. I wasn’t surprised as I’ve been a witness of sorts to their growth over the past year. Mind you, this band from Los Angeles hasn’t even released their debut, yet.

I got into the venue and immediately got into the pit to catch the first band, Machine Heart. While in the little photo trench we concert photographers call our office for the night, I couldn’t help but overhear the chatter of the fans behind me. Some needing water, but were afraid to leave their barrier spot. Others dreaming about their after concert meal, some periodically announcing a countdown until LANY would appear on stage.


MACHINE HEART; photo Lauren Ratkowski

When it came time for the break between bands, I immediately jumped back into the photo pit to get a good spot. About six photographers were shooting Maiden Heart, but I knew more would show for LANY. I sat on the barricade near the middle of the stage and began listening to the fans again.

I couldn’t help but notice two girls next to me with fists full of roses. For those unfamiliar, the rose has become a symbol of the band. It adorns their album cover, merch, and everything in-between. I asked how long they had waited in line – 7 a.m. They had also attended LANY’s previous show in Pomona the night before, but they weren’t the first ones there for that one. Fans had been camping for over 24 hours for that particular show. I’ve met some very dedicated fans, but I was impressed that such a young band had such passionate fans despite not having released their debut album.

The lights finally dimmed and screams filled the venue. It was time for LANY.

Twelve photographers were jammed into the pit alongside me, so I was thankful I had arrived early. Frontman Paul Jason Klein made his way to the stage, starting with just a guitar and a microphone. His vocals were almost drowned out over how loud fans sang back to him. Klein made his way over to the girls with the roses and grabbed two of them, then ended up directly over me in the pit. This usually makes me panic a bit because shooting straight up at someone usually is never flattering. I tried to take a step to the left or right, but there was no room for that. I was surrounded by photographers on both sides and the hands of the audience were reaching to Klein behind me.


LANY; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Well, what goes up must come down. So I sat on the barricade and shot almost straight up, hoping for the best. I ended up with my favorite shot from the night in that position! A minute later, roses were flying through the air toward the band, covering the stage. It was something out of a movie.

The band had great lighting and production, which makes my job a little bit easier. Their lighting started out with a 4 bulb LED strobe from behind the stage, creating a dramatic scene. As the songs progressed, it drifted into the perfect blend of soft purples, oranges, and blues. This creates great backgrounds while still allowing the artists not to get lost in the photos, much like what usually happens with solo use of red or blue.

Photographing LANY was a fabulous experience. It was refreshing to see such a young band have such a strong, passionate following. After all, there is nothing better than a sold out venue filled with positive energy!