Kevin Statham’s pandemic project has involved sorting through negatives and digital images of the more than 4,000 concerts and other shows he’s photographed.
On Facebook for a full year, with the hashtag #ForTheLoveOfLIVE, the former Surrey Now graphic artist has posted a series of “On This Day” photos and memories of musicians, comedians and other entertainers he’s captured with a camera since the 1980s.
Now, it’s all turned into a book project for Statham, an Abbotsford resident who manages Chief Sepass Theatre at Langley Fine Arts School, in Fort Langley.
As a freelance photographer, his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines near and far, mostly in Vancouver’s Georgia Straight.
The forthcoming book, iWitness, is a vehicle for Statham’s photos, stories and anecdotes from him and others – fans, musicians and industry peeps – in attendance at landmark Vancouver-area concerts both big-venue and small, featuring Nirvana, KISS, Metallica and many more.
His daily Facebook posts, which began March 19, 2020, with a look back at Bryan Adams’ 1994 concert at the Pacific Coliseum, have been cathartic for Statham and friends who deeply miss live concerts in the COVID era.
“I’ve had a lot of great feedback from people, musicians and others, who were at these shows, who appreciate what I’m doing, just for the memories,” Statham said. “Without concerts, a lot of people are just struggling with all of this, not doing what they love to do, going to see concerts. It’s been a way for them to cope with everything, I think.”
To date, Statham’s concert-photography career is book-ended by a pair of Colin James performances – first in 1987 at Harpo’s bar in Victoria and, most recently, in December for a virtual broadcast from Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom.
There was a time when Statham shot 200 concerts a year, sometimes more, but he’s no longer that active in local venues.
“As I got older, it slowed down – you have children, your time gets busier, you know,” he said. “Plus, Canada’s media environment sucks. There are no entertainment magazines anymore, really, and none in Western Canada. It’s horrible, and it’s never been great for that.
“At this point in my career,” Statham added, “I mainly shoot shows that I want to – when they happen, and hopefully that’s soon. In terms of making money at this, it’s so difficult now. The internet has crushed the ability to make any kind of living out of this, concert photography. There just aren’t enough outlets for it.”
Along with work on his daily Facebook posts, Statham has slowly pulled together the book in recent months, using his graphic-design skills. “It works pretty well for me,” he said, “because I can basically create a book that’s ready to go to a printer. It’s the approach I’m taking, but I don’t have a publisher yet. That’s what I’m looking for, and I’ve been using my time during COVID to put this together.”
As a template, Statham said he’s based iWitness on Gord Downie, the 2018 book written by former Straight colleague Steve Newton, who lives in North Delta.
“It’s the perfect size for what I want to do,” Statham said, “but I’ve also been told that it’s going to be an expensive book to produce – just the full colour of it, full bleed, and I also need really good printing because there’ll be a lot of two-page images. That may all have to change depending on who I find to publish it.… I’ve sent out a couple letters of inquiry, and you just sit and wait, and I keep working on the book.”
More than 200 pages are done, with more to come.
“I’m just going to keep going until I either run out of material or someone tells me to stop,” Statham said with a laugh. “I guess I could make it a 600-page book if I really got into it, but I think I could make something interesting no more than 400 pages.
“Hopefully it gets published by Christmas,” he added, “but I’m not sure that’s possible. “I also want to do a gallery show of some kind.”