O2 Academy Bournemouth | Shadow Photographer & Gig Experience!

Last Tuesday 23rd September, I was kindly invited down to the O2 Academy in Bournemouth to not only see The Horrors, but to experience what it's like behind the scenes and in the pit with the house photographer, Charlie Raven. I jumped at the opportunity and nervously went along on my own...seriously, I was pretty petrified! I'm not a photographer, so shooting in low level lighting was a new challenge, and I'd never really listened to The Horrors before. However, I can most definitely say I left my comfort zone, fully emerged myself and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole gig. Their music was totally different live, the lights were incredible and it definitely wouldn't have been the same without Hollie, the lovely O2 Angel I got the pleasure of hanging out with too! 

I've lived in Bournemouth my whole life and have been to a few gigs here. It's an absolutely beautiful Grade II listed building and there's SO much happening all the time. When I arrived last Tuesday, I was greeted by the lovely O2 team who provided me with my ticket and photo pass. I then met the photographer Charlie, who's been working for the O2 Academy Bournemouth since 2009. He very kindly let me shadow him working and interview him on his job, the venue and his greatest achievements...

Hi Charlie! Thanks for letting me shadow you tonight. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! Where to start!?! I've lived in Bournemouth for a decade now, and have been taking photos for around 8 of those. I'm totally self-taught, although I gained valuable advice from my peers when I first started out covering nightclub events. I have now shot some of the biggest names both on the live music circuit and in the club scene. I have been published in national and international publications and won an NME Music Photography Award in 2011. During the summer months you'll find me at various music festivals working for a number of clients. As with any profession, I am always seeking to improve my skills and portfolio and always look forward to the next challenge.

How does this venue differ from your other work?
Being a former Opera House and recently restored to its original glory, the venue is somewhat unique in Bournemouth and indeed the wider area, if not the country. Its interior is simply beautiful and it is a pleasure to have been part of the O2 Academy team from the beginning. I love being able to take photos from the wider venue, not just from the photo pit, as this gives a unique and enviable frame to the gig.

You obviously get the opportunity to see a lot of different acts. Have you got any memorable moments?
Something that's stuck in my memory from the last Rizzle Kicks gig was the surreal moment I encountered a very large inflatable T-Rex called Jeff seemingly floating from the stage, to the sound desk and back again!

Have you got an all-time favourite gig that you've photographed at the O2 Academy Bournemouth?
That really is a tough one. I've been able to see and shoot some all-time greats at the venue, together with some great new artists, and some of my childhood faves - how can you not leave O2 Academy Bournemouth with a big smile on your face having just seen Europe perform The Final Countdown, or Roger Daltrey blasting out Pinball Wizard! Other stand out acts for me personally were Stereophonics, Manics, Ocean Colour Scene, Skunk Anansie, and Leftfield - you can probably tell I went to college in the late 90s!

Sounds amazing! What do you find are your biggest challenges when shooting a band/act?
Lighting, always lighting. Simply because you never quite know what to expect. I try to have a chat with the lighting guys when I get to the venue, just to gauge what kind of show they're putting on, the types of lighting being used and whether the artists will be well lit.

What first attracted you to photography?

I first started covering night club events and it was those that took me to the Opera House, as the O2 Academy was formally known. With the expansion of digital media and the internet, people were able to seek and expect photos/memories of nights out and it was that ethos of memory capturing and sharing that really got me started.

What camera(s) do you shoot with?
I am continually upgrading my equipment and currently shoot with a Canon 5D MK3 and a Canon 7D. The cameras are no use without decent glass (lenses) though, and this is where a lot of the expense lies.

What have been your greatest achievements in terms of photography at the O2 Academy Bournemouth?
Being asked to return as House Photographer every year is a real honour and means I must be doing something right!

Absolutely! Finally, if this was not quite the dream job, what or where in the world would be your dream to photograph?
I would love to be the tour photographer for one of my favourite bands, joining them on a world tour, but one can dream!

Shadowing Charlie was an awesome experience. I had full access to the pit with him (the part between the stage and barrier) which was pretty surreal and I felt like people were awkwardly wondering what on earth I was doing in there! I was so grateful for the earplugs security gave me too, it didn't even cross my mind that I'd be right next to the speakers and I'd definitely need them for that part! Although I was concentrating on getting some shots, it was very cool to be so close to watching The Horrors. I also didn't appreciate that Charlie only shoots for the first three songs, meaning he works super quickly! He gave me a few tips on the manual setting of my camera, and we talked about how cool the strobes and lights looked. He's super talented and his work is brilliant, cheers for the experience Charlie!

After the first three songs were over, I was introduced to the O2 Angel, Hollie. These guys are the eyes and ears of the venue and great for giving you an even better experience. We grabbed a drink, listened to the rest of the show and chatted about life, music and what Hollie gets up to as an Angel. She is a true ambassador for the brand and has now made me really want to come back and see Ella Eyre, Example, Professor Green, The Kooks and Katy B! If you're an O2 customer, you can get access to gig tickets up to 48 hours before general release by texting ‘Priority’ to 2020 too. Hollie was so lovely and made me feel so welcome that we're now even chummies on Facebook (hopefully hanging out at another gig again in no time!).

I can honestly say that although I was so nervous prior to the event, I had such a brilliant experience. For more on the O2 Academy and your nearest venue, b
e sure to subscribe and check out their O2 Academy YouTube channel for interviews, backstage shenanigans and exclusive live music videos too. Massive thank you to the O2 Academy Bournemouth for having me, I'll be seeing you again very soon!

Big love,

I was kindly gifted tickets/access whilst this post is also sponsored by O2 Academy and the O2 Academy Bournemouth. This does not however hinder my opinion and I hope you enjoyed reading!


  1. Loved reading this, it was so interesting. You're so lucky to have got such an exciting opportunity :)

    Chloe x

    1. Thanks Chloe, really appreciate it! :-) I definitely was a lucky girl, opportunities like that are pretty rare! Thanks for reading. xo