Rome, London, Paris, Berlin, Philadelphia, Johannesburg, Moscow … and Barrie.
Live 8, a string of benefit concerts in support of global poverty, rocked the world on July 25, 2005, from iconic locations such as Hyde Park, Circus Maximus, Red Square, and, yes, Molson Park.
Molson Park, or Park Place as it is now known with its many businesses, had quite a day that summer. As did I.
More than a thousand musicians performed at the worldwide concerts, which were broadcast live on 182 television networks and some 2,000 radio networks.
I needed to be a part of this monstrous and historic thing in my own backyard, almost literally, as I was just walking distance away from the site.
Getting tickets for Live 8 was based on a kind of lottery system, if I remember correctly, so I felt the chances of scoring a pair was kind of slim.
At the time, I was an amateur photographer with an interest in capturing wildlife wherever I could find it, and some street photography with friends, usually in Toronto.
My talent and experience with a camera was limited, to say the least.
Since the world’s attention would be on the event, I thought maybe I could use my camera gear and devise a scheme where a newspaper editor would hire me for the day to take photos for them.
I had no experience with photojournalism at all, but since I lived just down the street from Molson Park on Bayview Drive, and I had accumulated a few decent camera lenses, my thought was I would be attractive to news outlets outside of the country. They would surely have to send someone and have to pay their expenses if they were to cover the event.
I sent emails all over the world to every major newspaper and media company that came to mind: The New York Times, BBC, The Guardian, and every major newspaper in Canada as well, such as the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail.
I received a few rejections, but most of my requests were completely ignored by news outlets.
At the last minute, the Toronto Sun came through and hired me to spend the day backstage to photograph the artists, press conferences, and such.
I was over the moon.
On that big day in July, I found myself chatting with legends I never thought I would ever meet, such as Deep Purple, Bruce Cockburn, Gord Downie, Motley Crue, Blue Rodeo, and more.
The interactions were great fun, but my photos didn’t end up being very exciting, and the Sun only ran one of my images — a wide shot of all the garbage left behind on the grounds where the crowd had been all day.
Not what I had hoped for, but hey, what a fantastic experience.
And, of course, when no one was looking, I quietly lifted the Live 8 media room sign at the end of the night as a souvenir that still hangs on the wall in my office today.
At the end of the day, it was mission accomplished in trying to get in to see the show for free, and get paid to boot.
But it was what happened a week later that suddenly set my life on a whole new path. I received a call from the now-defunct Barrie Examiner newspaper asking to meet with me.
Admittedly, I didn’t see that coming.
A few days later, I sat down with the city editor Steve Hardy, who wanted to know who I was.
I had attached a number of examples of my photography work to the emails I sent out to the world’s media, including the local Examiner paper.
They had capable shooters, so they didn’t need me, Hardy said, but after seeing my shots and liking them, he asked if I wanted to try being a freelance news photographer for them.
I soon found myself running around town on weekends, and learning the game from one of the best photojournalists in Canada — Mark Wanzel.
I couldn’t have learned from a better shooter. He was generous with his time and knowledge, and has been the biggest influence on my work. He remains a great friend and I owe him a lot.
I also sponged as much information as I could about working in the news biz from others on the Examiner team and its alumni — like Brian Rodnick, Ian McInroy, Doug Crawford, Ian Shantz, Gene Pereira, Dan Charuk, Michael Speers, Nathan Taylor, Bob Bruton, Dave Dawson, Marg. Bruineman, Raymond Bowe ... and on and on.
If many of those names sound familiar it’s because several of them once again work together under the umbrella of Village Media with its news sites in Barrie, Orillia, Innisfil, and others.
I still lean on some of them all the time for their advice and support in this line of work, and I love being part of their team again.
And because of all this, with the news work experience I collected, even more new opportunities soon arrived. That opened doors for me I could never imagine, the main one being my foray into music photography for over 15 years. This was a hope now to publish an expansive book of my photographic archive and interviews chronicling the careers of hundreds of Canadian artists, their live shows and road experiences.
You never know where these little doors will lead you, and I always make a habit to say yes to new opportunities, whatever they may be, and look for my next adventure in life.
So, thank you to Steve Hardy. I am forever in your debt.
Who knows where life would have taken me without your reaching out and giving a “nobody” like me a chance.
And all because of a desire to force myself into a concert so many years ago.
These days, Kevin Lamb is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.