Through The Lens With Keith Griner
Guest Feature: Keith Griner
Keith Griner is a music photographer based in Nashville, Tennessee. He's worked for tours like Dead and Company, Hootie and the Blowfish, Maren Morris, and more. His company Phierce Photography is the exception to average live music photography. His images are dynamic, remarkable, and some of the most marketable images in the industry and the reason why tours and festivals around the country look to Phierce Photography for marketing expertise. With years of music industry experience, Phierce can tailor work based on each artist or festival's individual needs with one goal: Exceeding the expectations every time. For tours looking to have comprehensive coverage, we offer both photography and videography. We were lucky enough to sit down with Keith (virtually) and learn how he used his passion for artist photography to become a live steam leader.
I never had any aspirations to be a photographer. If you told 15-year-old me that one day I would work alongside the surviving members of Grateful Dead or be on tour with Hootie and the Blowfish, I would have laughed at you. I’m just a small-town guy from Indiana.
My first introduction to photography was when a friend of mine started to buy professional cameras and lenses. I remember thinking, “that was how much I paid for my last car!” I thought he was nuts. It wasn’t until I was 32 that I picked up my first camera. A few years later, photography transformed my life from never traveling more than a few hours outside of my hometown to catching flights every week for concerts and music festivals around the country.
I had just relocated to Nashville and thought this would be my breakout year now that I’m in Music City. But when Covid hit, everything in my life changed. Within 14 days of the pandemic, every single contract that I had for the year was canceled. Being new to Music City and not having a set client base at the beginning of the pandemic was extremely challenging. Imagine knocking on doors to an industry that was just forced to take a spring and summer vacation.
With tours and festivals predicted to not return until at least 2021, I decided to shift my focus to live streams. I had watched live stream concerts for years, from Dead and Company to Phish to Umphrey’s McGee. It made me think, “what better way to help bring fans to a live performance while we are all isolated in our homes?”
While learning how to use the equipment and programs involved in shooting live streams has been difficult, being in Nashville has made the transition so much easier. Nashville has been the single most significant factor in my company's success. There are just so many artists in town wanting to connect with their fans with new music and social media! Right now, we’re working three to six days a week producing live stream content for artists and producers across the country.
Things like touring with Hootie and the Blowfish in 2019 have turned into lead singer Darius Rucker having my team produce his at-home live streams. Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to photograph several Umphrey’s McGee drive-in shows in Chicago. It is incredible to be back at it and hear the roar of the live crowd. After so many years in the industry, I started to take that for granted. I began to overlook how special it is to work in live events, but live streaming has allowed me to rediscover the joys of working live shows after having it taken away.
So what’s next? I hope the connections I have made through live stream events will open doors to new photo opportunities when the world opens again. I have also found love for directing while working on these live stream projects and hope to land a chance to document a major artist’s journey, both on and off tour. I want to show that there’s so much more that happens in a musician’s life than just what is broadcast on stage.
My advice to aspiring photographers:
Keep shooting! I shot multiple nights a week at local bars to capture anything and everything because I was chasing my passion (and I wanted to take it somewhere). Keep working at it. The industry is challenging, and photographers aren’t always the easiest to work with but continue to work towards your goal. Take a moment when you do have a little success to enjoy it and live it, but understand your work has value and never undersell your value. Establish relationships early, but don’t continue giving yourself and your work away throughout your career.
Take your time to learn about copyright and licensing; talk with other photographers who are licensing pros. I call friends in the industry to ask what I should be charging. Utilize your friends and contacts with more experience to learn from them and make sure you handle your business in the best way possible.
A big part of my life outside of photography is recovery. I just celebrated 13 years of sobriety and I’ve done a lot of interviews as someone in the music industry in recovery, knowing that, A: there’s hope out there if you are someone struggling with drugs or alcohol, that there is another life. And B: that your life can still look like mine, just without the drugs and alcohol.
Photos courtesy of Phierce Photo by Keith Griner