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Through the Eyes of a Child: Seven year old Sydney Lewis shoots her second concert, Sabaton and Hammerfall

By MIKE LEWIS Photos by SYDNEY LEWIS // Seven year-old Sydney Lewis shot her first concert at the Waterfront Blues Festival. She's back. See her photos of Sabaton and Hammerfall and read what her dad has to say about her experience. PLUS: A video of the two of them looking at her photos.

Since her experience in the photo pit at the Waterfront Blues Festival, Sydney has been wanting to shoot another show with me. She was convinced a month or so afterwards when she attended the Japanese band One OK Rock with me that she had a photo pass and was dismayed that this wasn’t the case. When Avatar came through Portland and she learned I was shooting the show, I had to endure a 30-minute tantrum because she didn’t have a photo pass. Last month while in-between acts at another show I phone call home ended up with a whimpering voice on the other end of the phone.

“Daddy? Why are you shooting Ghost without me?”

The thing you should know about Sydney is that while she does have a very eclectic taste in music. Disney and video game soundtracks, J-Pop, and classical are just the beginning. Bands like Rush, Iron Maiden, KISS, and Black Sabbath are among her favorites and she does seem to have a very special attraction to heavy metal. That shouldn’t necessarily come as a big shock since she’s been raised on it since birth. The very first band Sydney ever requested in the car was Sabaton, a power metal band from Sweden and they’ve been among her favorites for the past four years.

So, when you have a daughter who has one of her favorite bands coming to town and she’s been begging to shoot another show, what should you do as a photographer parent? Politely request a photo pass for her to shoot with you and sure enough, Sydney was approved as well. She knew for several weeks prior but grew more and more anxious as the day grew closer. This would also be her first heavy metal concert so how would share fair, not just in terms of the show, but also being in a photo pit which could see crowd surfers make their way into the pit area?

Upon our arrival I saw that there was a very distressing look being given to me at will call. I soon found out that we weren’t on the list, none of them. Sydney had overheard this and was already on the verge of tears. She’s been asking me for weeks however many more days until the show so she was definitely looking forward to it. I told her to just hold on and I’d take care of it. I eventually got the email confirming the show sent over, found someone involved with the tour, and before long we both had our photo passes. Sydney proudly put her into the protective pouch I had given her and she was ready to go. We also had learned a very important thing for the evening. While generally concert photographers are allowed to shoot the first three songs, tonight was different. We all were given the opportunity to take pictures until security told us to leave the pit area.

Hammerfall took the stage first. I had let Sydney hear them prior to the show and she told me she didn’t like them, but that opinion quickly seemed to change. For the first couple of songs she stuck very close to me, right at either side and was taking whatever photos she could. Around the third song however I looked to my left, then to my right, but Sydney was no where to be found. I glance around and saw one of the other photographers laughing. He pointed towards the far end of the stage and there was Sydney, all by herself, taking photos of the guitarist. I knew then I really didn’t need to worry about her too much.

Here and there she would come back to where I was, shoot alongside me, and then venture off to get her own photos. The band members seemed to love having a young photographer in the pit. Occasionally they would come to the edge of the stage where she was, point, give her the thumbs up or throw the horns, and in general give her the types of poses that most of us photographers want to get. IAbout halfway through Hammerfall I asked her if she wanted to get out of the pit for a little while. She thought about it for a couple of seconds, shook her head, and went right back to taking photos. The photography bug had taken over.

Finally, that big moment she had been waiting for was on the verge of happening. Sabaton started by showing a short trailer showcasing the World War I memorial in Washington DC, a perfect way to begin considering their latest release, The Great War, is all about WWI. Finally, Sabaton took to the stage and as before, Sydney quickly ventured off on her own, happily taking photos of the band as they played and once again getting poses during the course of the evening. In particular I noticed she followed vocalist Joakim Brodén a lot but she tried to get everyone she could although she did complain later that the “drummist” was difficult to get pictures of due to him being on top of a mock tank while he performed.

But, when you’re only seven, you do have commitments and for Sydney, that would have been school. I hated to do it, but I finally called her over and told her that we needed to leave. She had school the next morning and she really needed to get home so she could go to bed. She looked at me . . . . and promptly turned around a walked back to take more pictures. I let her go a little longer and then called her back again, stressing a little more that it was time to go. Once again she looked at me, shook her head no, and went right back to taking photos. I laughed, let her shoot just a little longer, then called her back for a third time. This time she signed a little and agreed that it was time.

I often wondered what her response would be afterwards when the subject of concert photography came up again. Would this end up being a one-time thing that she didn’t want to do again or was it something that she was genuinely interested in? The answer was pretty simple as I had a number of things over the course of the week. She was upset that I was going to photograph BABYMETAL without her, she wanted to go to WWE NXT with me and was not pleased she couldn’t go, and she begged to get a photo pass for GWAR which I honestly debated before decided that considering the crowd, not to mention the streams of fake blood, it probably wasn’t a good idea.

Sydney though wants to do this again. Part of it is certainly the desire of a child wanting to be close to their parents but she genuinely seems to enjoy what she’s doing and she is showing a willingness to learn. The photographers at the show as well as some of the security present commented later about how they had noticed she wasn’t just watching the bands; she was watching what we were doing. She would mimic what she observed and try to do the same thing. So, at some point Sydney will definitely get to join me again in the pit and hopefully, she won’t have to wait too long.

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Lisa Mann

Loved the video! What a cutie... "knowing is half the battle!"

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