Christopher Deacon shoots the local scene purely for the love of it
It’s another crowded Sunday afternoon at Erin’s Pub in St. John’s, and the band Generations is about to hit the stage.
The tables are filled at this popular and long-standing downtown watering hole and patrons surround the bar knocking back their favourite pint of ale.
Christopher Deacon sits quietly at one of the side tables, his camera bag by his side, awaiting the start of the show.
It has become a weekly routine for the soon-to-be 60-yearold.
Most weekends, Deacon goes from bar to bar, dance club to concert hall to theatre in the metro area, spending hours taking pictures of local musicians and artists as they perform.
In fact, he’s become as recognizable on the local music scene as the artists themselves.
“He’s here more than I am,” Erin’s Pub co-owner and Shanneyganock frontman Chris Andrews said, laughing. “He’s on the go. He sees a lot of music and shoots a lot of music.
“It’s great, you know, that someone is that interested in live music and taking pictures of it. It’s cool. Musicians love it.”
Other than getting a waived cover charge into bars, a complimentary ticket to shows and a scattered pint bought for him, he does it all free of charge.
Over the years, Deacon has accumulated quite a collection of photos, with many posted on his Facebook page.
From renowned artists to newcomers, he tries to include everyone who catches his eye.
His images capture the energy and essence of the artists as they pour their hearts out through their music.
“He’s one of the few who shoots photos of live performances, as opposed to (setup) studio shots,” prominent St. John’s musician Sandy Morris said.
“He’s a great photographer and a real nice fellow. … He does a great service to the local entertainment community here.”
Born in Hartlepool in the north of England, Deacon grew up in Shrewsbury in central England and came to Newfoundland in 1983 after earning a PhD in physical metallurgy and science of materials.
“My wife told me Newfoundland was full of rich people and that we’d have a wonderful time living there,” he said with a chuckle.
There may not have been an abundance of rich people, but Deacon was having a wonderful time and quickly discovered the province was rich in musical talent.
A lover of traditional, Celtic and folk music, he would often pop into the Ship Inn and O’Reilly’s to see live acts.
It wasn’t until years later that he began taking his camera along.
He shot his first live downtown show in 2005, when Dr. Hook took the stage at the George Street Festival. As everyone
“I do like to support the local musicians because I know they’re not rolling in money, especially the younger kids who’ve got enthusiasm and desire and nothing else.” Christopher Deacon
began piling into neighbouring bars, he followed to catch more entertainment.
“Back then, what I’d shoot was typically crap,” he said, laughing again.
But more than 10 years later, with more experience, a keener eye and better equipment, Deacon has honed his skills and gained recognition in local music circles.
For Deacon, a laboratory co-ordinator at Memorial University’s physics department who has no formal training in photography, it’s a beloved hobby.
Deacon is not the only local photographer who shoots local musicians, of course. Others, such as Erin O’Mara, Alick Tsui, Brian Carey, Chris LeDrew, Paul Kinsman, Ritchie Perez and Sean Jessome, are also popular.
However, Deacon, who has no personal connection to the local music scene, likely sees more acts than most.
But he’s quick to say he’s not out to compete.
“I’m not looking to take work away from professional photographers. They work a different way and provide a valuable service,” said the soft-spoken Deacon, adding everyone has their own style.
“Me? I’m just having fun.” Deacon enjoys doing his own thing when he wants and where he wants.
“The feedback I get is really phenomenal,” he said.
“I do like to support the local musicians because I know they’re not rolling in money, especially the younger kids who’ve got enthusiasm and desire and nothing else.”
Karla Pilgrim — a member of the country-folk trio the Secrets, who also performs as a duo with Jackie Sullivan — said in an industry where digital portfolios, grant applications and online promotion is crucial, Deacon does a great deal to help struggling artists.
“Having such great photos means a lot to us,” she said.
“Any time we have to apply for something or promote ourselves in any way, he has all kinds to pick from. It’s great. It saves us a lot of money.”
And his work gets noticed by many.
“In the run of a night, there are so many events going on, but he manages to fit them in,” Pilgrim said.
She said in years to come, his photos will prove to be a big part of St. John’s musical heritage.
“With all the pictures of local talent, he’s documenting local music history,” said Pilgrim, whose Secrets band is releasing a new single next month.
“People don’t live forever, so they’ll be important in preserving all those great memories, too.”
Amateur photographer Christopher Deacon.