Why a I Want to “Light Up The Freight”

In times like these, music is our saving grace. We gather to be in community, to be uplifted, or to feel our common humanity. The Freight & Salvage is such a place where we can be deeply moved by our favorite musicians, as well as share a smile across the room with acquaintances we have been warmly acknowledging for decades. The energy summoned there through music helps us to see and feel the positive power of community. Many might say, The Freight serves as a “beacon of light” during these disheartening, uncertain times. So, I am writing this as an appeal to materialize this metaphorical light into a physical reality.

I have spent my lifetime looking at “light” on people’s faces. I literally watch how every muscle, every line, every shadow, every bump, and every shape is influenced by the quality or lack of quality of the light. I watch how the light makes contact and what the quality of that light might be saying about the person. I am sure you have taken photographs outside at high noon, and afterward, everyone moans because they have dark shadows under their eyes exaggerating what otherwise might be a simple, beautiful age line. All the light at The Freight comes from above! There are no “fill lights” or “footlights,” and the “backlights” are too weak to adequately delineate dark hair from the deep-toned background.

The Freight & Salvage is currently fundraising to vastly improve their lighting equipment. In 2009, when they moved into the new building located in the Berkeley Arts District, they were gifted with a state of the art sound system from Meyer Sound. The old lights, however, were moved from their previous venue and don’t match the quality of sound or the ambiance of the new hall.

Being a house photographer at The Freight & Salvage, I can tell you a lot about the light. I can tell you that pianists get the raw end of the deal. I can tell you that if the “center stage” performer stands too far forward their eye sockets go black. I can tell you that the light on the person standing in between the pianist and the main performer is often too hot in relation to others on the stage. I can tell you that supporting performer “stage left” goes nearly dark unless the entire stage is blanketed with even light.

So, why am I telling you all this? I am hoping you will consider donating to the current Light Up The Freight campaign. We need to raise money for a state of the art lighting equipment and considering what it would do for our beloved performers– if we each pitched in what our individual finances might allow– we could easily accomplish the goal.

Here is a simple truth. Most performers are fine with how they look, but no one wants to look worse. I am sure we all can relate. I am able to photograph at the Freight because I have 40 years experience watching for the details, and caring that when I click the shutter the musician has turned into the best light currently available.

I do what I do at The Freight for you– the community audience. I love how you love to re-live a show or feel like you were there even though you were miles away. I love how you write comments like, “Oh, I remember that moment! I knew you would catch that!” The work I do at The Freight is an “In Kind” donation. Might you consider matching my time, talent, and heart with whatever monetary funds your finances allow? I will personally send you a signed photograph of your favorite Freight musician whom I have photographed during a performance. 


We are very grateful for all donation amounts, and please do share.

Irene Young 
House Photographer
Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, CA

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Photographing Big Lovely

I wish everyone in the world could have been at the Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely concert at the Freight and Salvage on May 6, 2017. The power, the wisdom, the love, the creative energy is hard to express in words. I guess that is why I am a photographer. But honestly, that is not so easy either. Every live concert shoot has a deliberate approach. Some more challenging than others.

Gina Breedlove, Ganessa James, Toshi Reagon, Judith Casselberry © Irene Young 2017

This concert had a very intricate strategy, and I often felt like I needed 3 cameras rather than 2 hanging over me. With 2 cameras and 6 lenses, I never quite felt like I had the right lens attached to the cameras. Not wanting to miss a beat of this performance, I hesitated to change a lens. Could I adequately depict the masterful energy that went into performing this show? Would I be where I needed to be to show the love, the conscious political heart? I could not sit close to the stage because I would miss the power of so many women on stage (9-10). So, how could I gently get to the stage to show their beautiful faces? Would a long lens be fast enough in low light and stop the action to yield sharp images.

I usually plan my strategy before the show so I can think about it as little as possible during the show. You see, I don’t really like to take pictures. I work hard to be able to receive them. I pay extreme attention to the energy in the room and then, I open to it. Sometimes I even feel like a musician moving with the rhythm of the evening. I am nowhere else when the camera is in my hands. I watch every muscle, every blink, every highlighted expression, every opening, and yes, even every microphone stand, water bottle, and glaring white towel. I anticipate the energy as best I can, and this one kept me on my toes.

Drummer, Alison Miller © Irene Young 2017

At one point the audience jumped to their feet for a long ovation. That was my cue. I wiggled my way to the very front and felt the glory of Big Lovely an arm’s length away. This group had an exquisite way of giving each other energy, support and attention. So, in a blink of an eye, Toshi was on the other end of the stage giving energy to Juliette. I looked up the aisle and knew there was no way I could go around the back of the hall. So, I ran behind the stage arriving just in time to edge my lens between performers and wait only seconds before Toshi was singing in 4th gear. Then, I ran back to stage left just in time to open my lens to Marcelle reaching for the mic, looking upward like she was happy to see her ancestors were enjoying the show.

Marcelle Davies Lashley © Irene Young 2017

So, you see, the phrase “taking a picture” doesn’t come close to describing what I do as “house photographer” at the wonderful Freight & Salvage. I stay as open as I can and receive the energy, and in this case that energy was a very high form of power, wisdom, love, and creativity.

After the concert, I stood alone shaking my head in disbelief of the brilliant performance we all had just been gifted. On the way home I wondered if the images would live up to Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely’s virtuosity of spirit. All in all, I am happy with the photos, but the bar was set pretty darn high. I hope you see them with their true intention…to pass on to you Big Lovely’s “Big Love and enormous talent.”

Toshi Reagon © Irene Young 2017

I will be writing more about “live performance photography” in future posts. See more live shots on my Live Performance page.

© Irene Young 2017