Sometimes, you just know a person is going to make it big in their chosen field. These people have that “it” factor, and one of the beautiful things of said “it” factor is that it can manifest itself in ways big and small, especially when things go haywire. About a decade back, some unknown 17-year old with a guitar took the stage for his first professional performance. Mid-show, the power went out. What happened next told Christie Goodwin — and tells you — all there is to know about Ed Sheeran.
Anyone that age and that early in a career would have been very discouraged if the power went out while they were performing. But Ed was so determined to entertain the crowd that he just continued acoustic and without a mic. I think that’s something that has set him apart from the very first time we met.
Though he was only a supporting act in front of a modest crowd of no more than 30 people, Ed soldiered on. In doing so, he held the attention of the audience. This led Christie to issue a bold proclamation to Ed’s family.
Everyone was locked into his performance. The most important thing is that there was nothing special, just a guy strumming his guitar, but he grabbed their attention and invited them to sing along to his songs that no one had ever heard before and they sang and clapped along. It was very special. I stood next to his parents, turned to them and said, ‘your son is going to make it, mark my words.’
We’re ten years from that defining moment and, as you can see from the image above, the kid from West Yorkshire, England has made it — and then some. But Ed, mainly due to being raised by two wonderful human beings, has never forgotten where he’s come from or how he got here. That “I’m going to put on a show no matter what” mindset is ingrained into his DNA at this point, crowd size be damned.
When I shot his stadium show a decade later, [another power outage] actually happened, although he had moved from 30 people to 30,000 people.
But it was still just him with his guitar encouraging everyone to sing along with him. This time, everyone knew the words to his songs.
The rise from opening at back-alley pubs to headlining at some of the world’s most famous venues has been lovingly chronicled by Christie in her new book “Memories We Made,” which is filled to the brim with personal anecdotes about and never-before-seen photos of Ed. It’s available on Amazon in six languages.
Christie and Ed have traveled a long, arduous path to get to where they are in life, and there are numerous parallels the now-established photographer can draw between herself and one of pop’s biggest names. Ed’s first show featured a true baptism-by-fire moment. Christie’s background as a political photographer basically means that her entire career has been one long baptism.
My political photojournalism [background] gave me thick skin. You literally have to fight to get yourself in the prime spot at an event. The first few years were a steep learning curve of elbowing myself to the front, like others did. I also had to fight to get the interesting assignments from the editors because there is a lot of favoritism and you would be left with the last handouts. I had to learn not to take no for an answer, not to give up, and to keep going until I got what I needed. As soon as I changed over to music photography and I joined the pit filled with photographers all chasing pictures, I knew how to take my own place.
But that confidence to stand your ground and focus on your work while being trapped in a mosh pit of hostile testosterone doesn’t come without those moments of doubt — those feelings of thinking you’ve hit a wall that are nearly impossible to shake. Christie knows this all too well.
There have been so many times where I felt I had reached a dead end, and I just wanted to sell all my gear and give up. Many times, I put up all my cameras on eBay, only to remove the listings by nightfall because I had talked myself into giving myself one more shot at it. I think that is one of the most important messages on how to reach success: never give up, no matter how much adversity and disappointment is thrown at you. Keep believing. Keep going.
For those who reach that light at the end of the tunnel, they get to experience an “I made it” moment. For Ed, it could’ve very well been his first stadium performance in London.
He stood next to me, and we both looked over the stage into this gigantic stadium filled to the brim. I could feel he was tense, and I have to admit that I felt nervous for him.
And then his guitar tech gave him his guitar, and it’s a bit like when Superman puts on his costume and gets his superpowers. It’s probably similar for me where my camera is my security blanket and I dare to go places when I have my camera in my hand that I wouldn’t and couldn’t without my camera.
Christie — who’s admittedly her own harshest critic — had her “I made it” moment when she found out that this was a thing:
I talk myself down too much. I’m highly critical of myself and my work. Nothing is ever good enough. But when Taylor Swift’s management told us that they had used one of my images on an Air Asia a320 aircraft, even I had to gasp for my breath for a minute.
One of the cool things about Christie’s journey is that she didn’t simply ride Ed’s coattails to the top of her profession — they just happened to climb their respective food chains together. So how do you get to the point where your landing page photo is of Katy Perry? For Christie, it’s a “two-part deal.”
One, you have to be extremely harsh in selecting the pictures you use to show your work. You have to be able to impress the viewer in less than a minute because they don’t have the time to go through your whole catalogue. So, select only the ‘wow’ images but show diversity as well.
The second part is that you just have to keep pitching to artist managements. A thousand pitches might give you one ‘yes,’ but that is the only way. And when you get a ‘no,’ that doesn’t mean you can’t pitch again down the line. Keep pitching relentlessly. In the music industry especially, you see a lot of similar looking styles. I believe my fresh-look approach sets myself apart.
That approach is a result of Christie seeing the forest through the trees. Years and years of music photography has informed the Londoner on how to create unique live show imagery. Interestingly, her methods have very little to do with the actual music being performed.
The main thing I have learned is to listen to the lightshow rather than the music. The lightshow dictates how a performance will be captured. These days, it literally takes me a minute to have the lightshow figured. When I first started out, I would fight the lights and struggle a lot.
I have also become an expert in reading body language. That is very useful because the artist is unpredictable. But my experience has given me a head start where I often anticipate what will happen before it happens.
It’s this attention to detail that has led to Christie shooting some truly breathtaking photography at some of the world’s most famous arenas.
My favorite image of Ed is probably the one I took at The Royal Albert Hall when the whole hall was lit with little phone lights. It’s my favorite venue in the world and all those lights made it even more magical.
Oftentimes, a person makes it big and fundamentally changes. But at the heart of Christie’s book is the knowledge that Ed isn’t one of those people. He’s the same humble, easy-going human being — with a deep love and knowledge of classical music — that Christie met all those years ago. The reason is simple: Imogen and John Sheeran. To Ed, just Mom and Dad.
They are the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. Both Ed and [his brother] Matthew are very creative people, and their parents have encouraged them and supported them every step of the way. They’ve done a top job.
Co-Author: John Sheeran
Proofreader: Imogen Sheeran
Proofreader: Patrick Cusse
Commissioning Editor: Joe Cottington
Senior Editor: Pauline Blanche
Copy Editor: Robert Anderson
Designer: Jeremy Tilston
Senior Production Controller: Allison Gonsalves
Design & Layout: Octopus Publishing
Published in America by: Harper Collins Publishing
Translated in: German, French, Italian, Czech, Russian
See more of Christie’s work at christiegoodwin.com.
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