On October 10, 2008, New York Magazine celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a red carpet and rock’n’roll affair at the appropriately grand Hammerstein Ballroom. Even more appropriate was the magazine’s choice of Brooklyn bred The National to headline the festivities.

Aided by a breathtaking atmospheric light show The National performed a spell binding set that drew waves of palpable appreciation from thousands of rank and file New Yorkers as well as a mezzanine full of local celebrities, media moguls and television luminaries.

The band won many with its beautiful execution of every song’s layered instrumentation, however the raw persona of vocalist Matt Berninger was the clear and inescapable core of the performance. Mixing rage and sorrow with moments of elation, Berninger gave the set surprising levels of vocal and emotional nuance from the first song to the evening’s triumphant finish (and crowd favorite), Mr. November.

Set List:

Start a War
Secret Meeting
Baby, We’ll Be Fine
Slow Show
Squalor Victoria
All the Wine
Racing Like a Pro
Mistaken for Strangers
A Thousand Black Cities
Apartment Story
Daughters of the Soho Riots
Fake Empire

Green Gloves
What Goes On (Velvet Underground cover)
Mr. November


What a great show. It’s very rare that I get to shoot and entire set and even more rare that the band in front of me is as wonderful on stage as The National. The interesting part of this story is how I came to spend 2+ hours in the photo pit of an event commemorating one of New York’s most famous publications.

I arrived at the Hammerstein early to shoot the red carpet. By the time everyone of note had struck a few poses, the venue was packed with ticket holding fans. At that time I was informed that there was no access to the photo pit for anyone. Disgruntled but determined, I made my way to the very front of the barrier after a few minutes.

I shot comic hosts Stella from the crowd as well part much of opening band Grizzly Bear’s set. After a few minutes I was joined by several other photographers who had also received the bad news.

When it was clear that number of photographers competing for position had reached an impolite and unreasonable annoyance to people who had paid good money to see the show, I appealed to the powers that be to have my Photo pass upgraded to All Access. It was then that I learned exactly why photographers had not been allowed into the pit.

Apparently, whoever set up the stage had completely blocked entry to the photo pit by pushing huge stands of speakers up against the barrier. The only way in and out of the pit was to walk on stage and jump down into it. Once I was in, there was no getting out to go pee. It was the long haul or go home early.

Luckily, I think the luxury (or agony depending how many free drinks one had at the bar) of shooting the entire set generated a nice set of images that illustrate the atmosphere of the event better than other recent work.

I owe a huge thank you to the folks at Drillteam and the Hammerstein Ballroom event and security staff. The level of professionalism and understanding brought to the party that night was heartening and greatly appreciated.

Exposure and Settings

Though I shot mainly with the Canon 24-70mm and 70-200mm on my 1D mark III, my exposure varied wildly and even included *gasp* Aperture Priority thanks to the ever changing lights.

  1. The National http://tinyurl.com/65ssr5

  2. I love the beauty of your works capturing the band’s artistry, even though it is all visual and not aural. The colors are gorgeous! Keep up the great art. Best, Beth