"Music is the love and photography is the tool," says Dutch music photographer Bart Heemskerk. He shoots major festivals and concerts across Europe, capturing big names including Nick Cave, Lana Del Rey and Dua Lipa – a role that led to an enviable invitation to photograph the Rolling Stones.
This summer he'll be touring around 40 festivals to photograph them, driven by his passion for music. Here he tells his inspiring story, packed with tips that you can try out with a compact camera at this summer's outdoor events.
"I always listened to the radio and recorded the music chart shows as a child. Later I went to gigs with my father and fell in love with the festival scene when I attended the Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands at the age of 15," says the 33-old-old photographer.
A few years after his first festival experience, Bart got a chance to borrow a Canon EOS 400D (an earlier version of the Canon EOS 800D). He quickly realised that having a camera allows you to enjoy your time at festivals even more – by capturing the fun away from the stage as well as getting creative shots of the world's best live acts.
After spending time building a portfolio voluntarily photographing music events, he quit working as a teacher to make photography his career: "Ten years after attending my first festival, I was back at Pinkpop with a commission to photograph the Dutch band Kensington, who I had gotten to know by first offering to photograph them for free in return for getting access to more of their gigs," Bart says. The following year, he got a call he'd never expected – from international rock legends the Rolling Stones, asking him to photograph them.
"The Rolling Stones were going on a tour in 2014 and they saw me on the internet – they had searched online for photographers in the Netherlands. So they contacted the Pinkpop festival and enquired. That was a surreal moment!"
The band invited him to photograph their European tour, giving him backstage access to some of the most famous musicians in the world. "Touring with the Stones felt like family," Bart says. "We joked around. Keith [Richards] was the most fun to work with. He was such a laugh. I had to shoot the meet-and-greets with fans and bookers, and I got an all-area pass so I could go wherever I wanted – backstage, in front of the stage. I was part of the crew and had dinner with everyone else, went to the sound checks and so on."
Bart kept in touch with the Rolling Stones after this and even joined them on tour again in 2017.