Oli Erskine

Mon, 1st March 2021

Words: Oli Erskine
Photographs: Oli Erskine

Oli Erskine expresses a sense of humble confidence in her depiction of the Scottish band scene. Her live gig photography screams energy, you can almost hear the enraptured audience caught at the crest of a wave, heaving in time to the motions of onstage pageantry. At a time when all venues are shut these shots are a titillating reminder of what once was and is soon to be again.

Coupled with a with a self-professed sentimentality for 60’s/70’s and 80’s photography her work, both on and off the stage, often feels suspended in time. From posed band photos to candid looks exchanged with friends Oli’s keen eye for the moment is imbued with an honest and aesthetically fitting nostalgia.

This shot of Henry Spychalski from HMLTD is one of my favourite gig photographs I've taken. It can’t help but remind me of how far I’ve come since the stress of the first gig I shot - where my flash broke halfway through the support act and I had to resort to pushing the rest of my film, a technique I’d only tried in fixed lighting. Between the strobe lights freaking out my camera's light meter and trying to avoid being kicked in the head it wasn’t anything like I'd shot before.


The energy that passed between the band and the audience was intensely electric and I found my body physically trembling afterwards - probably a mix of the second-hand adrenaline absorbed from the band and being in a squat position for the half-hour set. Even though that first experience didn’t go to plan and the photos might not have looked how I intended, it was that experience that made me fall in love with gig photography and want to do it all over again.

It’s clear from looking at my Instagram profile that I love to shoot Medicine Cabinet so it felt only right to include a photograph of them. There was a point when my feed was starting to look more like a medicine cabinet fan page but my boyfriend Joshua is the guitarist and the band are some of my closest friends so I'm a little biased. Individually, they all have such a captivating stage presence and their chemistry is harmonious; it's impossible to peel your eyes or your camera away from them, so I’m always guaranteed to get some great shots. To go from documenting some of their earliest gigs, to seeing them sell out their first headliner after being a band for only a year fills me with pride.


This photo was taken at the last gig I shot and the last gig they performed at King tuts before lockdown which is a bit sad to reflect on. For me, this photo has a feeling of teleportation, as an instant recall of that night. This feeling is only strengthened by the gritty grain and yellow hues that could be mistaken for the 70s/80s New York music scene, something I love about shooting on film.

Like many other creative people I know, I’ve had to rethink my whole creative process since the pandemic and I’m constantly battling slumps with sporadic bursts of ideas. I had involuntarily fallen into a creative hiatus so I was elated when Lucia and the Best Boys contacted me about shooting with them.


We decided on a 1980s school photoshoot theme, an idea that had been circulating in my head that I had been dying to bring to fruition. This photo resembles a personal milestone as it became the artwork for their single ‘Perfectly Untrue’ and it was quite a mad moment seeing it for the first time on Spotify. They also used a couple of polaroids from this shoot for their record sleeve’s artwork which was a monumental moment and a realisation that I could make a career from doing what I love.

This photo was selected from a series I started for a darkroom photography course. They are influenced by Man Ray and Lee Miller's solarised portraits. I love how solarising gives skin the texture of liquid metal or velvet which creates a multi-dimensional effect to black and white photography. My flatmate very kindly trusted my vision and posed for the photographs.


Understandably, I feel like a lot of people associate me with gig and band photography but it’s not something I consciously intended to get into. I like to think my style is ever-evolving as I continue to learn and develop my skills. This photo is a nice reminder for me to keep exploring new ideas and not feel restricted within my creative process.

 I chose this song from a playlist we picked to help her relax into the shoot and make her feel more confident. This was one of our go-to songs when getting ready for a night out so it felt appropriate for the mood.

I’m a very sentimental person which is probably why I was so drawn to film photography as it has such a nostalgic quality to it. A couple of years ago, a group of friends and I booked a holiday to Bordeaux. Anytime I get the chance to travel I make a conscious effort to bring my camera along and keep a visual diary of my time away. I prefer to photograph exclusively on film because each photo holds value and intention compared to taking photos on your phone that never get a second thought.


I chose this song as halfway through our trip we realised our Airbnb was infested with bed bugs which at the time was a fucking nightmare but also became one of the funniest experiences and bonded us closer together. When you finally get to see your photos for the first time it’s like unlocking these memories and reliving them, some otherwise forgotten but now immortalised. This photograph is like a postcard, the image that encapsulates that holiday, with Bordeaux on the road sign within the edge of the frame.

Find more of Oli's photos & follow her work on Instagram.

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