Graham Smith

Winner of the Lex Van Rossen Award for European Music Photographer of the Year on loving music first

Click play on the video above to watch Graham Smith's commentary on his favourite photos including acts like Jetplane Landing, And So I Watch You From Afar and General Fiasco

'I don't particularly like photography that much, which sounds odd. I like music, and photography is just a tool I use to document my love of music.'

Graham Smith's honesty about the medium in which he works will perhaps displease some in the photography business – not that that bothers the 29-year old. It's clear that Smith couldn't care less about the technical nature of the job.

'I think a lot of photographers concentrate too much on their equipment and what lens they use, or what settings or how many awards they can win and they forget about the actual subject – I'm passionate about the subject rather than the tool I use to document it.'

Earlier this month, in Groningen, Holland, Smith won the coveted Lex Van Rossen Award for European Music Photographer of the Year. The jury panel were full of praise: ‘Smith is a photo-journalist who documents what he sees. This is always a good starting point but as well as being highly skilled with the camera, Graham Smith’s work has a very genuine and passionate vibe. He has a real empathy with musicians, and is a very good all-rounder.’

Pouring over a selection of his favourite pictures (of Northern Irish bands and artists like And So I Watch You From Afar, Rachel Austin and General Fiasco), Smith mentions his surprise even to be nominated. 'It was definitely an honour to win – there were amazing photographers from all over Europe who were also nominated for it, so to win was an amazing feat, but at the same time that's not why I do photography.'

Smith has forged close relationships with many of his musical subjects through the years, and currently has his hands full as tour manager for instrumental rockers And So I Watch You From Afar. With an innate talent for capturing interesting, intimate portraits (he works mostly in black and white) Smith is set to publish two books in late 2010.

'I know it sounds selfish, but I do it for myself,' he admits. 'If I like the image, that's the most important thing. If other people like it too I'm delighted, but if not, I don't really care that much.

'Without meaning to sound cheeky, it was good to win the award but it doesn't mean as much to me as maybe it would to other people. The one good thing it has done is open doors in a lot of European galleries and I'm hoping to do a lot of exhibitions this year, so it's got my name out there.'

Smith regularly exhibits his work around the world and his latest exhibition is currently being shown at the photogallery Noorderlicht in Groningen, until February 28, before moving around various other cities including London this summer. Check out more of his portfolio here.

Eddie Mullan