While the bands are busy playing, the fans are busy cheering. And Beth Anderson is capturing these moments on camera.
Her short stature and small figure allow her to pass among the crowd with ease. She goes unnoticed by the drunkards and metalheads as she wanders ‘round the bars, snapping photos whenever she can. Her Canon-brand DSLR almost never leaves her hands. At the end of the night, she wastes no time in uploading her images to Facebook, sharing them for all to see.
She’s done this for years -- Anderson guesses somewhere between eight or 10 years. Places like The Chesterfield, Doxx Warehouse Bar and Vangarde Arts are perfect for Anderson. If there’s a stage, you can bet Anderson has been there to take pictures of local musicians performing their sets.
Anderson first started taking pictures of bands at the Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival, an annual music event in Northwest Iowa. She even ventured to weekly jam sessions, honing her skills each night while making friends with the local musicians. That eventually carried over to Sioux City.
“I get excited about taking photos,” said Anderson, 58. “It’s doing art, only it’s faster than drawing a painting. I can deliver it pretty much instantly.”
Which is great for Anderson, who spent a significant amount of her life drawing landscapes and portraits in her hometown of Remsen, Iowa. She had a “particular interest in people” when it came to her art, which may explain her attention to the people hanging out at bars and live music venues.
Anderson has spent a considerable amount of time shooting photos of musicians and bands at The Chesterfield, especially during the Wednesday night jam sessions where anyone has a chance to test their skills in front of an audience. If she’s lucky, she sometimes catches a new band for the first time. Of course, she has to take a bunch of photos.
“I enjoy shooting photos of young bands and giving them their first band photo and just being a part of art,” said Anderson. “They’re exciting. A lot of them are extremely talented. It’s really fun to see the up-and-coming artists.”
Anderson isn’t a professional photographer, but she tries to fine-tune her skills whenever possible. Whether that means taking more photos, going to more events or enrolling in photography courses at Western Iowa Tech Community College, she's up for it.
She insists she never gets paid for her work. “I’m an artist,” she said. “In order for people to see my art, I just have to share it. Selling it wasn’t really [an option].”
Anderson’s devotion to the Sioux City music scene goes beyond her photos. She earned the trust of The Chesterfield owner Mick Gamet. He allowed Anderson administrator access to the bar’s Facebook page, enabling her to directly share her photographs. She’s also helped spread the word about upcoming performances by hanging up posters all around the area.
But when there’s a show to shoot, Anderson wastes no time and gets down to business. She packs with her a bag full of all sorts of different cameras, her laptop, a change of batteries and chargers, and a jar of ear plugs.
She’s kept up the hobby for a long time, venturing out to other bars and music venues to find the talent. Anderson said her photography offers an “instant relationship” with her subjects -- musicians, bartenders, patrons or otherwise. If anything, it makes her happy to be able to share her works with everyone.
“There’s a need for it,” said Anderson. “Everyone wants to look good. And that’s a challenge, and I love a challenge.”