Jack Gruber's latest solo exhibition and book launch, "File Under: Random Music Book," emerged from the depths of a hard-drive crash—a rediscovery and unveiling of seven years' worth of photographs of Australia's vibrant live music scene, all captured through Gruber's beer and sweat-coated camera lens.

All Photos:  Jack Gruber

What could have easily been a technical conflict became a source of inspiration for Jack. After sifting through countless rowdy moments from venues, DIY shows, and Australian festivals recovered from the failing hard drive, he was inspired by his legacy of work and moments captured within the pit.

Thus, he set about piecing together an exhibition and accompanying book for your viewing pleasure—and for the excuse of throwing a party. Some photos have previously seen the light of day, while others will have their maiden dance with your eyeballs this Thursday, October 26th, @ Thin Slizzy Pizzeria, Johnston St, Collingwood. The good times kick off at 5:30 PM, and the beverages will be cold and free-flowing for the first hour of the show. We caught up with Jack and asked if he could pull the curtain a little to the side, giving us a sneak peek at Thursday night's proceedings. Read on...


Jack, where are you based at the moment?

I'm currently living in Melbourne. We moved from Canberra a couple of years ago.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and your creative background…

I essentially began my creative pursuit through riding BMX. I started out as a kid, and watching the older dudes make art out of riding opened a whole new world for me. Riding got me into all things creative - music, photography, filming video parts, etc. That passion continues in what I do now, which is still very much the same, haha. Music, shooting photos, and (trying) to film video parts.

What draws you to shooting live music/gigs?

Its intensity is great, doing whatever it takes to get the shot. Whether it’s climbing over speakers, sneaking backstage at festivals, or hopping on people's shoulders in the pit, it's really fun. Also, I’ve never been a crazy tech guy, so I'm not too pedantic about lighting or settings. I just get out there and make sure I capture something unique amid the nine other photographers and 100,000 iPhones.

Is there a certain energy or moment you're trying to capture at a live gig? What do you look for when shooting a band and the crowd?

It all tends to happen so fast, which I like. Three songs in, or a punk show that lasts just as long, you're sort of looking everywhere all at once for the shot. There are always the key frames you’re trying to capture - moments of crowd participation, or the singer jumping or spitting beer into the air. But trying to find those intimate moments and placing yourself there, those are the cool shots - like the singer getting up close to a screaming fan that's trying to grab the mic from them...

Where did you come up with the idea for the exhibition and the book?

I guess at one point I took a step back from digging through photos and posting on social media, as I felt like some of my work was getting a bit lost. I slowly started going back through my images, then my hard drive crashed. I had to retrieve my files, and this forced me to sort through some older photos, and I found some gems. I decided to make a book, and then I thought, 'fuck it', let's have a little hangout with friends instead of selling the book over Insta, and that's when I decided to hang some prints and do the show.

I noticed you shoot mostly in Black and white. Is there a reason for this and what is your camera set-up?

Firstly, a part of it is the inspiration from genres and eras that I like. Secondly, I have, for the most part of my life, been about five generations behind with camera gear, haha. I found myself in the right places for shooting most of the time, however, sometimes the images were barely sharp or blowing out, so black and white was always my best friend. It got me out of trouble, haha. Oh, and my trusty fisheye.

When it comes to music photography, what are your sources of inspiration? 

I love flicking through 70s/80s punk zines and books. The style is amazing and it has such a time stamp. It's also maybe why everything is black and white in my book. Glen E. Friedman’s book ‘What I See’ is ripping or ‘Punk London 1977’.

Nice, do you have a favourite band or music genre you like to shoot?

I love shooting punk gigs, especially DIY or smaller venue events. This recent book doesn’t have too much of that, as I’ve only really been exposed to it since moving to Melbourne... but that’ll definitely be the focus of my next book.

What else do you photograph besides live music?

Basically, any 1980s Mercedes Benz on the street, haha.

Finally, where can people grab a copy of your book?

Limited numbers will be available on the night. Depending on leftover stock, it will go full circle and be featured on Instagram, I'd say! For anyone interstate or unable to make the show, hit us up.


File Under: Random Music Book opens on Thursday, October 26th 5:30PM, at Thin Slizzy Pizzeria, Johnston St, Collingwood, Melbourne.

Check out Jack on Instagram, here.


October 25, 2023