A night at the Grammys

February 17, 2012

By Mario Anzuoni

This year I was assigned for the first time to cover the show portion of the Grammy awards. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to photograph the most respected music award show in the world. The week preceding the award show (dubbed Grammy week in the entertainment business) builds up the hype with pre-Grammy events and gala nights, including this year’s MusiCares Person of the Year to Paul McCartney and the Clive Davis dinner party. The best of the music industry is in Los Angeles.

Two days prior to the show were filled with rehearsals at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. On Saturday, I was ready to watch a rehearsal when the news broke of Whitney Houston’s death, 24 hours before the Grammy Awards. I immediately started wondering what kind of tribute the Grammy could put together with 24 hours notice to honor the loss of such a high-caliber artist. I realized that no matter what, the 54th Grammy Awards was going to be about the loss of Whitney Houston and in fact, a few hours later news came out that Jennifer Hudson was going to sing during a tribute to Houston.

With that in mind, I decided to approach this 3.5 hour show just like all the other ones I have shot, with the only difference being that we were given two seats in the audience at either stage right or left. This meant using a monopod rather than a tripod. Another challenge was that our seats were on floor level, so whenever the audience would stand up (which is more often than seldom) I had to stand up and re-adjust with a 400mm lens. I had a Canon Mark IV with a 400mm lens on a monopod, a Mark IV with a 70-200mm lens and a 5D Mark II with a 16-35mm lens.

The other essential thing for shows like this is to choose your shooting carefully, stay focused, and not overcrowd the work flow with many repetitious images – which slow down production and ultimately make us late on the wire.

Some of the highlights of the show were the return of British singer Adele with a very powerful performance of “Rolling In The Deep” following her throat surgery 6 months ago, Bruce Springsteen opening the show, Paul McCartney closing it with an ensemble performance with Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and Joe Walsh, the return of Chris Brown to the Grammy stage, The Beach Boys Reunion and a tribute to Glenn Campbell.

Without a doubt, the most important moment was when Jennifer Hudson took the stage to sing Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” which she performed flawlessly in front of a captive audience. At the end of it, overcome with emotion, she broke down while receiving a standing ovation.

The show went on (and went quickly). Before I knew it I was backstage just in time to take a photo of Adele trying to balance her six awards while posing for photographers. A day of great music ended celebrating another amazing voice.

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