Rock ‘n’ roll is an extreme sport and can seriously damage your health. Just ask Eri Shibata, who’s fast becoming one of Japan’s most celebrated “rock chicks.” At a bar in Shibuya she pulls back the collar of her blouse to reveal a 10-cm scar running down from the nape of her neck.
But Shibata, known as Shiva-Eri in music circles, is not in a band, risking being dragged off stage by over-excited fans or pelted with bottles by disgruntled punters. No, it’s far worse than that. As a rock photographer, she’s often crouched in the no man’s land between the baying crowds and the stage, where she snaps away with her camera and tries to avoid bodies that fly her way.
“During an Abnormals show, one band member jumped from the stage, kicked me in the head and I blacked out. And with all that moshing and stage-diving, I’m often left covered in bruises. But it’s all part of the job,” she says with a shrug.
Her scar is from surgery on her vertebrae last December, following another injury sustained in the line of duty. “I’d damaged my neck and back from adopting awkward poses to get the best shots in cramped places, and also from lugging all my equipment around.”
Shiva-Eri is chatting to me at Bar Garage in Shibuya, a cozy little joint where she’s holding an exhibition of her photos through May to a soundtrack of retro rock ‘n’ roll. Thirty-eight photos hang on the bar’s walls, and they’ll be replaced by a different set of prints on May 17.
Shiva-Eri got her break as a photographer in 1993, when her sensei at Tokyo Zokei University took her along to an X-Japan photoshoot. She later got to take photos of band member Hide, and one was used in a magazine. Since then, she’s snapped bands including The 188.8.131.52’s, The Collectors, Guitar Wolf and Go!Go!7188; tarentos such as Megumi and Henmi Emily; and “Kill Bill”/”Battle Royale” actress Chiaki Kuriyama, among others. And though her stuff appears in dozens of magazines, including Doll and GB, she says: “I don’t know where most of my photos end up because record companies like Columbia or Toshiba hire me to snap the bands for publicity shots or whatever.”
My only misgiving about the initial selection is that it contains none of her vibrant live shots, which capture the excitement of shows so effectively. “Most of the photos here now are snapshots of friends,” she explains. “It’s meant to be a kind of photo diary of my life.”
We’re talking at the exhibition’s opening party, so she often buzzes off to welcome new arrivals, many of whom are band members whose portraits hang on the walls. The party finally ends at 4 a.m. At its start I handed her a bouquet of flowers; now she’s got something for me.
“I heard you broke three ribs at a Guitar Wolf show,” she says, pulling out a stash of pills. “Take two of these three times a day. They work wonders for war wounds.”
And she should know.
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