Shannon McCollum ‘A Night With Kings’

Photo: @ShannonMccollum

Very few people have the opportunity to watch legends at work, night after night. Photographer Shannon Parks McCollum has been using his extra eye to capture comedians George Lopez, Eddie Griffin, DL Hughley, the late Charlie Murphy, and Cedric The Entertainer on ‘The Comedy Get Down Tour’. We wanted to get a clear understanding of how the Atlanta native approached working with this legendary group of comedians.

CHECK OUT MORE OF MCCOLLUM’S WORK ON INSTAGRAM: @SHANNONMCCOLLUM 

1. Tell us about yourself, where are you from? and when was the first time you picked up a camera professionally?

My name is Shannon Parks McCollum, I’m from Atlanta, Ga. I’m 48 yrs old and my father is a photojournalist and my mother is an outreach coordinator who helps unfortunate families find placement and homeless men find shelters as wells as gets them enrolled in a local technical school to learn a trade. I was an only child.  I grew up with my parents always introducing me to art from a very young age. Going to plays with my mom and going on photo shoots with my dad. We were always doing something that was nurturing my creative genes.

2. To roll with the legendary line up of comedians you do every other night, what are the main moments you’re looking to capture amongst the men?

First off I come from studying Annie Leboiwitz and Gordon Parks. Annie was and still is a master photographer. She toured with The Rolling Stones and the way she captured the musicians on a day to day… even when they’re not on stage was brilliant. She cleverly mastered at being in the room without being in the room. All her photographs tell a story that’s what made me admire her style of shooting. On the other hand, Gordon Parks inspired me so much because he was such a Renaissance Man. He was one of, if not the first black photographers to shoot for LIFE magazine, Harpers Bizarre and countless other magazines. When he had assignments to document the Black Panther Party or Malcom X or an underprivileged family in a rural part of the world; he always had compassion for his subject matter. He never was intrusive with his subject matter. In order to have been privileged to photograph such people, he had to be trusted especially around Malcom X and the Black Panthers. They felt his photographs and by him being in their presence would tell their story the right way.

3. Has there ever been a time when you were in the middle of taking a picture but one of the guys on the tour told a joke so funny that you could no longer focus on taking the pic? If so who and what happened?

That happens almost every weekend bro. Lol. I mean I am touring with four comedians that all have at least 30 years in the business. So timing is everything with these dudes. If you slip and say the wrong sh*t you will get cracked on in a heartbeat. Lol. They all make fun of each other and us roadies. So it’s always per comedy. Actually, the jokes are better off stage than on stage. Lol. So yes I’ve missed some great shots from laughing too hard at jokes told by all of them at some point or another.

4. You were able to capture a lot of Charlie Murphy before his passing, how would you describe being around him during moments on the tour? He came off really laid back, was he into taking pictures?

I was fortunate to spend the last 3 yrs with Charlie almost every weekend. He was very laid back, low key. Spoke in a monotone. Had a thunderous laugh that came from the bottom of his stomach. He always used to laugh really hard. Lol. I loved it!!! He would always arrive early to the venue and make a quick pit stop into George’s room. He would tell George some of the best stories. I’d follow him into his room and sit and talk for a while. On his rider was Popeyes chicken so everybody always came and got some chicken out Charlie’s room. Lol. He use to call me Shannon with the Canon. I took a lot of candid photos of him. Once he told me how when he was young he was into robbing and told me exactly how he would have stolen my camera from me, it was well thought out. I was like damn. Lol. But on another note, he wasn’t a dude that was into posing a lot he would let me get what I needed but I always knew not to overdo it.

5. By being able to get an up-close look at this specific group of comedians playing at their highest level, how does it impact your approach in taking pictures?

I’ve been touring with artists for 26 years from rappers to singers to Mike Epps to now George, DL, Ced & Eddie. It’s an honor man. they are true veterans. Very professional cats. They do their jobs man.. no games, no acting crazy, it’s all love between the guys. It’s such an honor to witness a group of Men that truly love and respect each other. They buy each other gifts all the time. They go in each other’s dressing rooms give hugs and pounds. I love it!! My job is to document the brotherhood. I like to portray them as the new Rat Pack!! I like to show the love between the guys. I love capturing how sharp they dress too. They trust me being in the room. I’m like a fly on the wall. I stay in the cut but pop out when I see moments happening. It’s truly a fascinating job. I have lots of fun for sure!!

CHECK OUT MORE OF MCCOLLUM’S WORK ON INSTAGRAM: @SHANNONMCCOLLUM