Yesterday I received some very sad news. Henry Engelbrecht, one of the best live music photographers in the SA Music Scene passed away. The cause of death has been noted as COVID-19. Yesterday, tributes were posted by tons of people who are part of the SA Music Scene. Engelbrecht was loved and respected by the scene.
I’m sad that Big H (what many of us who share the photography pits at events and festivals called Henry Engelbrecht) is not with us anymore. Besides being one of the best event photographers, he was also one of the most amazing humans that I have had the privilege to interact with and call my friend. He had a big heart and touched everyone’s being that he interacted with.
I can’t remember the details, but I think that the first time I met Henry Engelbrecht was at Vodacom In The City 2012 (the one that Bloc Party headlined) in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Since then I shared the photography pit with him on many occasions at various music festivals (like Oppikoppi, Synergy Live, Mieliepop, Park Acoustics, Parklife and STRAB), tons of gigs (at Arcade Empire, Tings an’ Times, Platteland, Aandklas, The Good Luck Bar, JARR Bar and other venues) and other events (like Capital Craft Beer Festival).
Henry Engelbrecht was an avid supporter and lover of South African Music and great passion for photography. This is something that was definitely evident in his photos.
He holds the unofficial record for taking photos of the most acts at one Oppikoppi festival. That year he told me that he had taken photos of 97 acts on the weekend. I only managed to do 45 that weekend (and I averaged 17 km on my feet per day to do that).
Over the years we became good friends, shared lots of beers, shots, stories and laughs. He was always humble and keen to lend me an ear and give me useful advice on many topics (which included photography and relationships).
There are so many memories and stories, but one that stands out was the Asking Alexandria show at Nasrec in Johannesburg in 2014. We took photos of the band and Facing The Gallows (who opened for them) and then hung out backstage. Three quarters into the main act’s set we got called back into the pit to take photos of tons of topless ladies. All of my photos were out of focus, but Henry managed to get some great shots.
Another fond memory is seeing the smile on his face while he was taking photos of Fokofpolisiekar during their final song at their 16th Birthday party show in Pretoria in 2019.
My friend Marley also recalls Misty Waters Festival in 2019 where Spoegwolf invited the tiny Bittereinder crowd onto the stage during their set. Henry sat down on stage and took photos of the band.
I also remember the smile on his face when he joined me in the pit at the Ben Harper show at Sun Arena (after he met him backstage) in 2019.
The SA Music Scene has lost a true legend. He will be missed and remembered by many of us.
The photo pit won’t be the same without you Big H.
Rest In Power Henry Engelbrecht.