"When I started going to shows at 14 and 15 years old, I discovered that bringing a camera and shooting [photos] allowed me to get in for free," laughs local rock photographer Lance Mercer, explaining why he was drawn to live-show photography. "It got me closer to the band. I was so excited about the music, I had to share it with everybody."

He's been hooked ever since, and now, more than two decades later, Mercer's work has been published in Rolling Stone, Spin, Time, and Vanity Fair. He's also currently working on his second book. All that experience (and talent--Mercer is damn good) grabbed the attention of Capitol Hill's Photographic Center Northwest, and they asked him to teach a class at the nonprofit school.

"Typically the classes there have had a more journalistic nature," says Mercer, "but with my background in shooting live music, my idea was to offer a class on that. I've always been fond of the Vera Project, and I somehow wanted to support them, too. My idea was we would go on these class fieldtrips and shoot at Vera, hoping it would help them out because it would bring in people from the photo community and expose them to what Vera was doing."

Mercer's first 10-week rock photography class attended three shows at the all-ages venue (including a sweaty and sold-out Schoolyard Heroes performance and a more mellow Dead Science show), and the students pointed their cameras at everything from the bands performing to the kids hanging out in the bathrooms.

"I assume everyone is aware of Vera, but they're not. My class age-group was 15-50. I have some people that didn't know anything about the space and they were stoked, they loved it!"

Now all their hard work has culminated in an art show, which will hang in Vera's gallery for the next month. The opening reception will take place Thursday, April 7, from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

"This is the beginning stages of everything; everyone's just waiting to see how this process turns out," says Mercer, who has taken time off from his bass and vocal duties in the Briefs in order to teach the class. "The goal is to offer a class at Vera, but since the Photo Center is nonprofit as well, surviving on tuition from students and donations, it can be spendy. But Vera's been really supportive. If it goes really well, I think we'll start talking about getting more kids involved. My ultimate goal is to inspire kids to take up [photography] and show it's not as complicated as it may seem. And I'm willing to do anything I can to help facilitate that goal."

If you'd like more information on the Photographic Center Northwest or Mercer's class, visit www.pcnw.org. MEGAN SELING

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