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God Listens to Slayer, Ditto Press, Sanna Charles, Dazed
Photography by Sanna Charles, courtesy of Ditto Press

God Listens to Slayer

Capturing fandom at its heavy metal peak – from pre-show hangs to the brutal majesty of the Slayer gig

In 2003 Sanna Charles was commissioned by NME to take photos at Midlands' hard rock festival Download. One of the bands on her shooting schedule was Slayer. The band were three hours late on stage, but no one budged an inch in the sweaty, dusty tent in which they were due to play. For Charles, the gig was a life-changing moment. “I’d been to plenty of shows before where you’d run to get to the front or queue for hours to get into the venue and there's a feeling of being in a gang, but this was different,” explains the London-based photographer. “It was way more aggressive and I was attracted to that.” So began her obsession with shooting fans of the thrash legends.

Over the past 12 years Charles has travelled all over the UK and Europe – from Finland and Norway to Slovenia, Germany, France and Sweden – to capture the group’s devoted followers. “After the Download show I was so in awe of the band and photographing the fans really showed me the reach their music has to so many different people.” Edited down from hundreds of shots, God Listens To Slayer comprises 74 images, winding from pre-show hangs to the brutal majesty of the gig, and ending with the journey home. “I love photographing people,” explains Charles. “Photographing Slayer fans isn’t really so different from photographing my neighbour for example. They just have better taste in music.”

God Listens to Slayer is out now from Ditto Press