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Interview: Behind the Scenes of Toronto’s Sound Image Exhibition

By: Katie Manakis –

Lana Gay of Indie 88 at the 2018 Sound Image opening party in Toronto on May 3rd, 2018. (Courtesy of Analogue Gallery)

Lana Gay of Indie 88 (L) at the 2018 Sound Image opening party in Toronto on May 3, 2018. (Courtesy of Analogue Gallery)

May 3rd marked the opening of Toronto’s seventh annual Sound Image Exhibition, a celebration of concert photography in Toronto. The event, held at Shed Creative Agency’s downtown HQ, and as part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, is hosted each year to acknowledge the artistic talent of music photographers in the 6ix, providing a platform to showcase their work and potentially earning them a spot among some of the industry’s most revered shooters in Analogue Gallery.

Prior to the event, Aesthetic Magazine had the pleasure of interviewing the panel of judges, including: July Talk’s Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis, fashion/music photographer Norman Wong, and Analogue Gallery owner, Lucia Graca Remedios, about the relationship between artist and photographer, photographer struggles, and more!

What value do you think photography has in the realm of music?

Lucia:I think it comes with the feeling of live music, the energy and excitement you get from being in a crowd, the sweat smells! I think musical photography is sort of a way to transport you back into that live music moment.

What do you think makes a great live music photo? 

Lucia: I think when you get the perfect shot you just know. If you know the band and you’re waiting for that specific moment, for example, that flaming ball of fire or those light effects. Also, when you’re able to capture that different angle or approach within the live concert environment.

Leah: I think that a sense of timing. You can tell when someone has been patient and waited for the perfect moment.

Norman: Getting the right moment that represents the artist, time, and place.

How would you describe the relationship between a concert photographer and an artist?

Lucia: I think that the more time you spend with an artist or band you develop a level of intimacy, trust and comfort that comes with time.

Leah:We have friends that are photographers that we bring on tour with us, they do socials and stuff. We’ve developed a relationship with them and we have a respect for what they do. There is a real sense of trust there. I think trust is key. Also, the best are the one’s that kind of move with the crowd and with the set, with the natural push and pull of the crowd. I was once at a Nick Cave show and there was a photographer that was really getting in his face and he had one of those really long camera lenses and at one point Nick just sort of stuck his hand in front of the camera and shoved him back. It was too much; you don’t want to invade someone’s space either.

How do you think the photography game has changed in the last five to ten years? 

Lucia: Well anyone can be a photographer. It’s way more accessible now and it’s a good thing. But that can also be the downside, as everyone has a phone. Today at live music shows, everyone has their phone out. In some ways it’s ok, people enjoy the show in different ways.

What do you think music photographers struggle with the most?

Lucia: Stolen images online. In some ways, social media has made it easier to get your content out there but then there is the ownership and copyright issue. I guess that’s not a struggle unique to music photography but all photographers in general. On the one hand, you want to get your work out there but on the other hand your work could get appropriated and you’d just never know. It’s also just hard to get paid as a concert photographer.

What do you feel makes the music photography community special or different from other types of photography communities?

Lucia: It all comes down to the love of music. Other photography industries are more motivated by the paycheck but if you’re taking live music photos you’re doing it because you love the music.

Peter Dreimanis of July Talk at the 2018 Sound Image exhibition in Toronto on May 3, 2018. (Courtesy of Analogue Gallery)

Peter Dreimanis of July Talk at the 2018 Sound Image exhibition in Toronto on May 3, 2018. (Courtesy of Analogue Gallery)

What are your thoughts on the first 3 songs rule? Should it be changed?

Lucia: Every artist has their own rules. If you can’t get a good shot in the first three songs then what are you really doing? I mean, in some instances I get why you would want to shoot for longer. I was shooting Madonna one time and she said we could do the whole show, at another event I shot Avril Lavigne and she said we could only shoot for the first 38 seconds. Haha, everyone is different. I mean, sometimes it takes time for the band to loosen up and connect with the audience, which is why you would want to shoot for longer. Like it sucks if the artist is behind a screen or something. I was at The Weeknd’s concert and it was really hard to shoot him because he was behind this screen for like the first two or three songs. But I personally think the three song rule is great. As a music lover, it’s a good thing.

Leah: I mean the rule is fine but I can understand sometimes how it could suck because when you get out there to perform sometimes it takes you the first couple of songs to really warm up and come out of your shell a bit. I love when they shoot parts of the whole show too.

Do you change or alter your performance if you have 40+ photographers in the pit versus none?

Leah: Not really, I think it’s more about the venue and where we are performing. We are obsessed with the very aesthetic elements of our sets. For example, when you’re planning a set and your show is going to be in a very dark intimate space with red velvet walls you’re going to be planning differently than if you were in an open arena. You have to consider what set designs work better than others. 

How do you plan your shoot when you’re working with various artists day-to-day who come from different backgrounds and represent different genres of music?

Norman: Yeah genre jumping is a thing. You just sort of have to find the purpose, the reason behind the shoot and deliver accordingly.

What are your thoughts on the photo editing vs. raw photo movement?

Lucia: I think photo editing to the point of what you can do in a dark room is okay. But anything else, like Photoshop, you just lose the authenticity of the photo. I’m not interested in the magic tricks you can do with your computer.

What words of advice would you give to someone aspiring to do music photography and work in this industry? 

Lucia: Start small. Small venues, like Lee’s palace- actually Lee’s isn’t really that small- like Horseshoe for example. Get out and get to know the acts, build relationships. It’s tough now because there are more restrictions around phones and photography at live shows. I think the best way to get through is by getting to know the bands.

Norman: Be friendly, be reliable and be comfortable. Just be yourself and be confident in your work and people will like you.

Sound Image 2018 runs until May 27th


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