The People Behind the Pictures

 In Galleries, Interviews
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Photo by Sage Thomas

If you’ve never attended a festival before, I’m sure you’ve seen their pictures.  Professional festival photographs are ALWAYS breathtaking.  Whether they capture the fashion of the festival goers or the energy of the artist, we as music lovers live through those pictures.  We cherish the memories if we attended and we daydream about attending if we didn’t.  The photos inspire us to make the changes necessary so that one day we can find ourselves in the magic of festivals- Shambhala, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, Coachella, Firefly, and many more.

I had the opportunity to talk with some top photographers in the festival circuit and ask them about how they got to where they are today, the challenges they face while shooting festivals, and what some highlights are.  The best part- after each interview is a link to some of the photographer’s most recent work.  Read the interviews below and click on their link to immerse yourself in their work.

ND: Nicole Davis

Festival Squad: First off, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions about your photography.  Can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are and what sparked your interest in concert photography?

Nicole: Well my names Nicole, however most people that know me – happen to know me more by my Instagram handle ND. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada and started photography when I was living out in Arizona around 2 years ago. I moved out to Arizona for work and didn’t know a single person. I started photography as an outlet and a channel to pass the time, shortly after I started shooting with a local vocalist who was still pretty new to the music industry. In a short period of time and practice, my love for music and that friendship grew my skills and talents immensely, I was inspired. As a person who didn’t really like the spotlight, I saw the music scene as an opportunity to use my talents to help a friend and that pushed my motivation beyond what I could of ever done for myself. Eventually through trial and error, a lot of love/hate for the industry and a few solid people who believed in me- it became something I just grew to love and there was no going back from there.

Festival Squad:  You’ve been hired by quite a few festivals to shoot exclusively for them, as well as  hired by top artists to travel with them and take pictures.   Can you compare these two experiences and talk about which you prefer?

Nicole: These experiences in my opinion are very very different. When working with a festival, the pressure is a little less. You are working with a team of usually very experienced videographers and photographers – so if you miss a shot, someone will make up for it. When you are working with an artist, there is a different level of accountability – you just have to be on the ball the entire time. Having said that, I would still choose working with an artist directly each time. I’m very much a story based photographer, taking photos just to have a picture of someone or something cool doesn’t really do much for me. Getting to work with the artist, getting to know them and getting to know their vision really helps you capture them in a different way than you would just wearing a media band and trying to get the best shot of them behind a DJ booth for social media. I also think that the level of accountability and pressure allows you to still remain humble and try your best every single time without being overly confident, it gives you no safety blanket and you have no option but to learn and get better every time.

Throwing it back to hard fest w/ bby girl @ggmagree

A post shared by 黙殺 (@nd__) on

Festival Squad:  The professional festival photography scene is a very small niche that is over saturated with highly talented individuals.  How do you set yourself and your pictures apart, while still enjoying what you do?

Nicole: It’s just like you said, it is very small and very over saturated. I’d like to think the thing that sets me apart from most people in the industry is that I’m not looking for anyone to hand me the work. I don’t really party nor do I really socialize a lot with a ton of other photographers and videographers in the industry, I like to stay respectful and keep my head down. My photos are a product of that, the constant discomfort and want to be and do better each time. Being humble and taking the time to know the artist to capture those candid moments are key, every person has an inspiring story to share if you let them. The attachment to my photos is what makes them mine, they are so much more than a photo to me. I could give anyone my Lightroom presets and my camera comfortably and know that even if they have the tools to replicate my work, I’m still me and thats what I pride myself in. I think the music industry is like another other creative industry out there. When an artist gets their photos back and they are wow’d,  it’s one of the best feelings and makes all the pressure worth it. This also helps the relationships and work continue to flow, between that and positive reassurance it keeps me doing what i enjoy doing.

Festival Squad:  Okay we need to address the gender disparity in the professional photography world.  What is it like being a female professional photographer in the festival scene?  What are some challenges that you’ve had to face?

Nicole:  The gender disparity is very much a factor and its not easy being a female in a male dominant industry. In Toronto, it’s like New York.. there isn’t much of gender role dominance in majority of positions, so it was never really something I noticed in my mind until entering the industry. Doing most of my festivals in the states, I’ve experienced things first hand that were appalling. I’ve been on some headlining artists media teams with all access credentials and been kicked off the stage by stage managers for being a female. Touring with artists as well, especially males .. despite talent, you are always treated second to a male. As much as people don’t want to think its a thing, it really is. I’ve been fortunate to find some artists that have been in the industry for a while and would take talent over gender every single time. On the other hand, working with other females in the industry makes it just as hard.  There is so few women in the industry as is, so I think it’s really important that we brig each other up and not bring each other down – but of course that’s not always the case. Which makes it very challenging. I think that women don’t give themselves enough credit. We need to really focus less on whats the easiest route and more on how to work harder and smarter to earn those opportunities and level out the playing field.

Too many people done doubted me that why I had to just prove it *cardi b voice*

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Festival Squad:  What would you say to a young, aspiring female photographer out there?  What roads helped you get to where you are today?

Nicole: Keep pushing and don’t give up. Don’t let anyone else’s opinions or how they got there, pave the road for you. A lot of people see this life on social media, and its glorified. They see me travelling with friends, working with cool artist and being on stage. What they don’t see is the behind the scenes of the anxiety, the triggers and just how hard it is for me to even be there. Just remember to focus on the big picture, don’t fall into the he said she said.  My advice? Ask questions, be raw, be vulnerable and be real – everything else will fall into place. Don’t be afraid to not know something. Don’t be afraid to show who you are as an artist, thats where you Grow. Eventually when you get to a point where you know your value: treat people that were in your shoes with the same kindness and empathy because you don’t know how they can inspire you or how they can help you grow.  Even now, my biggest want Is to be able to repay the people that helped me get to this point and owe them that same drive and push in helping them with their passions and seeing that through to the very end. Work hard, be appreciative and compete with no one but yourself. Fall in love with the journey, good and bad .. trust me, its worth it.

Festival Squad: Thank you again for allowing me to talk with you about your contributions to the festival scene.  Most  of the time,  photographers are hidden behind their camera lenses and I know our readers will be eager to learn more about the people who capture the beauty.  Where can our readers follow your work?

Nicole: I do have my website, but I am much more interactive on Instagram. Any questions about music, photography or just anything in general.. never hesitate to send me a message.

SageTee Photography: Sage Thomas

Festival Squad: First off, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions about your photography.  Can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are and what sparked your interest in festival photography?

Sage: Who am I? I am the one and only SageTee photography, guardian of the galaxies, multidimensional light being, and seeker of truth and wisdom. I’ve always been interested in documenting things as early as middle school. I used to film my buddies skateboarding and later got a camera to document the streets of Downtown Phoenix. Visual arts have always interested me and after I went to my first festival, I knew I wanted to always have my camera in hand.

Festival Squad:  What makes festival photography difficult?  It seems to be high stakes in that moments only happen once and there is no “setup, pose, reset” option.  How can you capture moments that are truly unique in a thoughtful way?

Sage: One of the most difficult aspects of festival photography for me at least is prioritizing what I want to capture but in the end, it’s always the perfect blend of production, art installations, and hue-mans. The best way to capture those intimate moments is being at the right place at the right time. Just go to the right DJ’s and you’ll have the pictures you want! The crowd is going to be a lot different at a Sphongle set than it would be at an Excision set, for example.

 

Festival Squad:  You’ve been hired by quite a few festivals to shoot exclusively for them.  What has been one of your top festival photography experiences and why?

Sage:  One of my top festival experiences would have to be the Global Eclipse Gathering because of the personal and collective transformation that took place and of course the beautiful TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE. Witnessing this celestial event has sparked a fire inside of me to travel to the next one in South America 2020.

Festival Squad: Think about photography from a large scale prospective—pictures are used to inspire, market, and create visual art.  How do you view your role in the large-scale aspect of the festival scene?

Sage:  I want to expose the beautiful moments that happen in a somewhat hidden subculture. My goal is to inspire and show the world what goes on here!

Festival Squad: Thank you again for allowing me to talk with you about your contributions to the festival scene.  Most of the time photographers are hidden behind their camera lenses and I know our readers will be eager to learn more about the people who capture the beauty.  Where can our readers follow your work?

Sage: They can follow me on Instagram @sageteephoto! Thanks for having me, Helen. You’re a spiritual Gangsta!

Montana Martz

Festival Squad: First off, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions about your photography.  Can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are and what sparked your interest in concert photography?

Montana: Hey! As to who I am, I am a consciousness currently entrapped in a vessel known as the human body, that body being one of a 20-year-old female human. I can do things such as place symbols in a specific order to create words and sentences which are understood by other human body entrapped consciousnesses, and therefore will do just that to tell you about what sparked my interest in concert photography: During my last year of high school I was at a Zeds Dead show, and it was then that I really took notice of details such as the crowd’s energy, the lighting, and visuals, the way the duo’s silhouettes looked in front of the bright back panels of the stage, etc. and thought to myself, “Damn, this would so cool to take photos of.” Half a year later and I shot at my first music festival, and a year after that I was on tour with Zeds Dead.

Festival Squad:  You’ve been hired by quite a few festivals to shoot exclusively for them, as well as, hired by top artists to travel with them and take pictures. Can you compare these two experiences and talk about which you prefer?

Montana: Shooting for festivals is great as I get to work with a whole team of talented people, and it’s interesting to shoot many different artists in one day/weekend. Shooting and traveling with an artist usually involves just myself on the shooting side of things, and the content captured is a mix of moments from the performances and behind the scenes. Both experiences require me to capture the overall vibe, but I prefer touring, as I often get more creative control over the final product (when it comes to video/recaps), as well as I draw a lot of inspiration from the time I spend getting to know the artist I’m working with.

Festival Squad:  The professional festival photography scene is a very small niche that is over saturated with highly talented individuals.  How do you set yourself and your pictures apart, while still enjoying what you do?

Montana: I guess I set myself apart by simply doing whatever I feel like doing with my work. I get inspired by everything around me and am constantly changing and evolving the way I do things. To capture the perfect moment when everything around me is moving so fast has always been riveting to me.

Festival Squad:  Okay we need to address the gender disparity in the professional photography world.  What is it like being a female professional photographer in the festival scene?  What are some challenges that you’ve had to face?

Montana: To me, being a female in the industry is no different than being a male. If you work your ass off and stay true to yourself, you’ll get to where you want to be. Everyone faces their own individual challenges; it’s important not to dwell on the setbacks, and instead push forward and focus on how to achieve what you want to achieve.

Festival Squad:  What would you say to a young, aspiring female photographer out there?  What roads helped you get to where you are today?

Montana: I would say the same to any young, old, female, male, transgender, etc. photographer (or any artist): never stop creating, even if you think nobody will see it.

To develop your own style often takes some time and determination, so the best advice I can give is to remember that things will get tough, but if you want this life then it is all more than worth it.

Festival Squad: Thank you again for allowing me to talk with you about your contributions to the festival scene.  Most time photographers are hidden behind their camera lenses and I know our readers will be eager to learn more about the people who capture the beauty.  Where can our readers follow your work?

Info: Montana Martz

Website: https://www.montanamartz.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/montanamartz/?hl=en

ĀŁREÂDY DØNĒ // @zedsdeadofficial #northernlights #northernlightstour

A post shared by m o n t a n a (@montanamartz) on

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq_iXnO7AygopwmdjocU6qg

JV Photography: John Verwey

Festival Squad: Can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are and what sparked your interest in concert photography?

John: Thanks for having me! First off I’m just a normal guy who works a 40-hour week Job on top of shooting constantly. I live in Denver, so the music scene is astonishing. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now. Started with journalism and covered an array of festivals and events and slowly started seeing myself wanting to get behind the lens be the guy who is taking those onstage photos. I believe it was Bonarroo 2015 that I got my first chance to work a festival behind the lens and ever since it’s been shutter clicks and smiles!

 

Festival Squad: What makes festival photography difficult?  It seems to be high stakes since moments only happen once and there is no “setup, pose, reset” option.  How can you capture moments that are truly unique in a thoughtful way?

John: I go into every festival with the same mindset, I look at all my surroundings, stage design, galleries, etc and try and have a game plan for certain artists to capture the entire essence of the festival or event. What makes it so difficult is capturing the correct moment you’re trying to portray. And not just taking a generic photo and slapping your logo on it.

Festival Squad:  You’ve been hired by quite a few festivals to shoot exclusively for them- Lighting in a Bottle, The Untz, Gem & Jam, etc.  What has been one of your top festival photography experiences and why?

John: That’s a hard one as I’ve shot some really amazing festivals. If I had to pick it would be Lightning in a Bottle and Oregon Eclipse. Two outstanding communities combining together to bring a universal music experience to everyone. I think being around that burning man/symbiosis community really opened my eyes to new sights this year.

Festival Squad:  Okay, we need to talk about you being the “family photo” guy for Space Jesus!  How did that happen?  We LOVE Space Jesus and when we saw you on stage at Sonic Bloom taking the crowd photo with Jasha we were in awe!

John: (laughing) Jasha is the homie and so is his manager Eric. I met them back in Denver 2016 at the Bluebird theater and we kicked it off and slowly started doing more work. With the family photos, he’s just always in the mood to get a massive shot at the end so it works out nicely for both of us!

Festival Squad:  The professional festival photography scene is a very small niche that is over saturated with highly talented individuals.  How do you set yourself and your pictures apart, while still enjoying what you do?

John: I feel like the way I edit my photos and the specific motions or movements I capture incorporate together well. I seem to have a different style of editing compared to some which somewhat stands me apart from others.

Festival Squad: Thank you again for allowing me to talk with you about your contributions to the festival scene.  Most time photographers are hidden behind their camera lenses and I know our readers will be eager to learn more about the people who capture the beauty.  Where can our readers follow your work?

John: Thanks for having me, Helen.  I love what you guys are doing here! You can see all my work at Jvphotog.com www.facebook.com/jvphotography11 or jv_photog on insta.

 

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