Music Photographer Interview: Carla Jay

Interview by Yising Kao, Photos by Carla Jay

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Shawn Mendes

What inspired you to start doing photography?

This actually happened by accident – a “happy accident” is what I like to call it. When Justin Bieber released his album Purpose, he held a massive event at Staples Center, and the radio station I work for was invited to host a segment. The social media manager at the time had another work engagement and asked if I would like to take her place. I was given a DSLR camera, the passwords to the station’s social accounts, and an All-Access pass. That intense hustle & bustle of the pit greatly inspired me. I didn’t know too much about live concert photography at the time, but I wanted to learn more afterward. Something was ignited that night and I’m thankful that it did.

What to you hope to convey through your work?

I hope to convey the unapologetic truth of the artist I am shooting. I want to capture the rawest moment of their life, as they experience something so amazing. I want to convey a spectrum of emotions – happiness, excitement, and grief.

What are some of your goals?

I would love the opportunity to tour one day; to capture moments and create content that encompasses the passion showcased on stage. To have one of my photos plastered across a huge billboard overlooking a major Los Angeles freeway is a goal I’d like to manifest one day. But I think the most important goal I have, is to inspire at least one, young, Filipino girl out there who aspires to be part of the entertainment industry. I grew up in a traditional Filipino home where I was pressured to pursue goals that did not align with my heart, on top of the challenges of trying to thrive in a male-dominated industry. If my work and my spirit can motivate others, that’s the best ambition I can strive for.

What’s your favorite concert you’ve shot and why?

Niall Horan at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, on August 8th, 2018. A year prior to the date, something massive happened. Without getting into the details, that singular event sparked the slow, painful, downward spiral into the worst bout of depression I had ever experienced. During that time, I listened to Niall’s album on repeat, imagining myself in a pit, shooting Niall as he shared his passion to an enthusiastic crowd. Then it happened – one year later, on a beautiful evening at the Greek Theater, I found myself with a camera in hand. I had tears in my eyes as I photographed Niall, no longer consumed by darkness, and instead overflowing with joy, love, gratitude, and light.