Interview by Yising Kao, Photos by Maggie Friedman
View/Grab a copy of our Music Photography Issue!: https://www.galaxy-mag.com/product-page/music-photography-issue
Paul Klein of LANY
Congrats on getting to document The Maine on their album release day for You Are Ok for Rock Sound magazine! How did that come about and what was your experience like?
Thank you! That was a whirlwind of a day. Rock Sound has always been one of my favorite magazines, I have issues in my drawer dating back to at least 2011, before I even started music photography. It was a dream to be able to work with a team that was so inclusive, and made me feel like I was a part of something. I connected with their digital content editor via Girls Behind The Rock Show on Facebook—a fantastic networking group for women and non-binary folk in the music industry. We became fast friends, and she was a fan of my work. Back in January, she found out I was going to 8123 fest, The Maine's hometown festival, in Arizona, and wanted someone to cover it, and it was kismet; It felt meant to be. When I sent that gallery in, I knew it was some of my best work I’ve ever done. I had that gooey/proud feeling. One of the shots actually got published in the February issue and that was a huge milestone as well. They were very impressed with the shots, and there was a mutual love for The Maine, so when the album release show was announced for NYC, it was fate, and we worked together again! I love that team and I hope to continue for as long as I can. The show itself was amazing. It was one of those show where the energy bounced off the walls. Talking to the fans in line, some were there from as early as 5:30am that morning in anticipation. It was a beautiful moment for me, as they are one of the first bands I ever photographed, and the band I've shot the most as well. They are a once in a lifetime kind of band, and their fan base is special. I instantly knew I was a part of something greater than myself, and I was blessed to document that day.
What are some skills that you think a music photographer should have?
I think adaptability is a big one; being able to be prepared for any situation. In music photography, pretty much every factor is often out of our control, so working a lot to push yourself outside of your comfort zone is important to grow and be the best version of yourself both career wise and in life! Being humble, and a team player are of the same importance as talent in my opinion. If I’ve learned anything through doing this, it’s that if you’re good energy, and people like you, along with knowing you’ll get the job done, they’re way more likely to recommend you. Be a kind person, treat everyone with respect, regardless of skill level or years in the industry, or anything else. Lastly, I think passion for it is important. It’s a cutthroat industry, and when someone eats, sleeps, and breathes it, it shows, both in effort, and in their work. It's also important to treat photography as a community instead of competition. I love what I do, and I’m so happy to be surrounded by tons of other photographers who do too.
What’s one of the biggest challenges of working as a freelance photographer?
I think the biggest challenge is scheduling. It truly can be a dry month with barely any work, and then you can have a week with 7 shows in 7 days and shoots during the day. When it rains, it pours, which is awesome, but it can sometimes be hard to keep yourself on track. I try, key word try, to go to bed around the same time every night, stay up to date on my editing, deliver work in a timely manner, and eat healthy. It’s easy to push your mental and physical health aside for work, but your body is your tool as a photographer, so taking care of yourself is of the utmost importance. Make sure to give yourself breaks when your mind and body cries for them, you’ll thank yourself in the long run. It's also important to challenge yourself. The shows I'm usually most nervous for turn out to be my best work. Almost every time I put myself out of my comfort zone, I end up learning something valuable. Also, don’t be afraid to say no if you’re overextending yourself or a job just doesn’t feel right. You know better than anyone else what you can handle and what you are right for.
What do you hope to convey through your work?
This is such a great question. I think, above anything else, I want to convey emotion. In my own work, I can pick out the good from the great due to it making me feel something. I also love color, I want to make my photos bright, and colorful, without losing the feeling of the live show. Most of my favorite work is the high energy shots, the one of Paul from LANY in the crowd, Matt from Cage The Elephant at Bonnaroo with the Mic above his head, jump shots, etc. I also love to capture fan interaction. I want to combine art and energy, that's the ideal.
You do freelance work for Interscope Records, so what advice do you want to give to photographers who aspire to work with a record label?
Working for Interscope has been one of my favorite opportunities I've been lucky enough to have. I have been able to see so many new artists, and discover so much new music. I think my biggest advice with label work is to really focus on social media. Putting out consistent content you are proud of and engaging with other people's work really boosts your engagement rate and spreads who sees it. I started working with Interscope because they discovered my work on Instagram. I photographed Yungblud opening for K.Flay in NY for a publication, posted the content, and got a message asking to use them for social media. It fostered a relationship, and I've been working with them ever since. It really is putting yourself out there, caring about your work, and working hard. You'll get the attention of the people who you need it from. They will take notice. If you would've told me a couple years ago what I've been able to accomplish, I probably would be shocked, and would maybe laugh. Growth is cool. Also, if anyone ever has any questions about anything I do, or need advice, please reach out to me! You got this.
Hayley Williams of Paramore