Best Twin Cities music photographers 2014 finalist: Rebecca McDonald
All photos by BFresh Productions
Gimme Noise has selected 20 finalists in our Twin Cities music photographers 2014 showcase. Read all of the profiles here.
Rebecca McDonald's photo work is under the umbrella of BFresh Productions. She has shot extensively for MTV, City Pages, and other publications. Her portfolio includes both live and portrait work, as well as multimedia projects.
Name: Rebecca McDonald, bfreshproductions
How and when did you get involved with music photography?
In high school, I snapped photos of my friends and family simply for fun. I even had a video camera to document my senior year. It wasn't until April '06 on the St. Catherine University campus that I would plan my first official photo shoot. This women in hip hop inspired photo collection would become the entry to my first gallery show the same year -- the B-Girl Be visual exhibition at Intermedia Arts. Acceptance into that show gave me confidence to request press passes for shows, and actively pursue photography as a passion.
On 10/30/06, I checked in at First Avenue with my first photo pass from Rhymesayers Entertainment, and captured Psalm One. After that, I was at every show I could squeeze into my already-full collegiate/work schedule. I met Peter Scholtes at the Dinkytowner one night, and introduced myself to him after hearing he was working on a story about women in hip hop -- a community I had spent the last year aggressively documenting across the country. Scholtes' "Where the Ladies At?" City Pages feature hit newsstands in June '07 with my first published photos splashed across the pages.
My first national publication in Wax Poetics ran shortly after in August. It featured a portrait of the legendary DJ Soul Sister I captured while residing in NOLA for winter break. We had connected shortly after Hurricane Katrina as part of my research for my Communications/Women's Studies/Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity senior thesis about international women in hip hop. I began shooting for City Pages on a regular basis starting at the KRS One at Trocaderos show on 04/13/08. I have hustled creatively since then, transforming work as a photographer-turned-producer into my full-time career since 2008, and even picked up a dream gig at MTV along the way.
What are some highlight moments of your professional photography experience?
Ever since my youth, music has been my life. When asked what my dream job was, I recall saying "working for MTV" as I listened to Madonna's The Immaculate Collection album on my Walkman. In 2008, I traveled solo to New York, and found myself inside Madison Square Garden rubbing shoulders with the top AP and Getty photogs with a photo pass directly from Madonna's publicist. That was the most incredible moment ever until 2012, when I joined the MTV team as an Associate Producer for the new music documentary series Rebel Music. The series captures the revolutionary energy of young protest musicians around the globe. I led the research and development of the series, and traveled to Moscow to interview members of Pussy Riot and shoot other revolutionary protest musicians.
But as I sit here and unearth tear sheets, magazines and clippings from inside my purple storage bin, I can't help but recognize that the single most meaningful part of my professional photography experience would be the thousands of unexpected adventures assembled to create a visual diary of the last ten years of my life. Some of these moments would turn out to be the most exhilarating moments of my life. Others, well, not so much. But that's a story for another day.
Where can people find your work (exhibits, album covers, publications, etc.)?
Visit my website bfreshproductions.com to view my portfolio, or connect and say hello on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
I am very excited to announce that my first solo gallery show will take place this March 1 at Public Functionary. For one night only, experience a panoramic multimedia expedition of my best work from the last ten years, and celebrate with me as I relaunch my new production company, bfreshproductions, and turn 30! (RSVP here.) The event will be catered by Cheo Smith Catering, with media screenings, pop-up musical and movement performances, and interactive gallery tours. I have curated my ultimate line-up: Pop-up musical performances by I Self Devine, Desdamona, Tall Paul, Mayda, Sarah White, and Marisa Carr, with movement interludes by Autumn Compton, Alissa Paris, B-Girl Monalisa and Red Bone, and Mistress Jean Bardot. Featured DJs include Versed Radio, Shannon Blowtorch and BunnyMob, and the event will be hosted by Soul Tools Radio. And of course, I have worked with each and every one of the artists listed above, and will be featuring media we have produced together at the event. You won't want to miss it.
What is your favorite part of doing music photography?
I started with concert photography, and I live for that rush of creating meaningful work under deadline. Oh, and add in the challenge of shooting with the constantly moving light and subjects. Every show, I am inspired to never shoot a show in the same way, and to always put out refreshing imagery. Remember too, that music photography isn't just about what happens on stage.
Nothing moves me more than my curiosity about what's happening in the crowd, who is wearing what, conversations backstage, and building relationships with unique characters. As a photographer, I honor the slice of history that my archive drives hold, and that we can shape narratives and provide context through intimate moments. The bottom line is that I have fun with what I do, feel responsible to tell the stories no one else is going to tell, and and enjoy being creative. I am proud to have brought you the all-access pass in the pool with PROF, the best rapper faces, the Doomtree Blowout VII coloring contest, Maria Isa & Muja thrift store digging, grocery shopping with Mayda, Too Short talking gardening and women's history and hanging out with the Roots in a school classroom in Brooklyn.
What dos/don'ts do you have for young photographers who would like to pursue this type of work?
DO: Think big, find your unique style and voice, hustle smart, network, go the extra mile and be fearless.
Kasey Jean Noll
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