Gimme Noise has selected 20 finalists in our Twin Cities music photographers 2014 showcase. Read all of the profiles here.
Stacy Schwartz not only loves documenting concerts herself, but she provides a calendar via Cakein15.com so that others can get more live music in their lives. Her photography has been featured on numerous occasions in City Pages and Vita.mn, and she's worked with a number of local artists, including Cloud Cult, Caroline Smith, and Peter Wolf Crier.
Name: Stacy Schwartz (aka Staciaann)
How and when did you get involved with music photography?
I started really taking music photos around 2006. I had a crappy point and shoot (like 3 megapixels) and was sort of stalking this local band the Hopefuls. I decided I really wanted something better to capture them, so I bought my first starter DSLR camera. National bands' (and First Avenue's) photo policies were much more lenient at that time, so I was able to get into a lot more shows and practice. I shot bands like the Shins and the Raconteurs without needing a photo pass, and really learned how to shoot in low and ever-changing light.
What are some highlights of your professional photography experience?
When I was first starting out I was lucky to have my first published photo in the New York Times (for Cloud Cult). I remember being so antsy waiting for the print edition to come out -- it's still framed in my office at home. Later, in 2008 I got to travel with CC to Coachella, which was an amazing experience and a lot of fun.
My first international album cover for Peter Wolf Crier was also really special. I love those boys and getting to work with them and watch the band go from an idea to a signed and touring reality was so exciting for me and made me so proud.
Otherwise I've loved shooting bands I never imagined I'd get to shoot when I was 13. No Doubt, Neil Diamond (no, really!), Motorhead, Gwar, and the Pixies come to mind right away. Locally I've been lucky enough to work with many amazing musicians I admire and love for who they are both in and outside the musical realm. The people here are really great.
Where can people find your work (exhibits, album covers, publications, etc.)?
I've shot a few album covers & some press/promo work for various local bands, as well as having shows or individuals photos up at places like Cause and the Minneapolis Photo Center. Not all of these were music related, however. I also shoot for City Pages, Vita.mn, the Walker Art Center and various other places on a contract basis. I run the blog CakeIn15.com and sometimes my photos are there. I don't have much that's too recent since I just had a baby boy in early January -- that sort of forces a break in the realm of music photography.
What is your favorite part of music photography?
That's tough. There's a lot to love! I love the thrill of getting the perfect shot when you've been sitting in a photo pit with your finger on the button just waiting for a moment. When it happens that's magic.
I also really enjoy the other photographers I've met and worked with in Minneapolis and all around the country. People are generally more than happy to help or answer questions when you're starting out, and that's made a huge difference for me.
What dos/don'ts do you have for young photographers who would like to pursue this type of work?
-Buy prime lenses. Learn how to shoot with primes before investing in zoom lenses. I'd recommend a 50mm f/1.4 lens. That's what I started with and learned on and almost every music photographer has one in their bag.
-Stay humble. No one owes you anything and we're all lucky to be there no matter how long we've been a photographer.
-Be kind. There's no advantage to being an asshole. Being open and kind will help open doors for you.
-Be tough. You can still be nice and tough at the same time. If you're female this is still mainly a male-dominated industry. When you travel outside Minneapolis, you'll likely be one of the only females in the pit and sometimes dudes are jerks. Look them in the eye, don't back down, and hold your ground. Keep shooting.
-Educate yourself. Who are the other photographers in your music scene? Introduce yourself. What sort of photos do you want to take? What's your style / what do you want your photographs to look like?
-Use a flash at a live show.* It's bad for the audience, the band, and the other photographers will want to kick you.
*Ignore this if you're shooting hardcore and/or the bands asked you to shoot this way. Then it's a free for all.
-Act like a dick. No one likes an asshole.
-Push, shove, stay in one spot for a whole song, or wear a backpack into the pit. If you want to bring a gear backpack into the pit that's ok, but stash it under the barricade or ask a friend to hang onto it for you -- or get a smaller sling bag that won't be so obnoxious. Photo pits can be tiny and you'll just get frustrated with a big bag.
You can see my work at my website or my Flickr. I'm also on Twitter (@staciaann) and Instagram (@staciaannmpls). My blog can be found CakeIn15.com and feel free to email me anytime: [email protected]
Kasey Jean Noll