Gimme Noise has selected 20 finalists in our Twin Cities music photographers 2014 showcase. Read all of the profiles here.
Tony Nelson's diverse photo output is regularly a part of City Pages and the Star Tribune. He shoots concerts constantly, but also has amassed lots of studio portraits that give a definitive look to artists. The final products have often turned into covers of magazines and albums.
Name: Tony Nelson
How and when did you get involved with taking music photography?
I was always a music junkie -- a huge fan and part-time musician as well. After graduating from the U of M art department, I wanted to combine my two loves and just started shooting at shows whenever I could and also pursued any portrait opportunities I could get.
What are some highlight moments of your professional photography experience?
Taking a fully costumed GWAR on location for a local magazine cover feature. One-on-one portrait sessions with Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Moby, and The Kills. Immersing myself in SXSW for 17 consecutive years while covering it for various publications. Traveling to Toronto for the Replacements first reunion show. Just getting to know and be part of the incredible local music scene here in the Twin Cities.
Where can people find your work (exhibits, album covers, publications, etc.)?
Mostly through publications like City Pages, Star Tribune and occasionally in national zines like Spin. Album covers by locals like Slim Dunlap, Ashleigh Still, Ben Kyle and promo photos of many others like Brian Setzer, Off With Their Heads, Tift Merritt, and lots of local musicians. I also was lucky enough to have a solo exhibit featuring my portraits of local singer-songwriters a few years ago.
What is your favorite part of doing music photography?
With the portrait work: Being able to collaborate with people who are creative themselves and come up with ways to represent with photos what they do they do musically. And, with the live shooting: Just to have the experience of hearing and seeing so much amazing music up close, and have the privilege of preserving that experience for the future.
What dos/don'ts do you have for young photographers who would like to pursue this type of work?
Find like-minded musicians that you can work with to build a portfolio, and experiment with any ideas you come up with, even stupid ones. Find ways to shoot differently from the people standing next to you who are shooting the same show. And, when it comes to those shows, GET CLOSE but respect the performers AND the audience. Remember, the show isn't about you. Also, in this age of web galleries, blogs, and social networks, remember that less can still be more and edit yourself. A good photo is not helped by being in the middle of a gallery of 50 similar, but not quite as good, pictures.
Kasey Jean Noll