When you flip through the pages of your favorite music magazine, you expect to see professional shots of your favorite bands. In the 80’s, magazines such as Kerrang and Rolling Stone used to have entire pages dedicated to live shots and promo pictures of the biggest bands. These shots were taken by music photographers. While some may argue that the career of music photographer is not as alive as it used to be, due to the more ‘indie’ approach of many bands (we need to remember here that music photographers were usually associated with major labels), there are still many individuals out there who offer their services to bands and artists; photographers can capture your raw energy at a concert or get you professional shots for your press kit. Whether you are interested in music photography or in need of shots for your upcoming album and promo kit, read below to learn more about the history of music photography.
Music photography came to life with Rock & Roll. You (or your parents…) may remember going nuts just to grab a poster of The Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Back in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, the interest for memorabilia was increasing with every new band that graced the airwaves. Posters, pictures, magazines – images were just as important as buying the records. Back in those days, some of the more respected music photographers included Gered Mankowitz (Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix…), Robert Altman (Rolling Stone Magazine) and Ethan Russell (Jim Morrison, John Lennon…) amongst others. Pictures back then were mostly in black and white, but nevertheless, these photographers have paved the way for what would become a very popular and lucrative career in the next few decades.
Later on, with the arrival of hair bands, glam rock and the bands of the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, music photography took a whole new level. There were so many bands, so many singers…music & band photographers were just as numerous. Everybody needed a promo pic and everybody was trying to get signed. Amongst the most well-known photographers of the 1980’s, you might recognize names such as Mick Rock, who worked extensively for Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, Thin Lizzie and David Bowie, and Karl Larsen, who worked as a resident photographer at the House of Blues and shot some of the biggest acts of the decade.
Nowadays, music photography is slightly different. Instead of working for a venue or a magazine, many photographers will go the freelance route; this allows them to work for indie bands and widen their horizons rather than specializing in a genre or style appropriate for the venue or magazine they are representing. If you are interested in music photography, there are still a lot of opportunities out there; there is something quite rewarding in combining photography with music – in a way, music photography is defined by two forms of art coming together to bring a whole new dimension to what would otherwise be a simple image.