• Hero

    Pooneh Ghana: Alexa Chung

Behind The Scenes

Backstage at every amazing festival ever with photographer Pooneh Ghana

Posted by Liv Siddall,

I’ve rarely spent as much time on an artist’s site as I did on Pooneh’s when first stumbling across it. Scrolling through her reams and reams of photographs is akin to waking up at a festival and trying to piece together flashbacks of the night before like some sort of stained, star-studded puzzle.

This is what music photojournalism should be about: trekking all over the world with a backpack full of camera film and running around dusty backstage areas with an AAA, befriending some of the world’s most coveted people in order to get a candid shot. What’s so great about Pooneh is that she isn’t just breezing around with an SLR, snapping backstage without a second thought – photography is her life, and I doubt she could do anything else with as much raw, unadulterated passion.

P.S She just posted on Instgram that she has 14 undeveloped rolls on her person at this moment, so look out for some serious updates soon. Here she is…

To start off, what camera do you like to use?

I love shooting on my medium format cameras, specifically my RB67 and Pentax 67. The Pentax is probably my all time favorite camera.I love my Canon 5DMKIII as well but the quality of the Pentax is on another level, just incomparable. Sometimes publications aren’t so strict on deadlines and will give me a few extra days to turn photos in, and that’s when I like to whip the Pentax out.

You’ve got a brilliant selection of Polaroids on your site ­ what is it that you love about that kind of film?

I feel polaroids capture a rawness and bring out a candid side of the subject that you can’t really get when you stick a giant DLSR in their face. I love the intimacy of it.

Do you look for anything in particular in a subject?

Just real emotion. I wait for the moment. I’ve overheard live music photographers say things like how they’ve just shot 30GB worth of photos during a three songs in the photo pit. In my head that just means you’re standing there with your finger pressed on the shutter without even thinking about what you’re shooting, which lacks any sort of passion. Sometimes I might get 50 or 100 photos during a three song set, but I’m standing there looking and waiting for the shot.

  • 13

    Pooneh Ghana: Jarvis Cocker

The guys you photograph are always so at ease. ­Are you friends with most of them before you start shooting?

I’ve shot a lot of bands repeatedly throughout the years, so some of them I have grown to be friends with. Other bands I meet I chat with a bit beforehand to make sure they’re comfortable. I also give minimum artistic direction. I want the photos to be as natural and true to the subject as possible, so I’m sure that helps as well.

Are there any other editorial photographers who have particularly influenced your work?

I love Neil Krug and Steve Glashier’s work. They create some of the most original-looking photography I’ve seen as of late. Also, my buddy Chad Wadsworth is brilliant, and Andy Whitton over in the UK. There are too many influences but these photographers have always stood out to me.

  • 20

    Pooneh Ghana: Debbie Harry

What do people often get wrong when photographing a band or musician?

That it’s all glamorous. That you just shoot the band then that’s it, the rest of the time is partying and debauchery. I’m not saying that doesn’t occasionally happen, but people don’t consider the preparations for the shoot, the running around all day and staying up until 7am editing (like during festivals). In some cases it could be a week of just post-processing. It’s can be a very physically and mentally exhausting job.

Do you ever get starstruck in front of bands that you love?

Sure I do, but I’ve learned to be professional about it. Think the last time I got starstruck was when I was doing portraits of Damon Albarn. The second he left my sight I started shaking and laughing, I was so ecstatic to meet one of my all time heroes. But during the shoot I was calm (or at least I think I was!)

A lot of your photographs are taken on festivals, or on tours. Do you lead quite an out­of­a­bag lifestyle?

In the past year, I definitely have been. But I’ve chosen to take on that lifestyle for myself and am having a blast so far. The only weird aspect of it is when you do get back home for a few weeks and don’t know what to do with yourself. You’re just anxiously waiting or preparing for the next thing.

  • 14

    Pooneh Ghana: King Khan and the BBQ Show

Can you give some advice to any budding journalistic photographers out there?

Always carry a camera with you. Take photos constantly, not just in a studio or at a gig. It’s huge in building your photographic eye and creativity. Also, I know it’s obvious, but separate your work from other photographers. Do something unique. Especially in this day and age where everyone’s a photographer.

I know it’s kind of an annoying question, but what do you think is your best or favourite photo?

Oh no, that’s a tough one! My Arctic Monkeys portrait from ACL is a huge one for me. Arctic Monkeys at Stubb’s (in Austin) was one of the first shows I took a camera to when I was like 16. I camped out all day to be front row centre and was just a huge huge fan. Fast forward to seven years later where I’m backstage taking portraits of them at their dressing room. I definitely had to step back and let that moment sink in.

  • 11

    Pooneh Ghana: Foxygen

  • 5

    Pooneh Ghana: Arctic Monkeys

  • 18

    Pooneh Ghana: Ryan Gosling

  • 1

    Pooneh Ghana: White Fence and Ty Segall

  • 15

    Pooneh Ghana: Paul Simonon

  • 12

    Pooneh Ghana: Haim

  • 1

    Pooneh Ghana: Dev Hynes

  • 3

    Pooneh Ghana: Karen O

  • 2

    Pooneh Ghana: Wayne Coyne

  • Ac

    Pooneh Ghana: Alexa Chung

Ls-300

Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She is also a regular guest and sometime host on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Behind The Scenes View Archive

  1. List

    In December last year we received a zine in the post from Yorkshire-based photographer Christopher Nunn that documented a small selection of images he’d gathered in Ukraine. Kalush offered a unique perspective on a region that was thrust suddenly and violently into the public consciousness, showing us the quiet, everyday side of a place that – from television coverage at least – you’d have been forgiven for assuming was razed to the ground.

  2. Main

    Victoria Siddall has worked at Frieze for just over a decade and two years ago was made Director of Frieze Masters. Excitingly, just a few weeks ago she was appointed Director of Frieze Masters, Frieze New York and Frieze London. As well as being one of the most powerful women in the art world, Victoria is also my sister, so I was curious to find out how she’s feeling on the dawn of her new career.

  3. List

    Forget what you think you know about surfing; the “gnarly dudes” on the hunt for “tubular waves” (I’m basing most of this language on Sean Penn’s character in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, but you catch my drift). Finisterre’s latest surf film is more in line with Jonathan Glazer’s legendary Guinness ad than any piece of footage you’re likely to see for O’Neill or Billabong. For one thing it’s not set in an exotic location – there are no bikini-clad babes – as they’ve traded warmer waters for the icy depths off the coasts of northern Scotland and Ireland.

  4. .jpg?1413390909

    All too often these days we stumble across a jaw-dropping example of set design, only to discover the impressive final image is actually the result of some clever visual trickery and digital manipulation. That’s an impressive art unto itself, don’t get me wrong, but pure CGI can leave me feeling a little shortchanged.

  5. List

    When David Mckendrick told us he was leaving Esquire and setting hop a new venture with Wallpaper* art director Lee Belcher, we were fascinated to see what the fruits of such a top-notch collaboration might look like. Last week we got our answer, when a copy of the new Christie’s magazine came dropping through our letterbox.

  6. Main

    Ever see those massive billboards of ice-cold beverages and think “who actually photographs those?” Well now we know, it’s Nick Rees, a still-life photographer who specialises in drinks. From pints of Guinness as black as night, to a mouthwatering, fizzing glass of ice cold Coca-Cola, Nick manages to fill your mouth up with saliva with every image he takes. Want to know the best bit? He doesn’t even use CGI – he states that each of his images is “100% a photograph.” We caught up with Nick to find out the ins-and-outs of this niche branch of photography…

  7. List

    Flickr is one of those magical treasure mines of the internet that’s sure to yield gems if you just look hard enough, and every now and again on our travels we stumble across a great hunk of uncut diamond. To continue the metaphor, Dave Glass is one such treasure.

  8. Main

    London-based brand Heresy presented its new collection this week in the guise of its Autumn Winter 2014 lookbook. Entitled Forming, the collection is a quiet amalgamation of illustration and traditional workwear, combining illustrated elements and hand-drawn type with carefully crafted structural staples made from loop-back jersey and felted wool.

  9. Main

    Photographer John Kilar was born in Istanbul, grew up in California and then settled in Los Angeles, for a bit. He now lives a nomadic life, traveling round with his point-and-shoot camera documenting the world as he sees it with an honesty and pathos and humour which strikes us to the very core. He also has a great way of talking about art and life which is inspiring without being patronising or cheesy; it’s just him doing what he does and calling it as he sees it. Particularly enamoured by his pictures of festivals, we tracked him down in Texas to ask him a few questions…

  10. Sblist

    For his new single New Dorp. New York featuring Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, SBTRKT released his first animated music video yesterday; a smoky, surreal trip to New York featuring one swaggering, mask-wearing dog. It’s a weird and unsettling trip as we follow this creature stalking through a city that may or may not be New York, and it marks an interesting new visual direction for the artist. We caught up with SBTRKT, director Fons Schiedon and his creative collaborator A Hidden Place.

  11. Main

    It can’t be every day that a UK studio gets approached by a leading Russian bank after a brand identity for their new app. So when we heard that NB Studio have created Zhuck, a banking app with a brilliantly satirical edge – an app which actually jeers at the user, goading them into working a bit harder, like a personal trainer who helps you gain pennies instead of losing pounds – we had to learn more. Nick Finney, creative director, answers my questions and reassures me that no smart-phones were harmed in the making of this app.

  12. Pepelist09

    Bronia Stewart first caught everyone’s attention back in 2013 with her project Babe Station. With this gritty series taken behind the scenes at an adult television channel the LCC graduate dove into salacious subject matter showing maturity, confidence and creativity beyond her tender years. Where could she and her camera possibly venture next?

  13. List2

    Stumbling across the portfolio of photographer Sam Bush, you’ll immediately be struck by the diversity of his work. His singles all demonstrate a refined aesthetic and a coherent style of lifestyle photography that’s incredibly on point. Then there’s the energetic chaos of his gig photos, featuring sweaty, heavily-tattoed guys and girls kicking the crap out of each other in the mosh pit. And then you stumble across a large series on riots – it’s a mixed bag, but a mixed bag of delicious treats.