• 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. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. Main

    Normally we have to scrabble about, beg, or leave hampers on doorsteps of famous photographers in order to interview them. By some divine miracle, Creative Director at Sony Music and absolutely legendary music photographer Josh Cheuse came knocking on our door. Would we mind posting about his work in the lead-up to his solo show in New York? Certainly not. Could we ask him some questions about his spectacular firework of a life hopping across the pond and back again to photograph some of the world’s most famous musicians? Sure.

  7. Lalistallenby

    Several years ago, Luke Archer came across an antique camera in his mum’s shed. It was in amongst heaps of equipment from his grandfather’s studio, who was also a photographer, and originally belonged to Alexander Bassano, a Victorian society photographer. Out of this discovery, Inheritance was born; a project about the hereditary peers whose ancestors were pictured by Bassano but also about the portraitist tradition itself.

  8. List

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” is a line famously attributed to Picasso. There is some disagreement about whether the big man did utter these words, but it has endured as a truism; influence and inspiration flowing from one artist to another play a major part in the development of art history.

  9. List

    20 years ago in 1994, little known designer Eike König set up his “graphic design playground” Hort, creating a community in the centre of Berlin where creatives could collaborate on ideas and client briefs side by side. Nowadays, the playground is slightly bigger, undertaking work for Nike, The New York Times and Walt Disney among others, but the underlying emphasis on collaboration and experimentation remains exactly the same.

  10. Main10

    Some may think it’s easy to shoot Kate Moss. People have been doing it for years, but to my knowledge no one has ever done it poorly. Today we can say for sure that a major element of shooting Kate with real oomph is having a sheer passion for the model – as Alister Mackie explains in this interview. The creative director describes her energy as “buzzing” and speaks warmly of their time spent in her back garden as she lay in the grass for this AnOther Magazine cover shoot with the tone of someone who’s just coming down from a transcendental experience. What’s really great here is how someone like Alister, whose career is already packed full of things we proles can only dream of, can speak of a fashion shoot with such pure, palpable excitement.

  11. Listrop.8991_4

    New York-based visual artist Roxy Paine has achieved the mind-boggling feat of recreating an entire airport security checkpoint out of wood. This follows on from the mysteriously named Machine of Indeterminacy and Scrutiny and takes his maple masterpieces to a new degree of complexity. Sadly, he declined to tell me just how many trees went into the making of Checkpoint, which is part of his solo exhibition Denuded Lens at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, but he has answered a few more sensible questions about just how he creates his crazily intricate works which explore “the discourse of the diorama.”

  12. Main

    It’s one thing to bring up the issue of the gender gap in the technology industry in casual conversation, but it’s quite another to do anything about it. Andy Gonzales and Sophie Houser are high school students in NYC who met at a summer camp called Girls Who Code, and decided to use their opportunity there for the greater good, generating discussion around the taboo subject of periods and the distinct lack of women in the tech industries, and learning to code at the same time.

  13. Main

    We love Jack Hudson. Sometimes I find myself staring at his drawings open-mouthed like a magic eye image – the level of minuscule is like in a Wes Anderson film, every time you go back to an image you’ll find something you didn’t notice before. The clever bunch over at Computer Arts decided to commission London-based Jack to make their magazine look sweet, and so he did. We caught up with him to find out how on earth you go about designing a magazine cover, and to find out the back-stories of the teeny characters featured within it. First one to spot Mr Bingo wins a Kit-Kat!