Photography is one of the most amazing forms of art; it can create, capture and stop a moment. Melbourne Photographer Greta Parry working exclusively with film, shooting with 35mm SLRs as well as 120mm plastic Lomography cameras, creates images that are both experimental, technical and fun. We sat down with Greta and spoke to her about her gig photography, favourite bands and her 5 favourite photos of 2014.
What is it that you enjoy most about photographing a gig/festival?
Being part of it. Because all the live stuff is purely for myself – as in, no-one is paying me to be there and the photos are just for my personal work – I tend to only shoot small gigs; I have no interest in the huge gigs and gravitate towards local bands that have a great energy. At these shows, you really have to get in there amongst it all to shoot, and that’s definitely what’s best about it – immersing myself in what’s happening and responding to that with the camera.
What was your favourite gig that you photographed in 2014?
I thought that would be a hard question but actually it’s super easy. Maggotfest at the Tote, purely for Royal Headache. They’re one of my favourite bands in general, but in terms of photographing them they have everything I love: a great front person (Shogun is frenetic, hyper, erratic – amazing), an interesting band dynamic (apart from Shogun they’re all pretty controlled – the bass player always has his back to the crowd, for example – so it’s a good visual contrast) and incredibly intense fans. Their shows are always wild – the adrenaline is off the charts.
What was your first camera you ever purchased?
At school, I had an entry-level Pentax SLR, but when I took up photography later on I had a Holga 120FN. That broke, but I bought another one. I don’t use it too often anymore, but I’ll never not have a working 120mm Holga. They’re really special.
What would you say your photography style is?
At a basic level, analogue, because I don’t own a digital camera and I don’t digitally manipulate my images – any ‘effects’ happen in the cameras, and my work pretty overtly embraces the imperfections inherent in film and a lot of non-digital equipment. Beyond that though I think dynamic is a good way to describe my style, especially when it comes to music photography as it’s very much about capturing movement and energy. A lot of my work is also very experimental, so that would be in there too.
What band/musician would you love to photograph?
Honestly, there’s no super famous band or person that I necessarily want to shoot – I’m mainly interested in shooting people who are on a similar creative wavelength (or, if we’re talking live music, have an energy I’m interested in), whether they’re total unknowns or outrageous superstars. Basically, then, anyone who inspires me, as cornball as that sounds.
At the moment I’m very much into local punk bands and the energy of their gigs, and the one band that I really want to shoot but haven’t had the right opportunity is The Smith Street Band. I shot The Bennies at a 2am Public Bar show last year, and that’s the scenario I want to shoot TSSB in. Whether that opportunity will arise or not I don’t know!
Do you have a photography bucket list?
In short, no. The only aim I have is to build a body of work that constantly grows and that tells a story and that I’m really fucking proud of. There’s a long way to go there but I’m pretty satisfied with how it’s coming along and excited about where I can push it.
What made you want to become a photographer?
When I dove into it in my mid twenties I wasn’t shooting any kind of music, I just shot people and places because I loved it. The idea that photography creates both beauty and history at once really appeals to my right-and-left-brained tendencies. In terms of what made me want to shoot music, it wasn’t a conscious decision: a mate of mine asked me to shoot his band, and then mates of his asked me to shoot their bands, and so on and so forth until I found myself being paid to do bands’ press shoots. Live music followed pretty naturally from there.
Aside from the gigs you have to shoot, what is your own personal music taste?
Well as I mentioned earlier I don’t ‘have to’ shoot any gigs – I just shoot the gigs I go to – so those two things are pretty closely related! At the moment, it’s a lot of local punk, post-punk and garage stuff, but like most people there’s lots more in there too. Sure, I like some international stuff (praise Yeezus), but over the past few years the most important music to me has been the music I can see live at The Tote/The Curtin/Old Bar/etc.
What do you love most about photographing musicians?
They’re fucking peacocks! I mean, even if they’re not overtly ostentatious – even if they’re reserved or brooding or whatever – it’s still a performance because these people are performers. They’re creative people and for the most part they respect and respond to the fact that I’m doing something creative too. When it comes to doing press stuff (portraiture), they’re usually open to collaboration, which is absolutely my preferred scenario. If they’re paying me to do it then they like my style, so they tend to trust my judgment, too. That’s really lovely and makes for the best work.
What are your top 4 favourite photos you took in 2014?
Bad//Dreems @Record Paradise
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard @The Tote
The Bennies @Public Bar
What’s your favourite photo you’ve taken?
Oh man that’s almost impossible to answer. I’m going to offer this beautiful image from a New Gods show at Ding Dong a couple of years ago as just one of my favourites, because it’s a great example of how dynamic and evocative live music photography can be when you push it. I think it’s probably a very typically ‘Greta’ image. I’ve been mates with the guys in the band for quite a while too, so it’s also meaningful on a personal level.
Do you have a new years photography resolution?
To push my boundaries and explore other things I’m interested in, technically and thematically. In some ways this means moving away from music, though the subject area I’m most driven towards – the male body – isn’t really that far away from music because god knows I’ve shot plenty of shirtless dudes on stages. Having said that, I don’t see myself not shooting gigs. And I have another project I’m working on with a musician at the moment, so music will be a part of my year for sure. I’m also in the process of teaching myself how to to hand-colour black-and-white prints using traditional methods, which is really challenging, but I’d like to get a handle on that this year. Overall I just want to produce work that I love.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
Well I edit a magazine in my day job (Screen Education), so I guess magazine editor is the answer! I think of myself as many things, and plan to be many more things in the future, but I can’t imagine photographer ever not being one of them.
Check out more of Greta’s work on her website or on her Instagram: @gretaparryphotography.