As a photographer you spend a lot of time behind a lens. As someone who shoots concert photography you also spend a lot of time in front of a stage. Between being at a show, on the street, or sitting someone down to make their portrait you get to really understand and observe personalities. In those concert settings: personalities of artists, of audience members, and other photographers there to capture the moment. Photographers with belts holding 7 lenses and backpacks with extra batteries and camera bodies or the “would be” pro-photog capturing the moment just because they have an instagram account and an iPhone, living life through a 4.5 inch screen. Then there are the few. The few who are able to seem almost like a ghost as they faintly move about and capture moments in time with their portraits and photographs. There is incredible skill to that subtly and it in, there is an almost voyeuristic feel that you are seeing something with actual eyes. Moments in time captured by someone else but so vividly through as it it were your own eyes. That’s the artist that you didn’t even realize was as the show, but yet a couple days later you are on their site or social media envious of their work. Emilia Paré is that kind of an artist.
Last July I was in the Museum at Newport Folk when a pretty blonde in a lace trimmed white romper and tattoos breezed past me. I saw her capture a few shots and thought nothing of it. Then later I saw her work from the festival posted on a friend’s Facebook page and I was completely captivated and overwhelmed with the beauty, mystery and power of Paré’s work. Emilia is able to not just freeze a moment in a frame with her camera, but she somehow manages to truly steal the being of her subjects and put them right there in the frame for you to relive for all of time. There is a magic in her portraits and photographs that is completely unique and alluring. It is difficult to describe, and perhaps thats just the reason why you need to SEE in order to properly understand what I am trying to convey. Some people just see the world differently, deeper, through an inspired and beauty inducing lens. She doesn’t often go for the obvious composition or follow the ‘rules’ that are printed in the textbooks or have been go to’s for years and decades. She bends those rules to fit how she sees the world and how the image will best suit her personal aesthetic. And the results are breathtaking.
Back in December I named Emilia as one of the 7 photographers that inspired me most in 2015. The year that I truly cemented my love affair with portraiture and shooting live events with a different eye than I had previously. An artist who “an innate ability to perfectly capture the intimacy of the moment” and how she accomplished that sense of intimacy at a festival where there are 10,000 people stomping around and music from all directions, well that is something pretty special. She captures what I can only describe as remarkably human moments. A skill I both admire and envy in large amounts. 2015 also marked a year that saw the artist under a great deal of change, stress and personal growth. From all of that came a beautiful new project called ‘TWENTYTWO” that you can go ahead and purchase for yourself right on over HERE.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to Emilia about the project and her work in general. To get to hear her story and peer beneath the surface, just a bit, and understand how she sees the world through her own viewfinder. Read on up and check out TWENTYTWO today, its well worth it for your own enjoyment and to support artists who are adding more to the world.
RLR: Tell us a little bit about your project “TWENTYTWO” and where it stemmed from.
EP: Twenty-two was a roller coaster of a year for me. I went through an unexpectedly traumatizing emotional event in the weeks around my 22nd birthday. A celebratory road trip that I had planned with a group of friends suddenly turned into an introspective soul journey & a re-evaluation of everything I’d ever believed about myself & my path in life. That spring, my car was totaled the same week I was asked to move out of my house, so I was without a home or vehicle of my own for 3 months, living & commuting on the good graces of my closest friends – the epitome of a struggling artist. While trying to cope with it all I was making decisions I wasn’t proud of, closing down the bars every night of the week, & seriously fucked up on an important job. I knew if things were going to change around me, there needed to be a change inside as well. I quit drinking in May, jumped in a van bound for Newport Folk Fest in July & from there my entire trajectory shifted. I’m on my second life in Nashville & it’s exactly where I need to be.
But that being said, I didn’t actually decide to turn this year into book until December of 2015. It would be my way of putting that old life to rest & moving onto the next adventure while honoring the moments that led me to this point. I knew immediately that I wanted to release it on my birthday (I’m really into symbolic shit like that) so that gave me just around 8 weeks to pull the whole project together.
RLR: It seems you have a tight knit group around you in Nashville now and another thing I always ask folks in features here on the website is about community. Guitar pickers and folk singers are a dime a dozen in a music city (Boston or Nashville or anywhere), but photographers I imagine are a bit harder to find. Something I notice in your work is your subjects are often times your friends. How does the sense of community around you play into your work? What about that support really, I dunno the right wording, but what is it about that do you love or appreciate?
EP: Having a sense of community is insanely important to me as a human and an artist. Feeling that encouragement in everything from my crazy dreams to last minute international adventures that can only come from fellow creatives. Not being made to feel crazy for constantly leaping with no net in sight. There’s a unity among those with wild minds & uninhibited imaginations. It’s priceless.
RLR: Perhaps selfishly speaking and trying to harness some of that magic (or just nerd out on gear) what are your go to cameras, lenses and gear looking like these days? You do a lot of traveling to shoot so I am making a big assumption in saying there is a “big day out” and a “travel light” version of your set up?
EP: To be honest, I’ve only ever owned 2 lenses! My Canon 85mm is my go to glass – it’s fast & sharp as a knife, especially in the low light situations that I’ve come to love. My other lens is the Canon 50mm that until recently, I was without for over a year after breaking my previous 50 in half on a sheet of ice. I still use that broken lens from time to time – it gives an eery, ethereal feel similar to free-lensing & it’s perfect for certain projects. I shoot on a Canon 5D Mark III that I’ve beaten to hell – it’s a workhorse.
With only that for gear, my setup is always light & as I’ve come to shoot with a more documentary style, it’s perfect for grabbing on the run. I haven’t touched a strobe or flash in a few years & learning to find my light in any situation has been a fun adventure. It’s so much more satisfying to me to walk into a location without the guarantee of perfect lighting. It forces me to think outside the box. When I walk into a studio filled with strobes & modifiers, my creativity just goes to shit!
RLR: So is it safe to assume most waking hours you have a camera in hand? Your style really grasps that “fly on the wall” kind of a feel. Looking at a lot of the shots you took last year at Newport it was more about “the people” and not necessarily the performance. More so the person and being behind that person on stage. Often times I see your work where you won’t even include the subject’s face but still you manage to capture their “essence” in a way. How important is the capturing of someone’s being for you? ….you do it really fucking well!
EP: I don’t have my camera around all day every day, but I do always have my iPhone & I’m a firm believer that those photos are equally important as the ones captured on my DSLR. Many of the photos in my book were captured on my phone & they’re some of my favorites.
With Newport, I didn’t even know I was going until 3 days beforehand. That trip was my first step into this amazing community, so everything & everyone around me was new & exciting. I must have known somewhere in my heart that this would be an important event in my life & I wanted to remember the feeling of that weekend forever. The music was great, but the people… the people were magical.
I’m always aware of the little moments happening around me – the small gestures, the look in a friend’s eye, the way others carry themselves – I’m a sucker for the details. I believe that these moments, moments that may often go unnoticed, carry so much spirit. If the moment is right, lighting, composition, sharpness – it all goes out the window & the only thing left is the feeling. That feeling is what keeps me shooting, keeps me searching for those inevitable moments.
RLR: Art of any form can be a…well, I think we can be blunt here: it can be pretty shitty sometimes. There is a sense of competition in some arenas, there is the inevitable human condition of comparing ourselves to others. What keeps you grounded and wanting to continue to create and keep shooting?
EP: The excitement I feel when I hear the shutter click on a beautiful moment. That’s the only thing that matters to me. There’s a lot of excited “fuuuuuuuck yesssss”‘s & squealing that goes on when I make a photograph that I find especially beautiful. The day I stopped shooting for other people & starting making images that felt good in MY heart, was the day I truly found myself in my art. As competitive as the industry can be – and it’s getting more so each day – when you truly connect with your own art, others will connect with it as well. I create to keep myself sane & I’ll never forget how fortunate I am to be able to build my life around these creations. It helps that I’ve become really good at being broke! Ha!
RLR: Its fairly evidence that you are an observer of all things, capturing intimate moments of all sorts, but being in Nashville, shooting festivals and such there is a lot of ‘musical persuasion’ as a strong thread in the fabric of your work. That being said, who have been a few of your favorite artists, songwriters, or musicians to shoot? Who do you wish you could shoot, the dream subject, and haven’t yet had a chance?
EP: This year I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in Denver photographing Rival Sons as they opened for Black Sabbath in front of 20,000 people. Those are my favorite live photographs to date. So much soul in that band. Watching the Grammy’s from the dressing room as Dave Cobb – their only producer – took home 2 awards before the show was a pretty special moment as well. I’m excited to have a few photographs included in the packaging of their new record, Hollow Bones, out next month.
Other favorites have been that badass mama Margo Price, Yelawolf & everything at the Ryman. The lineup for Desert Trip was just confirmed & I would give my firstborn child or – fuck it – all of my future children, for the chance to photograph that weekend! Lemmy was always a dream subject of mine as well, so much character. Maybe in the next life…
RLR: The TWENTYTWO project seems like it was cathartic in a way. Like so many of your subjects may do as songwriters in writing songs about pain or triumph, you create visual art to portray those emotions. To pull it all together, sum it all up in a way: What do you want people to know most or take home from the TWENTYTWO project?
EP: Putting out “TWENTYTWO” was a healing process for me, putting to bed an often painful but incredibly eye opening year. I put my soul into that book. My hope is for people to see these photographs & want to know more about the stories behind them. I cope through creativity – and I’m finally ready to talk.
RLR: So, what does the next year look like for you as you move on from TWENTYTWO?
EP: I’d love to start shooting more editorial work, finding a way to bring my love for documentary photography to a more stylized setting while collaborating with other creative minds. This fall I’m planning to do a solo road trip out west, exploring the places I’ve yet to see, photographing & writing along the way.