MAKING NOISE 002: music photographer Kayla Fernandez
Hi Kayla! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions :) for those who don’t know who you are, can you give them a little introduction?
Hi! I’m Kayla or sometimes I go by Kay. I am a 19 year old music and film photographer based in Los Angeles.
When and how did you first start getting into music photography?
I was around the age 14 when I would always be barricade for the concerts I was going to. I would see the photographers in the photo pit with their fancy cameras just shooting away. It’s a silly thing but I became infatuated with concert photography because I just wanted to have nicer photos for myself to look back on when I get older. I also cannot play an instrument to save my life, so I felt this was another outlet to be closely connected to music and the shows.
Who was one of the first bands you ever photographed?
The first photo pass I received was for Wild Nothing when I was 15! I had no photo experience whatsoever, all I had with me was my grandpa’s Canon AE-1 film camera and one roll of film. I was anxious because I thought the pictures would come out terrible, but with the help of my sister it came out great. I’m glad that was my first experience as a “music photographer” because it was for a band that I hold so close to my heart and I could truly say it was one of the best nights of my life.
You photograph more than just live music, how would you describe your work outside of live music photography?
I feel like I am still developing my style, I’m heavily influenced by photographers like Petra Collins and James J. Robinson. Music and anything 80s related plays a huge role in how I create my photos, I always have a song in mind when I do photo series. Which is great because I’ll be listening to the lyrics and will think to myself, “Hm how will I turn that into a photo?” Without that my photos would be bland. Creating the dreamworld that lives inside my head and turning it into a reality through my lens keeps me going.
What specifically made you want to start music photography?
Aside from wanting to have nice photos for myself, I really just wanted to find a way of getting into concerts for free. I spend of hundreds of dollars on tickets where I would be begging my parents to help me pay for them. So me and my sister started a music blog where she writes and I photograph. We no longer run it but it opened a lot of doors for me which I’m so grateful for.
What drives your determination and ambition when it comes to your creativity when taking photos?
Music in general, but I have always had a stronger connection with 80s music especially anything that has to do with sythesizers. I grew up with that and gives me so much nostalgia. Anytime I listen to bands like New Order or The Wake it makes me want to pick up my camera and set up a scene where it just looks like 80s dream threw up all over it. As I have taken more photos throughout the year I’ve realized my best photos come from spontaneity, having something that is too structured makes me feel constrained. As cheesy as it sounds my friends really inspire me, I love spending time with them and I always want to document what they are doing. They are all artiscally talented, we have random night drives going anywhere and just talking for hours. It’s moments like those where I want to hold onto cause they won’t be there forever and what better way to do that than to capture with my film camera. Obviously because of the pandemic I haven’t been able to photograph shows, so they are the second thing that makes me feel creatively motivated.
What do you think makes a good music photographer?
You need to feel excited to shoot the band! Doing this for three years now I realized that my photos suck if I’m not into the band and their music. In the photo pit move around as much as you can because shooting for only the first three songs can go by in a blink of an eye. Lighting it always unpredictable at shows so it’s extremely crucial to know how to work your camera in situations like that. Investing in a lens that works great in low light was an absolute game changer for me. You want to have photos that show the energy from the show or something that shows the band’s personality. Practice, practice, practice.
Is there a particular moment in that you are especially proud of when it comes to music photography?
When I photographed the band Phoenix I truly felt on top of the world. I did anything to get the perfect shot, from running around the venue to squeezing my way in the crowd it was an absolute rush. Another time was when Albert Hammond Jr. resposted my photos when I saw his set at Tropicalia! My parents played The Strokes a lot when I was a little kid so it felt so surreal that a person I look up to noticed my work.
How would you describe the rewards of being a photographer?
It makes my days a lot brighter when random people reach out to me wanting to talk about my work. There was this one time where I was in the photo pit waiting to photograph Homeshake and a girl on barricade recognized me and asked to take a picture. It was so cool to see that people I don’t know like my work. To hear such nice things about a career I’m extremely passionate about makes me want to be even better and exceed people’s expectations.
Is there anything particular you look for when taking a photo during a show?
I’m super short so any spot where I can get clear views and not having any other photographers in the way is the main goal. If I go in with expectations I come out with mediocre photos so always expect the unexpected.
What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
My favorite thing about being a photographer is knowing that I could be the person behind someone’s favorite photo. A thought I have a lot is thinking about all the photos I get to share to my future kids and show them the life I lived. Or my friends showing their future children the pictures I took of their parents. The main goal in my life is to just capturing moments where people can feel like they are reliving that moment.
What do you hope to portray in your photographs?
Making reality feel like a dream. Life can be quite boring and stressful at times, I want my photos to make people forget those feelings. I’m a huge romanticist in every aspect of my life, showing the amazing things like love and freedom in a adolescent’s and young adult’s life is who I am. I blame it on all the coming of age movies I watch when I need comforting.
Do you feel like as time goes on there’s a bigger female music photographer presences?
Yes! I’m so happy to see more in the music scene. I think it’s such a beautiful community to be a part of it’s a girl gang where we encourage and support each other. When I was starting out at 16, older men photographers made me extremely uncomfortable because of how they would belittle me acting like I know nothing about photography. But now that I have grown tougher skin I know that me and majority of young female photographers I know can produce photos 10x better.
I’ve seen a few comments here and there about being a music photographer, and how it’s portrayed as “easy”, because all you do is push a button! What are your thoughts on this?!
I completely disagree with this. It takes so much time and energy to perfect the style you want. People don’t realize that photographers spend thousands of dollars on programs and equipment. Editing concerts could take hours if you want them to be perfect. I have come across a lot of people where they think they can pick up a camera and do what I do, but you need to be passionate and have an eye for photos.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start music photography?
Everything I have learned about music photography is from YouTube so I would recommend to watch a lot of tutorials on what camera and lens seems best for you. Reach out to publications to see if they are looking to hire photographers that’s where it all started for me. Or even reach out to smaller bands to see if they are interested in having photos taken. Making these steps allows you to have practice and create connections.
You’ve photographed so many different bands/artists including one of our favorites, Albert Hammond Jr. What’s it like being about to photograph someone you’ve listened to for years? Would you consider that a career highlight?
Definitely a career highlight! When I first started photographing concerts Albert was always on my list of musicians I wanted to photograph. Photographing his set at tropicalia in 2018 led me to a lot of great things and then eventually photographing the show he had at The Fonda in 2019. Taking photos for a musician and a team who are incredibly nice makes the experience so much better and memorable. Photographing artists I have always looked up is so surreal because in the moment I just feel in shock and then when it’s over and I love the photos I came out with I’m just like, “Wow that just really happened I took amazing photos to have with that memory”.
If you could give me a recommendation on who to interview next for “Making Noise”, who would it be?
A photographer I absolutely love is Athena Merry (@goldrosecrown on Instagram).
Huge thanks to Kay for being a part of our special series. She can be found on Instagram - follow her to keep up with all of the exciting projects she has running - and be sure to stay tuned for who Melody will be making noise with next!