Melody J. Myers
Making Noise 007: Sophia Ragomo
Hi Sophia! Thanks for taking the time out to answer my questions, how are you?
I’m great! Thank you so much for having me!
Did you always want to work in music?
Yes and no. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember but never thought of it as something to pursue. Working in a creative job was always my dream and initially, I thought I wanted to do fashion design. I still love styling but found out a long time ago I am not a fan of sewing. As far as music goes, I started learning violin in 5th grade, then picked up singing, piano, and guitar. I loved performing as well, whether it was with a band or in a play. It wasn’t until I took a darkroom photography class, however, that I felt such a strong passion for something. I thought my interest in photography would lead me to something in the world of fashion, but when I discovered I could put music and photography together, it was like love at first sight
How did you get into photography?
I got into photography for my high school newspaper! It was never something I thought of pursuing as a job. My high school had an amazing variety of visual arts classes and in order to be on the newspaper staff, you had to take some type of photography course. I took a black and white darkroom class where we developed our own film and printed everything by hand. It was so physical and almost meditative. Nothing like editing on a computer screen! I then joined my high school newspaper, where I became photo editor during my senior year. Our upcoming issue had a story about The Greeting Committee (we went to high school together) and we needed photos for it. They were on tour opening for Kitten at the time and had a date in town the very next night. I went to the show to take photos and the rest is history!
What does photography mean to you?
Photography means so much to me. I’ve always liked writing but when I can express myself visually like I can with photography, it just feels much more natural. In some ways it seems like I’ve been doing it my whole life even though it’s only been seven years. It’s brought me joy and sadness and helped me through times when it was hard for me to see things getting better. It’s taught me so many important lessons about people and hard work and I am so grateful.
What is your current go to camera equipment?
My current go to is always to have a variety! I have my Nikon D610 almost always with some type of film camera. I love my Olympus Stylus and recently got a Contax G2 and have been loving that as well.
What was the first camera you ever picked up? Do you still use it?
I got a small digital camera when I was little that I took super random pictures on. I loved it but currently don’t know where it is. The first legit camera I shot with was rented from my high school and was a beginner film camera (I think maybe a Canon AE-1).
What photographers inspire your work the most?
I love Mick Rock. He is probably my all-time favorite. His photos of David Bowie are breathtaking. He is amazing at both live music and portraiture which is how I aspire to be. His relationships with the artists also read as personal in every photograph, which I admire. I’m inspired by the vintage classic rock aesthetic, so Neal Preston, Danny Clinch, Linda McCartney, and Chris Stein are some of my favorites as well.
How did you go about finding your style? Is there any particular you look for while taking a photo?
Experimentation! When I first started I would spend hours creating multiple edits deciding what I liked best. I didn’t know any other music photographers at the time, so I had to learn everything on my own. When I started college, I had an amazing professor that suggested I shoot music on film for his class. I loved the result so much that I still use film heavily in my work. Going to art school in New York was an experience like no other that also really pushed me towards where I am now. The city is so vibrant and there are so many talented people there. The friends I met while in New York inspired me to try to become the best version of my artist self I can be (I’m still getting there!). As far as taking a photo goes, I look for color and emotion. Capturing something with a good composition/technique can be taught but emotion is something we all feel and describe differently! It’s something that no two photographers can replicate.
Who was the first band you ever photographed?
The Greeting Committee was the first band I ever photographed!
I read that you’ve never toured before! If you could tour with any band, or artists who would it be?
Yes! I did a few days with The Greeting Committee last summer (I don’t know if that counts) and had a few lined up for this spring after my graduation but unfortunately the pandemic has changed things on that front. I love working with female artists so much, so if I had to choose a dream artist to tour with, it would probably be Phoebe Bridgers, Stevie Nicks, or Lorde. One day!
You’ve photographed some of the coolest bands and artists, who would you say was the most surrealist to take photos of?
The most surreal artist experience for me was when I photographed The Struts. It was when I was just starting out and only got a few minutes with them but that didn’t matter to me. It was so special. Their music is amazing and they were one of the first artists I photographed that I was also a major fan of. I’ve always dreamed of photographing legendary rock bands and it felt like I got to live my dream that day.
Do you prefer taking photos of a live show, or portraits/ the regular photoshoot?
I love portraits the most. Live music is fun and will always be my first love but when you get to meet the artist in person, it’s always very interesting to me to see what they are like. Being backstage with an artist is something few experience and it feels like I get to witness/document something special each time. It’s like pulling back the curtain on someone’s public persona. Portraits also give me much more freedom with the creative aspect of music photography, which I love.
You’ve take photos of The Greeting Committee a lot, how did this come about?
We all went to high school together. Addie and I were part of the same grade and knew each other, but not super well then. After I shot my first show (which was them), I shared the photos with Addie and we’ve been friends since. At first, whenever they came through town, I would go and take photos of them casually, but it’s evolved into a working relationship as a well as a great friendship. This is the longest I’ve gone in the past four years without seeing them and it’s made me miss them lots. There will be a major celebration when we get to create together again.
Since becoming a photographer has your appreciation for music changed at all?
I think my love for music has only gotten stronger. Because I sometimes get to spend time with the artists behind the music, interacting with them has given me a better understanding of who they are and how they create. During this time especially, I’ve realized how important music is to me. In the past few months, I’ve gone through a few phases where I’ve thought about changing careers. Something always brings me back to music though. I think giving it up would be too heartbreaking.
At what point did you know that you wanted to make a career out of music photography?
I knew the first night I shot a show. I was planning on pursuing photography already but nothing had made me feel this excited about it before.
What would you consider to be a highlight of your career so far?
Shooting a show at The O2 in London! It’s one of the most legendary venues in the world and since I was born just an hour outside the city, it felt extra special.
What do you believe is the most difficult thing about being a music photographer?
For me, I think it’s the self criticism. Not only with my photos themselves but the steps I’ve taken in my career as well. I’ve had a few relationships with artists I loved dearly dissolve unexplainably and it has been hard to not blame myself. Ultimately, people have their own lives and problems I don’t know about and sometimes friends might get driven different ways. It’s something that happens and I’ve been getting better at reminding myself of that.
What do you hope to portray in your photographs?
I hope to portray relationships between myself and the artist and the fans to music. Music makes so many of us feel something unlike anything else in the world. It brings us together and creates a collective experience we will all have shared when it’s over.
What change would you like to see in the music industry?
I would love to see more diversity in artist teams! More women, more LGBTQ+, and more people of color would be amazing. So many female artists hire the same already successful white men when they could be hiring an amazing up-and-coming creator with a completely different take on the industry. Female artists control so much of the industry now and I believe they have the power to really change things if the effort is made.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into music photography?
Practice a lot! Get to know your camera well and shoot every small show you possibly can when gatherings get to be safe again. Also find your niche. Do you like a certain genre of music? Research that genre and get to know smaller artists in your desired field. Building relationships in the industry is so important and can lead to jobs down the line.
Who are your current favorite bands/artists?
I love British music like Blossoms, Wolf Alice, Inhaler, and Foals. Some of my other favorite artists would have to be Foo Fighters, My Chemical Romance, Phoenix, and Tame Impala.
If you could recommend me someone to interview next, who would it be?
Two of my friends, Sara Feigin and Jenna Million, are both music photographers and recently started a podcast called Name 3 Songs about the industry. It’s really awesome and they are super talented and fabulous people as well. Definitely check them out!
Sophia Ragomo is a music photographer based in New York City and New Jersey. We want to say a mega thank you to her for being part of Making Noise. She can be found on Instagram @sophiaragomo!