MAKING NOISE 013: Music Photographer and Tastemaker Phoebe Fox
Hi Phoebe! Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer my questions, how are you?
Hey Melody! Thank you so much for caring and taking an interest. I’m doing ok, currently isolating so having to turn down work is pretty painful, it’s difficult for freelancers to say no to jobs because there’s always this worry that they won’t come back. Starting a podcast with my pal Ross who’s a radio presenter, has kept me excited about new music at the moment. The podcast is on Spotify and it’s called Picks By Phox. (Like pics, pictures, but picks lol) we find a whole bunch of brand new music and spill all the info on them.
For those who don’t know you, can you give them a little intro?
Sure! I’m a music and touring photographer, so usually I shoot press shots, magazine features, festivals or tour with artists and cover their live shows. It’s strange right now because of the pause on live music, everyone’s trying to find a way to adapt.
How did you know you wanted to work in music? How did you start?
I started by taking photos of friends that were musicians at school and covering their shows on weekends. I knew I wanted to work in music when I realised everything that I was doing for fun, and all the people I got along best with, were based around the music industry.
Did you always want to be a photographer or did it just happen?
I always wanted to be a photographer, what I didn’t know was what I wanted to specialise in, that part just happened.
What was the first camera you ever picked up? Do you still use it?
A family digital point and shoot haha, I wish it was way cooler than that like an old film camera passed down or something but it wasn’t. I’d just go for a walk around the block and take photos of flowers or whatever. It’s in a cupboard and kept for sentiment but definitely not being used.
What is your current go to equipment?
If there’s no time pressure then a medium format, Mamiya RZ67 and a reflector, if there is then a 35mm or my digital.
You’ve gone onto photographing some of the biggest and most exciting names in British music. What’s been one of the most unreal experiences you’ve had so far?
I honestly find every UK festival unreal, just bumping into extremely talented people and being able to chat as well as document them is something I’ll never take for granted. It's places where the pressure levels are lowered like that that you enjoy everything more.
What does photography mean to you?
Capturing and documenting the way you view something, that you can't explain to others by using words.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking environment?
Single point focusing .
What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a music photographer?
You can’t replay a moment to shoot it again, you have your shot and that’s it.
What drives your determination and ambition when it comes to your creativity when taking photos?
My love for a song or artist, it’s another way of being a fan with the ability to express that collaboratively.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Always saving photos I like, always looking for new music, always trying to learn.
Is there any other type of photography you’d want to delve into?
I’d love to shoot more travel, street photography, and have the freedom to focus on that for a few weeks. Shooting more personal stuff too, just natural moments and trips with friends.
What was the biggest lesson you learned while on the road as a photographer?
Prioritising privacy and respect over getting a shot goes a long way when touring.
How did you first get involved touring with bands?
By having friends that were musicians, so for a while I was touring for fun, tagging along to lend a hand, it’s only after building a portfolio and learning about touring that I felt I had the experience to start it properly.
How do you find time for yourself/self care on the road?
Facemasks on days off and eating whatever the hell my body wants is usually the way to go, making the effort to go for a walk when you have the time.
Do you prefer to go on tour or get booked for shoots with bands?
I think it’s all about having a balance of the two, if you do too much of one you either really miss the other or just feel drained! Finding that balance and taking time out to reflect creatively is something I’m slowly learning the importance of, working full steam ahead all the time isn’t healthy.
What was one of your all time favorite moments while on tour with a band?
When I was touring on my 22nd birthday, the lovely Anne Marie pulled me up on stage and asked her crowd to sing happy birthday. I blew out some candles in front of them all, that was absolutely wild and a complete surprise.
What was one of your favorite places that photography has taken you?
Paris in the summer, being able to rent one of those lime scooters and just go all over the city in golden light and stop off at places to explore on a day off, then meet up with a crew of people you really get along with and an artist you love just didn’t feel like a job.
Do you believe that traveling has helped you discover your style at all?
100% but more so, I think having less time because you’re travelling forces you to make decisions faster and when you do get the time, you know how you want to practice or need to figure out in order to develop.
There’s so many new bands/artists popping up right now! If you could photograph any of them who would it be?
Gonna have to name a bunch, there’s a band called Sorry who’s album 925 I listen to constantly. They’re based in London and I just think everything they do is so slick and creative. They have a real dark spark.
Katy J Pearson, based in Bristol, has this like Florence and the Machine meets Stevie Nicks voice and writes timeless, beautiful music, I really recommend her album Return which came out last year.
I’m obsessed with this band from Copenhagen called Iceage right now, they’ve been around for like 10 years creating their legacy and have released a few singles recently, with an album on the way.
And Phoebe Bridgers, not only for her discography of instant classics and perfect self aware emo branding (that would be really fun to express through photography), but because I’m a big Elliott Smith fan and she knows some real obscure info.
During our current situation, what’s one thing you miss about tour/music photography? Meeting new people / socialising.
What bands/artists are you currently listening to right now?
How long can this list be? haha!
Aside the ones I just mentioned, Arlo Parks, Phoebe Green, Hand Habits, Grace Carter, Yard Act, Do Nothing, Sunglasses For Jaws, Shame, Fontaines DC, Holly Humberstone, Beabadoobee, Malady. SO MANY MORE.
What is your ultimate goal as a music photographer?
To document the people I admire and understand them more. I’d love to be able to make a book someday.
Do you feel as time goes by there’s more of a female presence in music photography?
100%, when I started the ratios were very different to what they are in a photo pit now, I think there’s been a lot of progression in making womxn feel safer at live shows in particular, but there’s still a long way to go.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start music photography?
Learn how to use your camera in your own time, when you feel comfortable with your equipment then dive in and learn the rest as you go. As long as you know what you’re doing in your role, the rest you’ll pick up.
If you could recommend me to someone to interview next for “Making Noise”, who would it be?
Dani Bennett-Spragg. An incredible woman, she’s a Recording Engineer and Mixer and has worked on huge tracks, literally we’re talking like Rolling Stones huge, always very supportive of other girls in the industry and I’m sure she’d have a story or two to tell.
An enormous thank you to Phoebe for being a part of Making Noise! We here at Buzzkill look up to her so much, and are so grateful to her for imparting so much of her wisdom on us. Phoebe can be found on both Instagram and Twitter at @shotbyphox. Make sure to check out her podcast, Picks by Phox, on Spotify and Apple Podcasts!