ATMOsPHERE ⌑ ANDREIA LEMOS
I like learning from people who are inspiring and have a beautiful way to portray themselves through their work. Of course, I’m talking about Andreia Lemos, a photographer that I know will be remembered as one of the most iconic ones of our generation. I think of Roberta Bayley or maybe Lynn Goldsmith. Not because believe their work is similar to hers but because Andreia's impact and relevancy in the music scene in the United Kingdom is strong. And she’s unique. She creates this atmosphere that throws you back to your family's vintage magazines but at the same time, she manages to stay timeless.
The first time I saw her photos I felt excitement, I felt this indescribable energy that (and I may sound emotional here) made me feel hope for 2010’s music and what the future holds for us music lovers.
The way she perceives music and photography and how she gets to mix and portray it in her world is not just beautiful but it comes a lot from touching and feeling the connection with your art, something I believe we have lost through the years with the technology and the detachment that exists between us and art. This is right here is worth learning and reconnect with the sensibility we once created.
This was supposed to be an interview. Instead, it was just like I was catching up with a friend that I can relate to with her understanding of music. We talked for about 30 minutes about our countries, our stories, and video editing. Her presence was so welcoming.
This conversation is dedicated to all my fellow creative women, especially those who are photographers and are struggling with finding their path or don't know some of the most essential answers. It doesn’t matter what you are or what you do, don’t let others tell you what to do or how to behave. Be free - and as overused as it sounds, be your goddamn self.
In a world full of perceptions, especially in a male ruled scene, what do you think it’s best to present yourself as an artist? I’ve never been to concerts in the UK, but here in Mexico, it’s a little bit difficult to get a photo pass because some people will think you just want to have fun, go to concerts for free, etcetera.
Yeah, totally. I feel like there is some positive change in the air but it still feels male-dominated most of the time. I also feel like it can vary considerably from country to country.
I grew up in Brazil until I was about 18 and I used to go to loads of gigs there, it was a bit of a challenge because most gigs were 18+ so I had a collection of fake IDs – each with their varying odds of success. But from what I’ve seen, and with few exceptions, women were generally undermined in whichever role they were participating in the night. Whether it be as an audience member or a member of the professional team.
In London, I don't feel as contested as I did in Rio. But there’s still a stigma directed at women who attend a lot of gigs. There’s this whole groupie thing for example (and there's nothing wrong with being attracted to people on stage)! But to assume that women come out to a gig only to find someone to sleep with is so patronizing and ridiculous – definitely male gaze bullshit.
Most people are there because they love what music does for them. Being attracted to the people on stage, if a factor at all, is usually just a part of the extensive package that brings people out in the first place. But even if that attraction is the only reason they are there - let them be! As long as no one feels disrespected there should be no shame in it.
This was one of my first festivals, I knew that we're not allowed to approach artists but I went on to say "Hi" to a singer and one of the promoters got so angry at me for it. I learned my lesson but later, I saw this fanboy taking selfies with artists and no one said anything to him!
Was this backstage? Or was it in the crowd?
No, it was in the press area. There was a crowd of people around her, I wasn’t invading any privacy, I was just saying hi. I felt so angry!
It's so tiring. It's just so stupid as well. Societal misogyny spares no industry eh?
There is so much shame projected into the fangirl – people underestimate their importance massively. Most entertainment industries, whether it be TV, cinema, or music, have as one of their most loyal supporters: the fangirl! They are the ones who might abdicate other purchases to be able to support the people they like. They fund so much of it. They’re the ones funding huge parts of your tour, hahah! Where is their appreciation? They’re the ones buying the magazines you’re in, buying your merch, buying your tickets (sometimes to more than one gig)! They are the ones giving you clicks and shares on social media, inflating the interest in your project so labels choose to have you on a larger stage next year!
I’ve been called a groupie for hanging out with bands, as if it was a bad thing.
Yeah, they use it as a derogatory term. There's nothing wrong with being attracted to people. I think that attraction can be essential in fueling the power of music at times. A band can have sex appeal be a huge part of their act and people will still shame you for giving in to it.
Of course, it goes without saying that the expression of that attraction is to be done in a respectful way - having sex appeal is not an open call for harassment or abuse.
It's something that people make you feel bad about because it's "shameful". I mean, they inspired a lot of the songs we like.
I think people underestimate the cultural relevance of groupies or fangirls. There is so much shame towards women that mix music with romance and sex. If it's a consensual thing, there should be no shame around it. There seems to be way less of a sexual connotation to the male counterpart of the fan base.
Could you name three words that represent you as Andreia?
Let me think... I think I'm pretty introverted. I am a bit of an over-thinker as well. And I think I'm empathetic.
What’s your astrological sign?
I’m a Libra, what is yours?
I’m a Cancer and a Gemini rising.
My best friend is a Cancer. I love her. She's very emotional.
Cancers are very emotional! Do you like astrology?
I never really liked it in the past, but maybe for the past three or four years, I've been getting more into it. I don't know all the signs. I feel like I kind of know more of the signs of people that are in my life. My mom is a Virgo. My dad is a Sagittarius, my brother’s a Scorpio. I studied those signs and I feel like I match very well with my sign. I really identify with Libras.
We all have connected with an artist that changed us in a creative way or a personal level. Who do you think this artist is for you?
I don't know if these were the ones that most impacted me but they were one of the first ones that did. Tame Impala and MGMT hit me at the right time when I was in school. When my brain was literally forming my identity and I feel like they played a part in how I see, feel and visualize music.
With MGMT, if you watch their first music videos they were very psychedelic. If you listen to Flash Delirium or Siberian Brakes, there are so many layers, so many interesting sounds. They have animal sounds in there at some point - it's so visual. If you close your eyes you can see so much happening. I feel like it was a trigger for me, it really helped me discover the connection between music and visuals.
With Tame Impala the music to me alone is quite psychedelic – it feels quite trancelike with all the cyclic delays and stuff and it triggered loads of visuals for me too. Maybe in less of a narrative/literal way than MGMT did; it felt more abstract in a way. Leif Podhajsky, the artist who did the artwork for Tame Impala (I recently bought his book) did such an incredible job at illustrating the visual feel of their music - it's a trip (just like their songs)!
Before I started designing album covers and such, I used to experiment more with video. I remember back in the day when Innerspeaker had just come out (I was about 14), I was in a car going to my dad's house where we had a pool. I was listening to the album and looking outside the window and I was just like... seeing this whole music video taking place.
Everything passing by the window just had so much personality with the music playing on top of it – there were so many unfolding emotions and stories in the motion of the trees, mountains, valleys, and bridges passing by. Everything just made so much sense!
I grabbed my point and shoot and started the music video right then and there. I filmed the whole way and then layered it all with footage of my siblings and I swimming underwater in the pool later that day. It was all so trippy and layered and it all just made so much sense?? I always felt really inspired by music to work on things visually – it’s my imagination catalyst.
You talk about this idea of creating something that moves, maybe a music video. Would you like to direct an MV?
I've thought about making music videos, and a few people have asked me to help as a creative director. But I never said yes. I never felt adequately prepared because it is a lot. It feels different from a photoshoot. And although I’d love to do it, I feel like I’d need to practice a little bit more. But, maybe who knows, in the future?
I'd like to see a music video directed by you. That would be very, very interesting.
I still don't really know how to translate what I do with my photos into video because of my method and how I do things. But who knows?
If you could think about an album, visually or musically that reminds you of the thrill of going out, which one would it be?
I was actually talking about this. It's not an album – it’s a music biopic that fuels me quickly when I need it: The Runaways. If I'm ever feeling a bit insecure, I put it on as soon as I'm done with it, I'm like, “Let's go. I'm putting my makeup on. We're going out.” It gets me pumped.
What kind of impact do you think fashion has on music? I think it reflects a lot in your work.
I love when people wear interesting things on stage and all of that but I also like it when people wear simple clothes. I think with a photo it's not like a video right? It's not like a movie. There's just so much information you can have in it to show what a person is about. And sometimes you can tell a lot about their makeup and their clothes. Even if they’re wearing something simple - that also tells you something about them. And it's very exciting for me when I get to shoot someone that I know usually dresses up. Have you heard of HMLTD? They always dress up. And you can expect different hair all the time too.
Different things excite me when shooting. Sometimes it’s people’s fashion expression. There’s this band called Faux Real. There are two of them. They’re brothers. They wear matching (and super funky) clothes. They perform as a symbiotic pair – mimicking each other all of the time. There are so many mirrored assets in there! Dressed in fantastic clothes. It's so photogenic!
The Garden also excites me in a similar way. I mean, they were/are models too – the camera really seems to love them haha! They have this whole ‘Vada Vada’ movement that they created and go by. It's funny because they've had these different eras. I remember when they had a punk era and then there was this sort of clown/joker era. It doesn't have to play an important part in it, it’s not what music is about necessarily, but I think if people choose to express themselves through their clothes, it can add to the experience. It's like a new layer that they can bring to a performance; a new layer of something you can learn from them.
Yes, definitely. I think it does. I think it's exciting when people mix together music and fashion. It's not the first thing about a band but it does play a very important role.
There’s the sonorous experience and then there's the visual one. Of course, a big part of the visual experience is how they perform, but fashion definitely plays a part in that area too.
The Garden are still one of my favorite bands because they have so much power on stage.
They were the first band I got a photo pass for.
Really? That's so cool. I saw them live in their punk era in 2016. They were amazing on that tour, they have this outstanding stage presence. They're so different from other bands.
They’re so fun, aren't they? I think some people might think ‘oh, they just like to dress up’, ‘how serious can they really be about music’. It's a prejudice that some people have when artists make fashion and performance such big parts of their act. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. They are such intrinsically well-rounded artists. They're so friendly. I really love them.
Me too, I wish I could see them once again. They were super nice after they finished their show, so charming.
I remember I was a bit clueless during my first gig as a photographer. I didn't really know what I could or couldn't do. I ended up going up the stage because I thought I had total free reign. I could do whatever I wanted because I had a photo pass! I was official! I wanted to do everything I couldn’t do before.
I was just in the corner you know, obviously, but I had to walk across a portion of the stage to get there. I wanted to get some shots from behind with the drums and the crowd and stuff. And I was taking pictures of Fletcher on the drums, from like, below, I was like, lying down on the floor, taking photos – on stage. And he just looked at me, playfully stuck his tongue out was nice about it, you know? Oh my god...
Did the security tell you something about this?
No, but they could have done it. You should plan beforehand what you’ll be doing throughout the gig with the people on stage – and should have their permission to go buckwild haha. And that's something I've learnt later. I ended up doing the same thing at a SOKO gig a few weeks later at the same venue. I got on stage to try and take some photos and someone from their team discretely got me out of the stage haha. I was embarrassed and apologized profusely – and that’s how I learned.
Those two gigs were shot at the 100 Club, which is a historic old club here in London that I love. The Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, etc played to some very small crowds there many years ago. I feel like it was the beginning of a lot for me too. Not to compare myself to them haha but it was the first place I had credentials to shoot at.
It was also the place where I realized that what I did had potential. It was around that time that I was starting to finally like my own images and getting excited about them. And it was around then that I started sharing them with the artists, and they shared them with their audience. It was a bit of a “this is what I want to do” moment.
I think the first gigs are so important for us. And it's even funny when you have stories like this!
It's so cringy, oh my god. Reliving it makes me laugh but also hurts quite a bit haha.
Now, having this unique, newspaper-style, did you evolve to it or was it always there?
That tactile feel has been my biggest influence when making photos. I’ve always been fascinated by the visual representation of music – and loved it when it was something that I could bring with me to the material world. When it was something that I could touch, hold or put up on my wall. Whether it was an album cover, a music magazine, or a poster.
I've always loved the tangibility of paper and having that physical relationship with it made my connection to a piece of work stronger if that makes sense. When I started taking photos I was never really happy with them. The experience wasn’t tactile enough. Seeing them in my camera and then on my computer screen wasn’t enough for me. It didn’t feel real. It didn’t have that nostalgic weight to it.
I missed that tangible feeling of being able to not just look at something but to physically interact with it too.
It happened the same to me while growing up. I was unconsciously influenced by photographers from the seventies punk scene and everything I observed from these photos was the different shades of black and white, the grainy feel, or this printed paper texture from scanning them. So I understand where you're coming from.
I love being able to flip through my binders of photos. And being able to give photos to people. I just love being able to bring it into the real world, you know, into the tangible space where you can, like I've been saying, put it on your wall, make it into a decorative piece or give it as a present.
Yeah, maybe that would explain why you create zines. You feel more in touch with your art. It exists outside the internet.
Totally. I feel like the relationship you have with your work ends up being a bit more limited if it stays only on your screen. It just doesn't feel as real. It feels like you’ll never see those images again if they only live in your hard drive. What if it breaks?
You feel distant from them. And then you don't remember that you have a bunch of photos from five years ago. That's why I like working with film, there is this whole process: you take the pictures, develop them or hold them with your hands.
It's more special. I feel like when you work only with digital it's easier to produce a lot of images. To perhaps produce too many images, almost in a dispensable way. It’s almost natural. And the work may end up losing its individuality.
When working with analogue systems, paper, or any physical materials for that matter, you have to be more selective when choosing your images. You’re only going to move forward with the special ones so what remains is a hand-picked portion of your best work. It condenses and filters out the disposable abundance of the digital.
As a music photographer, what's your connection with music?
I think it just makes me feel less alone and helps me understand myself better. It enables introspection that I can’t seem to get from anywhere else. I’ve always been surrounded by music. My stepdad is a musician - there's always been guitars around the house; bass, acoustic, electric etc. It’s always been part of our love language as a family. He bought me a guitar for my birthday and then a keyboard a few years later. I've learned so much about music through car rides with my mom too.
Maybe 3 or 4 times a year some international artists would come play a show in my part of the country. My best friend and I would plan months ahead and travel to go see them. It was so special to us. And that hungry love for music was a big reason why I wanted to move to London. Live music in Brazil was limited to mostly Brazilian music and I wanted to experience more; I wanted to be in a place where I had access to a lot of different artists from all around the world.
So I moved. And when I got here I knew no one. I had no friends, nothing. So I used to go to gigs on my own; almost every night just because I could (and also because they kept me company).
At the time I really didn’t know music photography was a thing. Growing up I saw pictures people took of artists but I never really thought about the photographer. I never really made the connection of like, oh, who took this photo? It was always about the person photographed and not the photographer. But when I came to London, I started to see people at the front holding cameras. It had never really clicked to me that it was an actual job. I started seeing girls doing it too, and I was like, how do I start?
That's why music remained so important to me: it was the path by which I took my first steps in the new city I had moved to. It helped me meet all the people that are now my friends and mark the start of my professional life.
I like this strong black and white contrast in your work. Why do you think this is a signature aesthetic in your photographs?
I like how it simplifies things. It reduces the massive intake of information our senses experience daily. I feel like it helps separate the moment captured in the photo from reality. It brings out the most important things and has less distractions. I also love how nostalgic they feel. I think I subconsciously enjoy replicating that feeling.
Scanography is one of my favorite forms of photography. I had a scanography project I wanted to exhibit in a gallery a few years ago, I never did it. I don't know why, but I find it so special to work this way. What captivated you into it?
This is so funny; you remind me a lot of my best friend. She's also a Cancer, Spanish is her first language and she loves scanography as well.
It ties back to the same reasons I love working with paper so much: it adds an element of intimacy to your relationship with your work. It helps you feel your presence in it as you move and touch it in the process of its creation. You see the movements in the scan and you know you did that.
It’s like you did it with your hands.
Yeah, exactly! And it's something that I miss so much in the digital age because everything feels so immaterial. Photos, videos, people - everything is so digital.
It is good for some things, but still, it's so detached.
Yeah, working manually makes me feel more present, more in tune with my work and myself. What do you like to scan? What do you usually scan?
I was scanning flowers, plants and just random objects. I liked printing and scanning them as well. It reminds me of the cyanotype process. But yeah, I never finished it.
It's something you can always go back to.
If you could create a world from your photography, how would you describe the atmosphere in it?
For some reason when you were explaining the question, all I saw were people in this squared black room. Black everywhere. And people are wearing some sort of 60s attire, maybe some 90s mixed in there. And they’re just having a drink. You know when you go out and go back home with a group of friends and carry the party out in your house? Like that, but in a black squared shadow-less room.
You have your zines and you made one for Victory and Marching Church. This last one is one of my favorites, it was so beautiful. Could you talk a little bit about this whole process?
That was shot in 2015, I think. It was one of the first shows I shot. I'd been a fan of Iceage, Marching Church, and a lot of music coming out of the Posh Isolation label in Denmark for a while and had been wanting to see them for ages. So when I finally had the chance I wanted to make something special out of it. I used to write a little bit too at the time so I decided to do this one-sided collaboration with photos and some words for posterity. It felt therapeutic.
Your YouTube channel is one of my favorites. You give photographers advice and share with thme how's the real world for photographers. You approach topics that probably a lot of us had to figure out on our own like how gear don't make you a good photographer, photo pass advice. One problem a lot of photographers have to deal with is: How to monetize your work? Should I shoot for free? I think there's a certain point where you could work for free and when you can start charging. Not sure how it works in Brazil or London but here in Mexico the creative field is not appreciated enough so a large amount of people will want you to work for free. What are your thoughts on this?
People think like, ‘Oh, they love doing it; they'll do it for free’. But just because you love what you do doesn't mean you shouldn’t get rewarded for the time and effort that took you to do it. If it's something that someone wants you to do for them, I think it’s only fair that they pay you for it. If they request a service, they should expect to have to pay for it to get done.
You enjoying the work you do is a bonus for you. It shouldn’t negatively affect the way people perceive the worthiness of your work.
When you’re starting out there’s a big difference between offering and being asked to shoot. If you're offering, I think they can be partially justified in not paying for the shoot as they didn’t ask for it. Maybe you want to practice and improve your portfolio so they’ll exchange that for a photo pass. But if they ask you to come to shoot, you should think about charging.
Sometimes you don't realize when it's time to start charging because you still feel like you have so much to learn. It can be hard to have the confidence to take yourself and your work seriously when a lot of people around you don’t. But you have to put your foot down and ask for what’s fair.
Think of it like this: when people start asking you to perform work for them, you charge.
You set your price but they want you to work for them for a very small amount of money. What would you do?
I think it depends on how much you personally want to work with them. If it's someone that you love, you might want to consider making an exception.
Let's say you set your price and they say they can’t afford it. You should then do a counteroffer with less final photos for a reduced fee maybe. Try to find a happy medium without feeling like you’re overworking yourself terribly. I think it’s something that you learn with practice. Keep tabs on how a certain fee matched up to the amount of work you did, and make adjustments as you go.
That's a good one. And now, what is something you would tell young photographers that you wish someone told you before?
Don't feel discouraged. It can take a long time for you to find your style. I feel like sometimes when you see other artists’ work it can seem like it came to them so easy. But what you don’t see is the whole trial and error process that might have taken them years to go through to get to where they are now. I think some people don't realize that in order for you to find something that works, you have to experience a lot of things that don't. Don’t let the process discourage you.
Also, don't worry too much about your equipment. A lot of the time you have to outgrow your current gear to know what the best thing for you to invest next in is. I remember when I first started my camera was pretty dated. It wasn't the best, but it taught me a lot because it made me understand and value the things that I was missing. I think sometimes people see limitation as something that solely stunts your progress when in reality it can have the opposite effect. A cheap camera can be your best teacher.
What’s your favorite genre?
Punk is one of the most fun ones for me. I love it when it's mixed with other sub-genres too.
Recommend us a song that you cannot stop listening to.
Судно (Борис Рыжий) by Molchat Doma.
Who would you wish to photograph?
Billie Eilish, I don't need to explain myself because she's amazing. I really want to photograph Fontaine’s DC, The Paranoyds and The Garden again.
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