Hi Adam. Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed. We last spoke just over 18 months ago, back in April 2014, where does the time go? Thank you, for having me again my photographer friends.
What have you been up to since we last spoke? I just went and checked my travel dates, to jog my memory. I did tour consistently for most of the time, with a few different artists. I learned a lot about myself and have used this info to help change what I am doing with my business.
I was also able to sneak in a good run on Warped Tour where I had my own merchandise tent and led my “anyone can be a photographer workshop” every day. I have really been enjoying teaching as of late and wanted to get into it a bit more. Workshops are difficult but I have been practicing them for about five years now, off and on… and I think I finally have gotten the hang of it. It was very refreshing to connect with young, excited photographers. I am still convinced I learned more from them than they did from me. In total I had just over 500 people attend, across 27 dates in 20 or so different states.
How does the format work during your workshops? Is it for beginners and hobbyists or do you provide workshops for ‘more advanced’ photographers? As of now I am starting at the bottom and working my way up. Mostly beginners, but I did get a few photographers who were more experienced and still said they benefitted from the workshop. I am going to take some time early next year to become a more well-rounded teacher before I move forward. There are a lot of things I need to learn, to a more technical degree, before I start teaching it. I definitely want to establish a way to simultaneously learn and teach because one without the other really just doesn’t make sense.
How can people find out more about coming to one of your workshops? It’s so guerrilla right now. I honestly just post about it on my socials and my travel dates, and people show up. I am looking into doing some things with creativeLIVE and Kelby soon, so hopefully that helps. Let’s see how it all comes together. But until then, best bet is to just follow along online.
Your business and personal profile seems to grow from strength to strength. How are the lens bracelets and merchandise ventures going? Thanks, that’s cool to hear from an outside perspective. Awesome, it has really helped me learn a lot about the people who follow me. I feel like we connect on an everyday level when they are able to rep the merch always. They send me photos of themselves wearing it with their friends, at school, at concerts – honestly, it’s all just awesome to see. I recently came out with my first magazine that I am hoping to create more of. I already have the next two done, I can’t wait to release them*.
*Make sure you read all the way to the end of this interview where we are giving away 3 copies of Adams awesome new music photography magazine…
We couldn’t help but notice you have started getting into video via your YouTube channel. You are sharing your journey with your followers and sharing some great GoPro footage during concerts, which is great for us fellow photographers. I originally started the video adventures so that I could provide it for the artists I work with, but honestly, it was just too time consuming to edit and I was missing some nice photos. So I just maintained it for myself. It’s been interesting. I have learned a lot about myself, but mostly I have been impressed with how much better it has made me at public speaking and articulating my thoughts on the fly. It’s a hard skill – for me at least – so I continue to struggle through vlogs to try and get better. It has also sparked my interest in teaching more. I always wanted to do it but never had the confidence. I have some plans for early next year that will realistically launch mid 2016, having to do with that.
The GoPro videos I have been doing for a while… I think three years. I have just learned some ways to make them better. I am glad people enjoy them. Hoping to keep that going as well. They might make you feel a little bit dizzy.
Have you started getting into music videos yet, or is this something you would like to get into in the future? Nope. I don’t really enjoy that kind of video. I have been to enough video shoots to know how much stress it is and I would never put myself into that situation.
Are there any key learnings that you have taken over the last 18 months? More realisations. The biggest being that I should be actively learning new things every day and not just through life experiences. Like going out, reading and researching. I did it passively in the past but now I initiate it intentionally. The biggest struggle for me has always been reading people and/or their intentions. I really struggle with that. The music industry is riddled with ill-intentioned people, and I am just ignorant to that side of a person. I come from the Midwest and I was talking to my childhood friend – we just assume everyone has good intentions and would always just do the right things. That has been the hardest part for me, to come to terms with the fact that “hey, this person might have not done the right thing to me just now”. I hope that isn’t too dark, it’s just the reality of it.
Thanks for being so honest. You hear artists and bands get screwed over by people with their own agendas – It’s not surprising then that it goes all the way through the industry. You are welcome.
As your profile has increased and you kinda have your own ‘celebrity status’ to think about too. Does this bother you and how does this affect how you go about your day job? I think that is a funny way to put it but I know what you are talking about. I would say I run into people a few times a month who know who I am outside of work, but it doesn’t happen that often, to be honest. It doesn’t really bother me, but it has helped me become better at shaving consistently and being more mindful of how I present myself. It’s not that I was lazy in the past – I just didn’t think about those things outside of when I was at concerts. At shows it’s a tad embarrassing when I walk into the photo pit and a bunch of people scream my name, but it’s also so nice. I love going to work and being able to hang out with a bunch of new friends, it’s comforting. In addition, they are super supportive and helpful. Like, if I want to go and shoot in the mosh-pit area at a concert, I have these massive men just guard me so I could shoot. I didn’t even ask, usually they just high five me and go, “dude I love your photos”. I love the community that comes to the concerts I work at. Good people. Thanks for treating me so well. I have to turn people down a lot at shows who want to take selfies because I can’t do it during the show – otherwise I would have to take pictures with everyone! In addition, the last thing I want is for the band on stage, that I work for, see me taking a selfie during their set, just seems like it would be very rude of me.
Hot topics in our industry still seem to revolve around unreasonable rights-grabbing contracts and the issues around hobbyists working for free. Has your opinion of the music photography industry changed over the last 18 months? Yes, it has changed. But not in regards to contracts. I still firmly believe that if you don’t like a contract, don’t sign it, and go home. I know in some cases they are very unfair – and then, maybe, yes it can’t be worth it to argue it. But 99% of the time it’s just a photographer being way too dramatic online. I always tell the people I am teaching photography: you are a photographer; your job isn’t as important as some people want to think it is. I don’t mean that in a degrading way, I think everyone’s job is important! But let’s be realistic here; if you don’t shoot the show, no one will notice, and no one will care. The artists don’t really need you. I follow one of the most socially active and successful bands online, 5SOS, and I don’t think they post professional photos… ever. It’s usually blah iPhone photos and stuff they find online. It works amazing for them. I am not saying don’t do music photography because no one cares, just know your place and don’t act too entitled. Sometimes I take issues like this and instead of trying to change them, I just try to change my ways.
We are in the entertainment industry and there’s always this kind of glossy cover over it that makes it feel more special, or more privileged than it really is. You could say the same for the artists and bands. At the end of the day we are all human – we have jobs to do, we get a kick out of it and then we go home. Agreed. Maybe photographers go through some sort of cycle. Often when I work with artists and they start out “small” and then grow to be quite “big”, I can tell when they go through this phase. A phase of “I have to act like a big band” is usually when artists get in trouble. Sometimes it’s public, sometimes it’s more on the backend, but eventually (and hopefully) they get a reality check at some point. We are all just trying to make a living and have a good time, no need to rough up other people along the way. The good ones eventually come back down to reality at some point and I try to meet them in the middle.
I honestly think it just comes down to the “power” people think they accumulate as they grow in popularity. I have seen this power used terribly too many times – to be honest, mostly by bands. You have the power to do so much good, yet you spend your time making security guards feel like bad people for doing their jobs or things like that. I just don’t get it. I tend to move on and not work with artists when they get to be too mean. It’s only a matter of time before they treat me not so great as well.
There is no escaping the fact that there are some extraordinary moments or times when you get a shot that makes your day, or your year – that then transcends over to your followers and people love it. That’s quite a thing isn’t it, which makes the job a bit more important than you might think. You’re not just a photographer when that happens. I agree. It makes giving my life to make sure someone else can remember theirs, worth it. I think it’s sad, but I have noticed my photos mean most to people when the person in them is no longer with us. I have lost a few touring friends now – Tyson from Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Mitch from Suicide Silence, Jeff, our sound guy with A Day To Remember, and just last week my good friend Gavi, who was Lindsey Stirling’s keyboard player. I come to terms with these losses by digging up all of my photos and videos of the person and turning them over to the family. The response from the family makes me realise how important photos are to people. It has changed how I approach photographing everyone I see on tour, not just the band.
I want to be around when people are experiencing pure happiness. Usually this means playing their biggest show yet in London, or a surprise small show in their hometown, or hanging out with them on their wedding day. I just want to be the guy they are comfortable with having around during these moments. I do think we should come back to this question again next time. This is just my opinion right now, and opinions change, so please remind me in a year or two. Deal?
When we last spoke you had strong opinions on the importance of networking and establishing long-standing relationships. Do you still believe this is the key to becoming a successful music photographer? If you want to tour with bands, then yes this is important to do with the bands. However, on the other end of the spectrum – let’s say you are shooting the first three songs, five times a week at a local venue – you probably have similar relationships with publicists, venue owners, security etc. I honestly think it’s key to anything in life. Networking gets you hired, not a college degree. Unless you want to be doctor, then please go to college.
Have you seen any difference in how music photographers work or go about their business these days? A lot faster. I love it. I think that most people shoot and turn around within a few hours of the show. Pretty rad. Photos faster. They really have to compete with cell phone photos because people just want the moment – they don’t honestly care how good the photo is. Of course a good photo is better, but a bad photo isn’t necessarily worse.
One of the things we touched on when we last spoke was that more and more bands are going to be wanting their own photographers instead of hiring various photographers on the road. Do you still believe this is the direction that music photography is going? Yea, I have seen it now. Almost every band has their own photographer now. I have been asked by several bands to do full tours and such and I have honestly just had to say no. It has become way too time consuming for me and I need to allow myself time to learn and grow. When you tour as a photographer you are basically getting paid to participate in someone else’s life. I mean, it is your life – but you do not get to make any of the decisions on what goes on. You just go with it. That has been a really hard thing for me to do for an extended period of time. I say give it another 2 years and every photographer will have their own photographer.
Has your photography style changed over time? What kind of photography styles are you really into these days? Yeah… it constantly changes. I am kind in a slump. Not a bad slump, just not super excited on anything. I am currently searching, or just shooting whatever feels good, mostly music but I want to start getting back into the studio more. I still love faces so much and I feel I haven’t really fully explored it. Shoots just make me really anxious so I am still working on that, or maybe they will always make me anxious. I used to be more in a rush to shoot and do more, now I am just kind of relaxing and spending a bit more time doing each thing I do. I feel I perform better when I am relaxed.
That’s interesting. Some people like to work under pressure. They get a kick out of the pressure and stepping up to the challenge. I guess it’s a creative, spontaneous thing – some people live off that. I’m surprised that you prefer to be relaxed – Is ‘Access All Areas’ Concert Photography honestly a relaxed environment? You make a good point. I mean, I guess it was very stressful at the start. It used to take me a few songs just to get over the fact I was shooting my favourite band from two feet away! Holy wow! I have not gotten used to all of the distractions and challenges of shooting a concert, it’s honestly very easy and, yes, very relaxing now. I wear earplugs, and when I hear a concert it sounds very similar to how my music sounds when I am wearing headphones and sitting in a coffee shop. I am actually doing that right now. It helps me enter this certain state of mind and relaxation where I can focus infinitely and do whatever I want. I have pretty bad ADHD, which I believe just helps me as a person to make sure that what I am doing is actually something I genuinely enjoy, because if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. Thank you ADHD for being my bullshit filter. But really, I love shooting live concerts. I feel very relaxed, excited and 100% focused the whole time. I do zone-out sometimes but that’s just because I feel so inspired – I get random thoughts jumping into my head at different times and sometimes I have to stop and think about them. Sometimes the bands make fun of me, or wave at me because they see me day dreaming.
Has anything surprised you about yourself over the last 18 months that you never thought you would say about yourself? I like to read. I have a girlfriend. I don’t think I want to tour forever. I am still bald. Honestly everything changes so much, it blows my mind. I am “getting older” now… Well, we all are, at the same exact rate, but honestly, just life impresses me every day. I am learning so much just by being home and doing my own thing every day instead of being on the road. I love being on the road, but I think it’s time to develop some other skillsets. I guess for about six years I just worked on photography and forgot about myself. Now I am working on myself and doing a bit of photography as well.
Sounds like becoming a teacher might be a thing for you in the future, Mr Elmakias? How does that sound? I’ll take it. I hope I can. I just want to make sure I am still learning as well as teaching. Please only refer to me as Mr Elmakias from now on.
What are you most enjoying these days – official portraits, backstage candid’s or live concerts? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know right now. Is that okay? I am just figuring it out again. Sometimes this happens.
That’s cool. Sometimes it’s okay not to know. That can be quite exciting in itself. I agree. I never really know where I will end up or where this job is going to take me. It kind of makes me nervous, but at the same time keeps it so interesting. Just when I think I have it on lock something internal, or maybe external – changes it up a bit. I just try to accept it and move wherever it takes me. My dreams aren’t stubborn, just open to interpretation at any given point.
Have you discovered any new hot photographers we should check out? Umm. I am bad in this realm. I have really been enjoying Josiah Van Dien, he does mostly video but he is on tour with Shawn Mendes and kills it. I love watching people’s paths. I always know that when someone’s early photography makes me feel kinda funny and off, but once they focus their style it’ll end up being amazing.
Mr Elmakias, thank you for your time yet again and sharing your photos with us. Until next time…
You can find out more about Adam by the following links:
- Website: adamelmakias.com
- Website: lensbracelet.com
- Twitter: @elmakias
- Facebook: facebook.com/adamelmakias
- Instagram: instagram.com/elmakias
- Google+: plus.google.com/
- YouTube: youtube.com/user/elmakias
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We have 3 copies of Adam’s new magazine to giveaway!
We are giving away 3 copies of YOUR MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHER MAGAZINE – Adam’s stunning new music photography magazine. To win, simply comment under this article and we will pick out three and will be in touch.
Offer ends 17th January 2016 and cannot be used with any other offer. Your details will not be sold onto any other third parties and you will not be contacted for any marketing or promotional purposes.