The reason concerts are so special is that they happen in a fleeting moment of time. You were either there or you weren’t. Sure, you could listen to a live album or, if you happen to be from a certain crunchy generation, you can trade bootleg tapes with other fans. But these recordings never capture the energy in the room. The only thing that can come close is a dynamic photograph.
Few people have an eye for that perfect shot like Erica Lauren. Lauren grew up shooting with a disposable from the pit at punk shows, and you can feel that energy (and smell the sweat) when you look at her work. We spoke with her about the music that inspires her, the collective of female artists she founded, and the perfect Side 1, Track 1.
How did you first get into photography?
My relationship with photography started in high school. I took an art class that taught how to process film and the technical aspects of using a camera. So before I started shooting music, and way before I picked up a digital camera, I was taking pictures on disposable and film cameras every day, documenting my friends and family. From there I started bringing my camera with me to all the shows I went to.
What drew you to concert/band photography?
Being a music fan is why I was drawn to music photography. Punk music especially has been a huge part of my life since I was 12 or 13. I would read books about different scenes and bands I liked and they all had these iconic images from photographers like Edward Colver, Roberta Bayley, Jim Marshall, BJ Papas, etc. Their photographs inspired me to keep making music-related work.
How did you get into music?
Was there an album or song that ignited your passion? The Unseen's “Anger and the Truth” was a stand-out album for me. Before that I passively listened to Ramones, The Clash, Minor Threat and I think it was that record that opened my eyes to bands that were active and touching on relevant political issues.
What’s your all-time favorite Side 1, Track 1?
This is hard to pick, but I'll go with "Maxwell Murder" from Rancid's “...And Out Come the Wolves.” For nostalgia, and also I just still really love Rancid.
What was the first concert you shot for fun? What was the first concert you shot as a pro?
The first show I remember photographing for fun was The Virus with A Global Threat at the Glasshouse in Pomona. The first show I photographed for a site was Billy Talent and Thursday.
Explain to us what makes a great concert photograph.
I’m sure there are elements that stick out in your mind that let you know a shot is going to be great even before you take it. In my opinion, a great photo will make you feel something. A great concert photograph, to me, makes me want to be back in the pit—whether it’s a concert in an arena or a more intimate show. The way light hits, fan reaction and connection with the music, the expression of the band performing, all of those pieces make a photo powerful. It all comes down to feeling and evoking an emotion.
Who is your favorite band to shoot and why?
This answer is constantly changing for me. I think my favorite band to shoot right now is whoever I photograph for the first time post-COVID.
What is your all-time favorite concert venue to shoot at and why?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles so I feel pretty loyal to all of the local ones I frequent. From The Regent and The Troubadour to The Fonda and The Wiltern. I am pretty fond of all of them, and especially hope our independently owned music venues pull through this pandemic.
What’s the one band you haven’t had the opportunity to shoot that you really, really want to?
Ghost. I think they'd be a lot of fun to photograph.
Tell us about To The Front and how that all came together?
I co-founded To The Front with my friend and photographer Courtney Coles. It started as a small photo show at a gallery here in Los Angeles and has since turned into a collective of women and non-binary artists (graphic designers, photographers, illustrators and more) who work in music, all from different scenes and parts of the world. Primarily we held traveling art shows across America and Canada where we'd showcase and sell our work, have bands play, and raise donations for local charities. Since we can't travel right now we released our first book to benefit a local community center. It sold out in just a few days.We have about 50 other artists who are a part of To The Front now, and we're working on continuing to grow. To The Front exists to promote representation and inclusion within the music industry.
How badly do you want to be able to shoot a concert again? Or just go to one, for that matter?
Very badly. Not only for my own selfish reasons of wanting to just enjoy live music and take pictures but also to see my touring friends and peers employed again.