Many people dream of standing front row at their favorite musician’s concert, living through the emotions of their favorite record, or even helming a brief interaction on stage. New York-based photographer Megan Clark turned her love for the art of music into a full-blown career, documenting the formative years of artists alike.
The photographer—who briefly highlights her multi-colored nails and bright pink hair—frequently uses color in her favor, creating imagery that boasts a hypnotic sense of motion, light, and occasion in every frame. Saturation and motion blur motifs often aid in capturing the core essence of artistry and the live performance experience she originally fell in love with. Thus far, Megan has worked closely with musicians such as Tinashe, MisterWives, The Driver Era, and Chelsea Jade to name a few.
“I’ve been getting into animation and all that so I think that would be a really fun part of photography to explore but I don’t know, I’m only 21 right now I’m just having fun touring with bands every month and getting to see the world all while getting paid to do it,” Megan says. “For right now I’d just love to work with Taylor Swift in any capacity. I’d even be her footstool if she needed one.”
Below, we chat with Megan about her introduction to photography, career highlights while on the road, using social media as leverage, and more. Read on to learn more about the photographer.
To begin with, could you tell me about your first encounter with a camera and how you began taking pictures?
I actually didn’t have a normal passion for photography in the beginning of my career. I don’t know what the “typical” route is that most photographers take after getting their first camera, but in all honesty, I just really wanted to go to concerts for free. I was going to 1-3 concerts a week in high school and that got really expensive really quickly.
Especially because the artists I was seeing were the likes of Ariana Grande and those tickets are not $35 like a local band, you know what I’m saying. I was in the front rows at these massive concerts because my friends and I would camp out for shows and I would always see the photographers in the photo pit and I was like “I wonder how they get in there. I wonder how that works.” I did some research and bought myself a camera so that I could start reaching out to smaller artists and work my way up and get into bigger concerts for free. The idea I had evidently worked as I now get to tour in these crazy big venues and landmark places, but the process also sparked a big passion for me and is now my full-time career.
You’ve captured the likes of The Driver Era, MisterWives, Harry Styles, and many more performing—are there any shows that stuck out to you, especially in terms of production?
This answer could go in so many different directions. For example, the energy at Harry Styles shows are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Him and Taylor Swift have such an incredible presence on stage that is really well translated back to their fans. They both have a similar audience who just wants to go and enjoy live music and dance with strangers in the pit. In terms of production itself, I think Tinashe puts on a really good show. She has dancers onstage with her and I think that always elevates a concert to more of a performance rather than just an artist with a guitar alone onstage, which is great in its own way — don’t get me wrong. It’s an intimate setting and I love that for certain show atmospheres.
I think it’s unfortunate that smaller and independent artists don’t have the record label money and budget that bigger artists do so their production itself might not be the most show-stopping with fireworks and laser shows, but there’s also a community feeling in going to see an artist with 500 or so other people in the audience. In my opinion, those smaller gigs without the crazy stage designs are more special because you’re watching the band at the beginning of their career, which I think it’s really cool.
Last year, you also spent a good bit of time capturing Tinashe on tour for her 333 album. Do you have any memories from the show run that stuck with you?
Whenever you work with someone new — in this case, it was a whole new team — I didn’t know anyone on Tinashe or the opening act‘s touring team so I was really going into it blind. When you’re spending every second of every day with this new group of people, of course, it’s terrifying to think that maybe they’re not nice or maybe they just don’t like to have fun, you know, but that was totally not the case on this tour. Right off the bat Tinashe and her whole crew were incredibly welcoming to me and the opener. We all went clubbing together in Chicago one night after a show, which was really fun. Tinashe‘s whole camp is also very family oriented. Her brother runs her merch for her on tour and her dad had actually come clubbing with us. It was just a really great environment overall.
Equipment-wise, what are some of your concert and photography essentials? Do you think that you necessarily need to have an expensive camera to take good photos?
Some of my favorite photos I’ve taken of artists are on a cheap little point-and-shoot camera or a film camera that I either inherited from my Grandpa or I thrifted for five dollars. Equipment doesn’t matter as much as people think it does. It’s more so knowing how to use what you already have. My photos tend to lean to the more over-edited and altered reality side of photography so it doesn’t matter what my starting image looks like because I heavily edit in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to bring my vision to life.
I definitely think it’s essential that everyone invests in a good hard drive. I prefer the Lacie hard drives when I’m on the road. They’re sturdy. I never have any problems with them crashing or anything. I’m also very loyal to Sigma camera lenses. I started out using Canon lenses on my Canon camera mount but quickly made the switch to Sigma because there’s just something about a Sigma prime lens that I fell in love with.
Having an understanding of competitive the industry can be, what advice would you give to other photographers in regards to navigating spaces like venues and festivals?
Festivals are definitely a challenge to break into if you don’t already know the artist or publications or the festival team themself. I would say it’s easier to get a festival photo pass or press pass or an artist pass if you go directly through an artist or you work for a big publication. So many festivals have small media lists so if you’re shooting for maybe like a local paper or your college magazine, festivals can’t accommodate your request because companies like Vogue and Alt Press fly out photographers to capture these moments. Smaller requests are not usually granted so I would definitely say to try and find an artist that you like and they like your work, latch onto their creative team and you both grow from that. That would probably be the easiest way to break into the festival coverage industry.
In the past, you mentioned your opposition to black and white, can you talk bout the emphasis of color in your work and how it’s often used to express emotion?
It’s actually funny— the comment that I’m pretty sure you’re referring to was a joke saying, “I’d rather die than be a black-and-white photographer,” but someone else just mentioned that caption of mine to me the other day. I edit black-and-white photos occasionally but I really just love rainbows and all things bright. My nails are literally always rainbow-painted. My hair is bright pink. There’s something so eye-catching about a vibrant color story that I just gravitate towards. And I think a lot of people do too because most of the comments on my work say how much they visually enjoy my use of color.
Shifting the conversation slightly, what do you think about the current state of photography? We’re in a time where the art of taking photos has seemingly become oversaturated although now, more than ever, photographers such as yourself have the ability to cultivate mass followings on social media and spread their work in several different mediums.
I like to think the more the merrier in this industry. Obviously, by saying that I’m also inviting more competition and more people potentially taking clients from me or someone else getting bigger on social media for photography and I understand that, but that’s also just the name of the game. I think if you have a passion for something it doesn’t matter the size of the following you have on social media but it sure as hell helps. I can’t tell you how many gigs I’ve been offered by people who’ve seen my work on TikTok.
I now have working relationships with Vevo and Columbia Records for the past year because one of their artist’s managers found my TikTok and was like, “Oh, we need to have her at this music video shoot.” I also then went on tour with that artist shortly after. It’s so interesting to see how social media has changed the way freelancers work. Because of social media artist managers and record labels are looking at what else you bring to the table besides just photos. They expect you to film TikToks for the band. They expect you to monitor fan interaction and engagement online. I also love to do all of that so it’s not a big shift for me but I think photographers who are just starting out in this industry need to be wary of the fine print in the offers they’re receiving.
If you’re expected to do all these things in addition to photography, you also should expect bigger pay. Social media content is an entirely different job and you need to make sure you’re compensated for all aspects of what these musicians ask you to do.
Bringing things to a close, do you have a bucket list of artists you are hoping to shoot in the near future? Even beyond music, is there any interest in transcending into other spaces like fashion or elsewhere given your past work with brands like OGBFF and Dolls Kill?
I started getting into the fashion photography and the portrait world when the pandemic hit because obviously there were no concerts for me to keep working. I did develop a love for the more edited and over-the-top photos that I’ve done, but I will say my passion is still in live music photography. I definitely could see myself doing something like maybe an online campaign for a brand someday. I’m definitely not the person you wanna hire for e-commerce photos but if a brand ever wanted on a social media campaign or anything like that I think I could knock that out of the park and make it very successful.
I’ve been getting into animation and all that so I think that would be a really fun part of photography to explore but I don’t know I’m only 21 right now I’m just having fun touring with bands every month and getting to see the world all while getting paid to do it. Maybe if I want a more stable life in a couple of years I’ll dive into the fashion editorial world more. For right now I’d just love to work with Taylor Swift in any capacity. I’d even be her footstool if she needed one. So if anyone knows the contact info for Taylor Swift please let me know, thank you.
Elsewhere in photography, Callum Walker Hutchinson gravitates toward people who aren’t afraid to let their personalities shine.