Backstage, Onstage and in the Studio with Music Photographer Jesse Lirola
To see more of Jesse’s photos, check out @jesselirola on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.
Jesse Lirola (@jesselirola) was just trying to get out of the photo pit.
“I had a couple mentors at that point in my life,” says the Chicago-based music photographer. “And they would get backstage. They would get onstage. I’d see them up there and I’d be like, ‘F—. This sucks. I’m stuck here. I can’t get there. How do I get there?’”
At that point, Jesse was just starting out as a music photographer. He had already learned the tools of the trade, first from his parents, who met at a New York City movie theater in 1978 (they spotted each other because they were both wearing Leicas around their necks), and later from folks he ran into while doing video production work. Much of it, though, was self-taught.
“I started using Photoshop and after that I talked to my dad about it and I’m like, ‘What the hell? I’ve got all these great photos, but they’re with a two-megapixel camera. Why doesn’t he say something?’” says Jesse. “And he’s like, ‘You know, if I would have said something, you wouldn’t have wanted to listen. And you got to figure it out for yourself.’”
Good advice, Pops. Jesse eventually figured a lot of things on his own, including how to get backstage to take more candid photos of the artists he admired. By making connections with managers and musicians, Jesse would get an artist pass, which essentially gave him free reign to shoot wherever he pleased. (“I just got frustrated with being confined,” he says.) That’s how he managed to capture some of his most memorable work, including that melted portrait above of Travis Scott.
“I had an apartment super close to the Fader Fort [at SXSW] and I was shooting Polaroids all week and would bring them back and set them on the counter,” says Jesse. “The ones I brought on the last day were still wet. After eight days of no sleep my brain wasn’t quite what it should’ve been. I was like ‘Oh it’s wet, I should put it in the microwave.’ I kinda knew something would happen. I put it in for a minute and pushed start and the thing just burst into flames.”
You can check out more of Jesse’s work — microwaved and otherwise — over at @jesselirola.