Photo by Julia Drummond
Dana Pacifico grew up in Long Island but made the move to New York City to begin her college career at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan. She graduated from college with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography in 2015 and since then has been dancing from photo pit to photo pit across hundreds of venues throughout New York City. We recently sat down to speak with the self-proclaimed mermaid, who has garnered the reputation as the “girl with colorful hair that dances in the photo pit”. Check out what she had to say in the interview below!
How long have you been doing photography? What originally drew you to it? Who are your influences currently?
There’s kind of two answers for this. If I think about it I was bringing disposables with me to pop concerts since I was a young kid but never thought anything of it. I hold dear a glossy 4×6 print of JC Chasez of *NSYNC that I took in 2001. If I locked it down to a specific moment – it was Oct 8th 2010 seeing Gorillaz at MSG. I said to myself “I want to be down there”. It was that feeling of transcendence with a group of people, the feeling of something much bigger than me, a spiritual awakening that didn’t involve any sort of “God” – I just knew that with my emotional bond to the live experience I would be able to bring a still image to life. From then on out I was bringing a 35mm film camera to every show I went to. Right now i’m mega influenced by Florence Welch. I love how vulnerable she allowed herself to be on her new album High As Hope and how she turns it into power and complete magic.
What is your favorite part about being a photographer? The worst part?
My favorite part is the community that comes with it. Through photography I’ve met many great and talented individuals. Its always a special night when I get to share a pit with friends. The worst part is is the lack of respect most music photographer have experienced from various sides. But, you just gotta brush that ish off. The good ALWAYS outweighs the bad.
The Glitch Mob
If you can remember, what was the first show you shot? And looking back, what advice would you give to your former self?
The first show I shot with proper credentials was James Blake at Terminal 5. I remember being nervous/excited and in shock that I was getting HIM as my first show. Looking back, the photos are pretty embarrassing but at the time I was proud of them. Though, that’s the beautiful part of the artistic journey – growth. I would probably tell myself to edit down the number of selects I provided for the post…why did I hand in like 5 of the same shot? LOL.
Out of all of the photos in your portfolio, which photo is your favorite and why?
That’s like choosing a favorite child! Probably a black and white of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s at Kings Theater. I was feeling kind of down about the way the set came out after I edited the photos. I’d been struggling with feeling like my work wasn’t good enough for a bit of time. It’s silly. But she posted it to her Instagram and getting that recognition from KO was like beYOND amazing and kickass and totally got me out of a photographic slump. I also think it’s my moms favorite photo of mine too.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Whether you need to go to college for photography in order to be a successful photographer has been a pretty big debate in the photo community for a while now. I was wondering what your thoughts are on that topic, since you went to school for Photography and how do you feel that studying photography has given you a “leg up” so to speak, if at all?
I do not think it’s necessary for some BUT for myself – it was the best thing I could’ve done. I thoroughly enjoyed art school because I was constantly around other massively creative people and you had to defend your work. It was tough showing concert photography to a bunch of fine art, fashion and portrait photographers – it was hard for them to critique it. I was persistent and didn’t mold my art to cater to anyone and they saw the passion behind that. Taking the art history courses put art everywhere into context and gave it a lineage so-to-speak, seeing styles evolve and shift with the passage of time and human touch. I think the leg up is when someone realizes that you’ve studied an art form – it’s like a cosign that you know what you’re doing, you know what you’re talking about and you’re looked at through an academic lens as well as a creative lens. But…what’s wild about art is you don’t have to be trained in order to have a vision and talent.
When shooting, what is your typical gear setup?
My typical setup is a 5dMII that’s about to die any second and a 24-70 f/2.8. I have a really cheap 70-300 $300 Canon lens that has served me so well for many years. That long lens is a testament to the statement that GEAR DON’T MATTER – its the photographer behind it all.
Color and light are two elements, to me, that play the most prominent role in your images. When shooting, are you conscious of light and color or is it something that you just kind of always manage to do? In other words, do you actively seek out the interesting lighting and do you purposely edit your photos to be super colorful or do you have to do minimal editing because finding those angles/lights/colors come natural?
I think I am aware to a certain extent but i’m just doing what feels natural. Blues and purples are my favorite colors especially when used together so that helps when shooting and editing. I’m drawn to dramatic/moody lighting and also blowing out the background so it separates the subject. My editing is quite minimal, I like to think. I have a personalized filter that I made to get the colors how I want them so I can batch apply when I’ve made selects and do minor tweaks as necessary.
This question is another one of those questions that I ask everyone, do you prefer shooting shows in clubs/venues or at festivals and why?
It’s a tough question but I enjoy festivals more. They’re long and grueling but getting a bunch of acts packed into a few days & light change from daylight to night life is perfection. Plus, all of the little sprinkles of magic in a festival crowd while walking from stage to stage is pretty special.
What advice do you have for up and coming photographers?
Find an outlet that you like and reach out to shoot. Accept the fact that you wont be paid – it helps you get a foot in the door and your name out there for other people to see your work. The key is to not let any amount of money or lack of money ruin your passion behind it!!! Don’t let someone else expensive gear intimidate you or let anyone speak down to you about your gear – they’re just trying to over compensate for their lack of talent. Also, mega tip, Facebook is a great place to find a bands press contact to request coverage.