After discovering his passion for photography back in high school, New York-based photographer Taylor Rambo has spent the past year on the road with Seaway as their tour photographer. We caught up with Taylor and he opened up about life on the road, why not following the rules is sometimes the best thing photographers can do, and what he has planned for 2017.
When did you first start showing an interest in photography?
I was just starting high school when I first got into photography. I took a basic film photo class that year and really enjoyed it. I felt like I was learning this new way to make art. Around that same time, I fell in love with going to shows and playing in local bands. I got a camera for Christmas that next year and started bringing it everywhere. Especially shows. It was awesome being able to blend my two passions. Over the next few years, it only grew from there.
What was the first show you ever photographed and looking back, is there anything you would have wanted to change or wish you had done?
The first major show I photographed that I can recall was I See Stars, We Came As Romans and Versa Emerge in Rochester, NY. The band I was in at the time opened so I got permission from the promoter and bands to photograph a bit of the show. Since I was new, I did a lot of things I wish I hadn’t. Used a lot of flash, got too close or was in the way. I wish I had been more aware of those rules and conduct. I also barely did anything with the images for whatever reason. I suppose it was a live and learn type thing. It definitely left me wanting more of that.
Throughout the years, who has been your favorite act to photograph and why?
So many great ones to choose from. I like many different bands and artists for different reasons. I got to photograph twenty-one pilots at the beginning of last summer and that was such a great show. Everyone always talks about them being this fun act to photograph and I finally understood why. They put on this immensely entertaining show with so many elements. All with just 2 guys. I enjoyed photographing that experience.
If we were to open up your camera bag right now, what gear and equipment would we find?
Right now, you would find a Canon 6D and a Canon 5D Mark iii for camera bodies. My Sigma 35mm is my go to for most things, but I also have a Canon 24-70 and Rokinon 14mm that I use frequently as well.
You spent some time this past year on tour with Seaway! What do you like most about touring and what did a typical day on the road look like for you?
I’ve always loved traveling so getting to tour has been the perfect chance for that. I’m all about seeing new places and meeting new people. You can gain such a different and unique perspective from traveling that way. It was also a cool way to test and challenge myself. Photographing the same show and people all the time can get repetitive so it becomes about experimenting and trying to get something new each time.
Typical day usually involves getting up and grabbing breakfast (usually Taco Bell) and then driving to the venue. If we get there early enough I like to explore a bit, but sometimes I won’t have time so I’ll just find a spot in the green room to set up my stuff. Then, it’s just hanging with everyone trying to capture those moments. Then, of course, the show and straight to editing afterwards. I always try and get my work edited and out before I go to sleep so I try and get a jump on this as soon as I can. Then we all pack up and head out to get food and sleep.
As an experienced tour photographer, what are some do’s and don’ts you feel photographers should know before hopping on a tour?
Organization is huge. Keep all your gear organized and safe. Organize all your files and folders so the editing process goes smoothly. Do some research beforehand on some of the venues or other bands on tour so you have an idea of what to expect. It can take some time to get into the rhythm of things, but once you do it’s all good from there on out.
Out of your portfolio, if you had to pick one photograph as being your favorite, which would it be and what is the story behind it?
There’s this black and white image of Knuckle Puck that I took last year at So What Fest. I got a last minute opportunity to work that fest with the video crew so I headed to Texas unsure of what to expect. It was a really exciting weekend that I loved being a part of. I got to see so many people I hadn’t seen in awhile. The KP dudes being some of them. It’s one of those photographs where everything worked perfectly. Joe is jumping, Nick has his guitar raised, John with his sticks up. The dust and smoke created this otherworldly feel on the stage. It felt so good capturing that moment. It made me realize how fortunate I was to be there with these great people in this exciting environment.
In your opinion, what elements make for a good live shot or portrait?
This is tough because to me every shot is different and doesn’t always fall under certain rules or aspects that make it good. Everyone’s got their own style and certain things work differently for different situations. For me, the live shot is all about the moment and the energy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a high energy crazy shot. Just something that shows us a unique side of things. It captures that whether it’s a huge show defining moment or a quiet emotional shot in between the action.
As an artist who is pretty active on his social media accounts, do you feel as though social media platforms have helped your career in any way? If so, how?
I do believe they have. Social media has become almost essential in building a brand or audience. You can reach so many people and connect in ways like never before. It’s definitely been huge for me in building a following and getting my work out there to people who might not normally come across it. It serves as a portfolio in itself and whether its potential clients, other photographers or someone who likes the work, people notice social media. It’s definitely helped me in that sense.
As 2017 continues on, are there any bands you are hoping to photograph this year or projects you are working on you can tell us about?
2017 I’m trying to shift into doing more personal projects while still touring and doing my work with music photography. It can be easy to fall into that flow and not give yourself enough time or energy for other projects. I want to expand my work by trying different things. Honestly I’d love to work more with hip hop and rap artists this year. I’ve done it a few times and it’s such a different feel than a full band and I’d love to explore that further this year.
Is there any advice you could give to aspiring photographers out there who are looking to start building their portfolios?
Always be shooting. Even if it’s small, it’s helping you build your style and figure out what works. Never be afraid to ask for constructive criticism. Do research on different techniques or your gear. Experiment and try new things. Talk to other photographers. I’ve learned so much from the other photographers I’ve met. It’s nice and helpful having that other creative perspective.
Interview by Rachael Dowd
Photo of Taylor by Casey Catlin