From slinging merch on Warped Tour in 2010 to touring around the world with acts like Big Sean, All Time Low, Pierce The Veil, and Mayday Parade, Tom Falcone has made a name for himself in the industry through his unique eye, specific styles, and individuality. In the midst of his hectic year of touring, editor Rachael Dowd caught up with Tom and he gave an inside look on how he managed to build his career over the past six years and shared some valuable advice all photographers in the industry can learn from.
|When did you start showing an interest in photography?
I grew up listening to music, going to small concerts in New York and would occasionally travel to New Jersey to see small shows. I didn’t think anything of taking photos until I saw some concert photographers when I decided to bring my mom’s point and shoot camera to a couple concerts. I, then, started to invest in equipment and teach myself photography around the age of 16 or 17, slowly..very slowly (haha).
How would you describe your shooting style?
At this point of my career, I really think that my style is different for all of my clients. My website has about 6 “books” (portfolios) on it which are all completely different I believe. I try to cater to the brand and style of the artist lately, unlike years ago where all my work was extremely candid. I find myself doing more “photo shoots” with my artists now then anything. RL Grime is a EDM/DJ that I have randomly photographed since 2014 and plays bigger shows/festivals (Coachella, EDC) and his brand is all silhouetted, very punchy lights, no portraits. Another artist I was just hired by (May 2016) was Big Sean (hip hop artist) who is very color punchy and loves doing portraits and experimenting with his fashion. There are a few more artists I work with that are strictly candid. It’s confusing, but keeps me shooting new styles and doesn’t bore me.
What gear do you typically shoot with?
Lately, I’ve been stuck on Canon 5D mk 3 with Sigma Art lenses. I have 20mm art, 50mm art and for live shows, I’ll sometimes throw 85mm on there along with a 70-200mm (Canon lens). I did go through a phase using a Fujifilm X100S, and I mentioned to Big Sean I may want to do a disposable camera project with him next year.
What was the first tour you were ever on and how do you think you have grown as a photographer since then?
Not sure if you consider it a tour, but I went out to take photos of a band called Anarbor in 2010 on the Take Action Tour for three days. Then, I did Warped Tour 2010 selling merch for We Are The In Crowd. Both of those were not very photo driven as I expected those to be “connection” tours for me. It worked? Then, I met a few people who connected me with Mayday Parade where I became their photographer for about four years. My first few tours with MP were really just shooting and learning about tour in general. I didn’t know how to tour, to always have my camera on me, what the band wanted or anything. I learned the lighter you travel with gear, the better. I used to always use wireless strobes during the live shows because there was slight production. Now I always work with what I have. Experimenting was different when I first started though because I didn’t know much about branding or style. My work was all over the place at first.
You have photographed a number of bands over the years, is there a band or artist that you particularly enjoy photographing the most or have some of your favorite images of? If so, who and why?
I take my new favorite images almost every tour. It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite images. There are images that have incredible stories to them. Sad stories, happy stories, remembering that time and place in my life with that certain person I took the photo of. I can remember anything about a photo. If you go through my hard drives, you can pick anything and I’ll maybe even tell you what our conversation was when we hanging out taking photos that second. Every image is an incredible memory that I’ll always have.
Out of your portfolio, what photograph are you the most proud of and what is the story behind it?
Like I said, I’m not sure if I can pinpoint a specific single image. Maybe a full tour, or a series of images. Right now, I’m really attached on my series with Big Sean. I am really proud of the work that we’ve been shooting and he is really creative when we shoot too. I like when artists say stuff like, “let’s take a walk”, “I don’t like this” or “what about this, just try it, maybe without flash”. It’s fun to see how he thinks and we collab coming from two completely different backgrounds of art yet make great work.
As a photographer who is very familiar with touring, what are the do’s and don’ts photographers looking to begin touring should be aware of?
Photographers are hired and expected to be with the artist, the boss, at all times of the day minus quiet periods. Don’t be punishing, annoying, too pushy on your work. When I was hired with Sean the first couple days, I really tried to get to know him and his schedule. When it was a good time to shoot, not shoot etc. One “DO”: always have your camera ready for what you’re about to do. Even if it means having to bring a flash everywhere you go. The worst thing you would want is to say, “I don’t have my camera on me”. Been there when I was younger, was not a good look.
What does a typical day on the road look like for you? Do you plan out editing time, what does that time look like, do you set deadlines, etc.?
Not really a typical day besides always making sure the images are edited and uploaded on the Dropbox before they are awake. Some days, I do a mid day edit/upload because there usually is a “quiet time” period where people rest. There is never a set “office space” for me or my gear, so all of this is on the go. Sometimes on planes, buses, on floors (haha).
As a photographer who is very active on his social media accounts, what importance do you feel social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram hold in your career and the career of photographers around the world?
Lately, my Instagram are my images. I try to really only publish stuff about photography on my socials as well, or music actually. It’s the easiest source to get my work out there, show people what I do. I’m not one to brand myself as a photographer, you’ll rarely see photos of myself (sorry). I have gotten jobs because of my Instagram, DM’s from companies asking for images on Instagram, it’s funny, but true. I am trying to find a photographer for a band I work with and they just reference their Instagram. It is an easy platform that people are used to visiting.
What is the best advice you would give to a young aspiring photographer who is looking to start building a portfolio?
Just shoot anything and put it on the Internet. Brand yourself with your favorite bands or artists. Find friends who take photos and take photos with them. That’s how it all starts, just like music. You’ll meet some of your best friends and learn from them, too.
Portrait of Tom by Adam Elmakias
Interview by Rachael Dowd