Unforgettable Moments Backstage: 5 Music Photographers Share Their Favorite Memories on the Job

Unforgettable Moments Backstage: 5 Music Photographers Share Their Favorite Memories on the Job

If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know how addicting live music can be – that moment when your favorite band finally takes the stage is always a rush. For these five music photographers from The List, live music is just part of the job, but read their favorite memories below to see why that rush never gets old. These photographers really love what they do.

Feature photo by Brandon Nagy

Violeta Alvarez

“I consider myself to have a great eye for detail, self-motivated, good communicator, strong work ethic, ability to troubleshoot and meet deadlines. Capturing the sense of emotion, electrifying moments and documenting musicians gives me a state of high gratification and fulfillment.”

Favorite photo gig memory:
“I have many anecdotes from Chris Stapleton to Dwarves to Metallica, however it was my experience photographing the Slayer show at Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2013, which tops them all.

It was the final night of the festival, and Slayer was the last band to play. Every photographer there was anxious to photograph them. Not all made it into the photo pit that night, but I did. We were packed tightly up against each other, and security was worried about us getting crushed when the band hit the stage. The crowd began pushing and shoving towards the front of the barricade, and it seemed as if it was going to collapse. When Slayer made it onstage, I felt my insides and eardrums vibrating so hard that they felt as if they would explode. I was so caught up in the moment and getting my shots of them, that I was ignoring getting kicked in the head and being trampled by stage drivers.

Having no way out once they dove, the stage divers were pulled in and stuck with us photographers in the photo pit. At one point the crowd guided a stage diver who was in a wheelchair towards the side of the photo pit. It was definitely an intense moment for everyone – security, fans, and photographers.

In the end, we all got out safely, I still had my hearing, and had experienced a killer show.”

Primary location: Houston, TX and New York, NY
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Photo by Violeta Alvarez


Jody Domingue

“I shoot because I see. I’ve had something to say for as long as I can remember. I intersect lighting, technique and composition whether documenting a moment that is happening in real time or creating a story plot that involves planning.”

Favorite photo gig memory:
“I’ve had many amazing moments backstage but one time that stands out the most is when I met and photographed Charlie Daniels at Stagecoach on his vintage bus. He and I bonded over all things Texas for about 30 minutes. Then he personally invited me to photograph his set which ended up being one of the biggest highlights of my career. That night the Devil did go to Georgia.”

Primary location: Austin, TX and Nashville, TN
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Photo by Jody Domingue


Kyle Gustafson

“I’m a self-taught photographer that went from shooting my first concert with my first DSLR (a Canon Rebel XT) to freelancing for the Washington Post in under three years. Seven years later and I’m still in the club each week, on assignment, waiting for the house lights to go down. I always get the shot.”

Primary location: Washington, DC
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Photo by Kyle Gustafson


Brandon Nagy

“I capture stellar portraits of stellar people. My work includes a sharp sense of composition, color, emotion, energy and story. These are skills I’ve honed while also working as an illustrator, graphic designer and art director. Whatever the client needs is within the realm of storytelling through art.”

Favorite photo gig memory:
“A few years ago I had the opportunity to photograph KISS at their sold-out Detroit concert. This was one of the biggest shows I’ve ever covered and it was only a couple of weeks after I got started with concert photography. I had been working as a photographer at iHeart during the day and periodically covering some concerts, but an opportunity to work at a KISS show? Unbelievable.

This would be my second time seeing KISS in concert. I felt like I wasn’t worthy to be there – I was a newbie, surrounded by seasoned professionals, but I was determined not to fail. I’ve photographed other concerts before, but this time it was different. This was a really big show, and I was distracted. The butterflies in my stomach ate at me as I waited for what seemed like eternity for the giant three story KISS curtain to be lifted. Then suddenly the house lights went dark and the speakers thundered, “You wanted the best, you got the best!”

Fireworks lit the place up and Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer appeared on stage with Eric Singer in back on his drums. Show time! …And time for me to get to work.

As the first song erupted through the venue speakers and crowd cheered all of the anxiety I was feeling disappeared and a massive surge of adrenaline took over. I needed to prove I was worthy to be there, and I was determined to get some great photos of KISS.

The experience was surreal and like everyone watching the concert, the energy was easy to get swept up in. Yet somehow, among all the excitement I was able to stay calm, focused, and do my job. Once the show was over, I couldn’t wait to do it again. And again. And again. Up to this point concert photography was just a hobby for me, but the KISS show left me completely addicted.”

Primary location: Detroit, MI
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Photo by Brandon Nagy


Todd Spoth

“Whether it’s a former Secretary of State or Drake, we know how to make everyone involved comfortable, not just the talent. In the past decade I have made friends all over the world through the trade of photography, getting to see, hear, and feel things that would have never been possible otherwise.”

Favorite photo gig memory:
Drake came back to Houston in 2014 for his very first HAW (Houston Appreciation Weekend), and I was thankful to be right there for the majority of the events. There were opportunities to make unique images of Drake and his guests playing basketball, at a pop up shop and at other community events, however, his return performance at Warehouse Live in Houston was the weekend’s climax. One of his first shows years prior was at the venue and coming back to play the small venue was definitely on the agenda. The place was packed and 100% of the tickets were given away to folks that had volunteered their time to the weekend’s community service events. You couldn’t even buy a ticket. No photographers were allowed in outside of his personal team. Just when all hope of making photos from inside seemed lost, I hear, “Todd, what are you doing out here? Come in with us!” from a friend who was part of the large contingent of folks affiliated with the legendary Rap A Lot Records approaching the back entrance. Needless to say, I walked in with the crew and was one of the only photographers able to make real images from inside that epic performance. It definitely pays to be in the right place at the right time. I’m thankful that working in this industry has taught me to look for that right place, and be there when it counts.

Primary location: Houston, Texas
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Photo by Todd Spoth


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