Art & Photography / In Pictures

Pooneh Ghana: With the Band

The prolific music photographer reveals the stories behind her most treasured polaroids

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Pooneh Ghana
Courtesy of Pooneh Ghana

Pooneh Ghana is a bright young Texan photographer whose career sends her whizzing around the globe to photograph the most coveted of subjects: bands. With a guaranteed AAA pass no matter which festival, concert or exclusive recording session she visits, her talent for capturing the personalities of the famous and the damned comes not from her ability to get to the backstage areas most people could only dream of, but her ability to befriend the musicians well enough to get a truly candid shot.

From heated dressing room pile-ups, to ambient afternoon songwriting and larking about in plush hotel suites, Ghana and her camera are led by some of the world’s most adored musicians into bacchanalian scenes of excess and grit. That said, she’s there to capture the more mundane moments too: the overnight car journeys, the tired service station meals and endless waiting around that comes with going on tour.

In addition to composed band portraits and sleeve-worthy shots, Ghana's famed for her knack with a Polaroid camera. Her casual collection of one-off snaps includes the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Beth Ditto, Mac Demarco and Debbie Harry among others, all striking a funny pose or waving happily at her and her camera – something only photographers truly respected by their subjects can achieve. Here, Ghana reveals the stories behind some of her standout shots.

Jeff The Brotherhood
"I shot this a few months back while doing some new press shots for these total dudes, who I’ve known forever (since I was 17). I recently got a bunch of Future Eyes glasses at Psych Fest and thought I’d experiment. I wasn't really sure how it would come out in a polaroid but I really dug the result. This one is actually going to be used as a cover for one of their upcoming Record Store Day releases!"

Jarvis Cocker
"A classic Jarvis waving at the camera shot. I snapped this at one of the Blur Hyde Park reunion shows in 2009, so still in the very early phases of my photography career. I wasn’t really even a professional photographer at the time, but was shooting a lot of band polaroids for fun and posting them on flickr. This was one of my first shots that really blew up. But yeah, Jarvis was standing right in front of me and at the time I figured this is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. So I asked him for a photo."

Beth Ditto
"This was taken back in 2009 outside the old Emo’s in Austin (RIP). Beth came out right after their set and was immediately swarmed by fans. She was super rad and took the time to sign autographs and take pictures with everyone. I snapped this one super quick in between all the madness."

Courtney Barnett
"This one was also snapped recently at Sasquatch Festival in May. I was doing portraits with Courtney for a magazine feature, so I initially took her by this fence and snapped a bunch of photos on my digital camera. At the end I snapped a quick polaroid (she’s also working with Impossible Project so she seemed excited about snapping a polaroid) and this one shot came out better than any of the other ones I took on my DSLR. I ended up using this one instead."

Dev Hynes
"This was at SXSW back in March 2012, at one of my favourite venues in the world - Mohawk in Austin. Dev was just chilling by a staircase (he played a set as Blood Orange there earlier) and I asked for a quick portrait. It was also really hot that day and I wasn’t protecting my film as well as I could have and it obviously got heat damaged. But it turned out looking kinda cool."

Mac Demarco
"Mac, as I’m sure many, many music photographers would say, is one of my favourite people to shoot. He needs no direction, is up for anything, and is ridiculously photogenic in his own weird way. His personality is so unique and he’s really good at expressing that in a photo. This polaroid was shot in the bathroom of a porto-o-cabin at Austin Psych Fest. Because why not? His gap tooth in full show. It’s just a very Mac photo. This one and the Courtney Barnett polaroid are two of my personal favourites."

You can catch the rest of Ghana's Polaroids on show in Move Fast attheprintspace until August 19.

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