Meet our artist of the month, NYC video producer and photographer Chelsea Pineda. Chelsea specializes in portraiture-stye concert photography, capturing the intimate details sometimes lost during a live show. Chelsea's approach to her subjects channels her attraction to the medium, creating a piece of art that not only makes your stop to look, but feel, "entirely present amidst the chaos."
Read our interview with Chelsea as she talks about her style, challenges, gear, and inspirations in her own words. Find more of Chelsea's work on her website, chelseapineda.com, and for daily musings, follow @chelspineda on Instagram, and @ChelsPineda on Twitter.
All photos by Chelsea Pineda.
Photo by Jonathan Gulo.
Who are you and what do you do?
What’s up! I’m Chelsea Pineda. I’m a video producer by day, and a photographer by every other free minute I have. I focus on music, portraiture, and documentary photography. Oh, and I’m based in New York City!
When did you know you wanted to become a photographer? How did you get your start?
I was always interested in video first, and focused on that since I was in high school. I was creating videos for classes, internships, and personal projects. But, when I got hired for my first full time video production job and moved to New York less than two years ago, I wanted to spend my free time trying something new. I had always heard that practicing photography can improve your video skills, and vice versa. So, I changed the settings on my camera from video to photo and I haven’t stopped since.
Are you formally trained? Have you had any mentors along the way?
It’s weird to say but I’m definitely a child of the digital age, as I would say the biggest “teacher” for me when it comes to photo is the internet. I taught and continue to teach myself through articles, videos, podcasts, looking at other photographers’ work, and a hell of a lot of practice and experimentation.
I had a boss in college when I started getting into videography (shoutout Larry) who really taught me to think about the meaning in my work, video or otherwise, and he encouraged me to trust and have confidence in my skills and ideas—all of which, I think, can be far more important than the technical details of whatever creative medium you’re using. Also, when I started doing concert photography, I was introduced to the Photo Ladies, which is a collective of really talented women music photographers. They’ve been such a great source of inspiration, knowledge, and advice, and it’s been awesome to connect with other like-minded ladies in this male-dominated industry.
Why concert photography?
The most unexpected part of concert photography was finding how therapeutic it’s been for me. I’ve struggled a lot with depression and anxiety, which can feel like there’s a lot of chaos going on in my head. But when I’m at a concert and the music is loud and the crowd is screaming and the chaos is going on around me, there’s both a calmness and a rush of adrenaline I get. It’s because I get so focused on observing what’s going on in front of me, predicting what’s about to happen next, framing a shot, and capturing moments that could go unnoticed. It’s a time when, even if there’s a three song limit, I can take my time with something that requires my full attention. It’s a time when I can be entirely present amidst the chaos.
Your live music photos capture moments of intimacy so beautifully, and the colors work so well with all of the emotions, what’s your editing process like? Does it take days, or is it minimal? Do you enjoy it? Is it important?
Thank you! I try to let the colors complement the energy or emotion in the photo, instead of having them overpower it and letting the colors be the focus. Each photo varies in how much processing and time goes into it depending on the lighting situation at the time it was taken. But, honestly, there are times I try to speed through the editing process because if I spend too much time on it, I’ll end up being way too critical of my work because I’m looking at it for longer than I probably should be. But, editing is important because it allows me to analyze what I like or don’t like with what I took, and how I can shoot differently for the next show.
What’s the best part of shooting live music? Biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge of shooting live music is trying to make the most with what you have, whether it’s poor lighting, a crowded space that doesn’t allow you to move around, or even just trying to not fall into a pattern of taking the same types of photos at every gig. It’s important to keep things fresh and unique for each show.
The best part of shooting live music is documenting people doing what they love and capturing the energy that comes from that. It’s always an incredible feeling to take a solid photo of an artist going hard on stage, but it’s also an incredible feeling to turn around in the photo pit and capture someone in the front row completely present in the moment yelling the lyrics at the top of their lungs.
Crowd-surfer during a PUP set at Northside Festival.
Mosh pit during a Basement concert.
If you had to choose, what’s your favorite camera to use? What setup do you take to shows?
Well, I just started shooting film (I know, I know, I should’ve started shooting film way earlier!) and got a Canon AE-1 Program, which I’m really stoked about, so that’s my current favorite. Most of my work in general is shot with a Canon 5D Mark III. For music festivals, I’ll break out the big boy that is the Canon 70-200mm. For small and medium shows, I’ll shoot with a Canon 24-70mm or a Sigma 35mm. And, sometimes, I’ll use a prism if I’m feelin’ extra fun.
Who are some artists that inspire you?
I really like a lot of photographers that shoot in black and white like Rambo and Sacha Lecca. Greg Noire is a music photographer who really inspired a portraiture approach to live music for me. I also recently attended a talk that music journalist Vivien Goldman did with Edward Colver, and he said he was shooting so much when he was covering the LA punk scene in the ‘80s that manually focusing his camera became muscle memory to him. He said he didn’t even need to look through his viewfinder at times to get his shot in focus during a live show. That’s the most badass music photography thing I’ve ever heard.
What’s some advice you have for aspiring photographers just getting started?
For one, there’s an audience for everything. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to share your work, no matter what it’s about. Second, trust in yourself and your creativity. Anyone can learn how to use a camera, but true creativity comes from your own perspective and your own mind. And most importantly, constantly ask yourself what it means to create meaningful work.
What are you working on now? Do you have plans to expand your craft in the new year in terms of projects, concepts, genres, etc.?
I just wrapped filming for a documentary web series I took part in for INSIDER about different tattoo cultures, which allowed me to travel for a few weeks to the west coast and Japan with a really talented team. I took a lot of portraits of these artists and their clients, and am planning to expand this to a bigger photography project that examines this incredible tattoo community. Aside from that, I’m definitely trying to work with more artists, start selling prints, make a zine here-and-there, and shoot more shows in 2018!
Tattoo artist Sophie C'est La Vie
What do you hope to accomplish with your art?
I want to create work that documents an emotion or an atmosphere that people can feel like they’re a part of just by looking at it. I used to worry a lot about whether anyone would like or get anything from my photos, but I’ve learned that if you’re making work that you believe in and that resonates with you, other people will feel that too.
Who are you listening to now?
Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker put out two of my favorite albums last year. I’m also really into Rina Sawayama, The Obsessives, Foxing, Mitski, and Japanese Breakfast. And I also listen to a lot of Michelle Branch and like to crank up “I’m Real” by J. Lo featuring Ja Rule at full volume.
Where can we find more of your work?
You can find my stuff on my website and of course on Instagram @chelspineda, but I actually like posting photos more on Twitter @chelspineda because you don’t have to deal with that Instagram crop BS, haha.
Augusta of Cayetana
Matt Healy of The 1975
FOUND is a monthly interview series by Original Fuzz Magazine. We aim to discover visual artists from every corner of the world, no matter the background or creative vision. We believe it's not just what you do, but how you do it. Art is important. Find more articles in this month's issue, here.
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