Sebastian Buzzalino knows his way around the camera and the backstage. His portraits can make you hum to the melody of the people that are in them. You can hear their personalities and the music they create just by looking at their pictures. That's what we greatly appreciate about Sebastian's work. While photographs are supposed to be quiet, his images resonate with the life and sound of his subjects. They're reminders that photographs do speak and in his case, they even play music.
Hi, Sebastian. Welcome to the Lomography Online Magazine! How did you get started on your photographic journey?
Thanks for having me! Like most things in my life, I kind of fell ass-backwards into photography. I was the editor of a regional music magazine for seven years, mostly writing about bands. In that time, I picked up a camera to take with me to live shows so I could more easily get two press tickets to the show and bring my girlfriend along.
The first show I ever shot was Against Me! and I had no idea what I was doing, but managed to get at least a couple of usable shots. Somewhere along the line, I kept shooting bands and before I knew it, I was shooting more than I was writing.
How would you define photography?
Photography is just capturing light, somehow, at the end of the day. That light is just information, but the best photographs manage to, almost through an alchemic process, convert that information into emotion.
What's your favorite thing about it?
How a great photograph can transport you to another world, another time, make you feel like you know a person or place without having ever been there. My favorite photographs are ones that elicit and evoke a certain nostalgia for something or someone I’ve never known. It’s a particular feeling and one I keep chasing in my work.
We love your on-stage shots. How does it feel shooting backstage?
Pretty great! It’s amazing to have that kind of access to a band, to have them feel comfortable around you (and you around them) so you kind of just become part of the environment and can capture these moments without any pretense or forethought. A lot of my work unfolds organically and being able to be immersed in my environment and subject helps with that.
What is it about music photography that attracts you?
I think, at the end of the day, it’s the potential to capture a moment or an essence that could, maybe, if everything lines up perfectly, become something of an icon. Bands exist in a fantasy world and build up the world according to their own aesthetics — that’s what attracts us as fans, that we want to be a part of their world, whatever that may be. Music photography allows me an entry to that world and hopefully the opportunity to capture photos that can become part of the artist or scene’s lexicon and — with even more luck — a small part of history.
Do you have a favorite band to work with? Who is it and why?
Daniel Romano. I’ve had the infinite privilege and pleasure of working alongside him for two years and he continues to astound me each day. There are artists and then there are people like Dan, who almost appear to not even be from this world, such is the depth and breadth of their creativity.
Your portraits are purely electric. They're so full of life. How do you know which moments to capture?
I usually have no idea what I have until I develop the roll of film or look at the photos on my computer. When I’m shooting, I’m very much involved in the moment and let my body do what it does, trusting myself, my eye, my camera, my subjects, etc, to all intersect in a moment that’s going to make a great photograph.
Much has been said about the decisive moment, as if that moment exists prior to the photograph itself and needs to be yanked out of reality and onto the two-dimensional plane of a photo; but it is the act of making a photograph, of being there as photographer and interacting with the subject, of all the bodies in and out of frame being in motion, that becomes the decisive moment after the photo is made. After that, it’s just a process of editing my work down to the photos that have the most powerful effective pull on me.
How would you describe your style?
Hopefully a bit timeless, in a classic sense. I love shooting black and white because it seems to remove a lot of the cues that we’d usually use to place a photograph in time. My style is also focused towards catching (mostly) candid moments that seem to speak to a larger story.
What do you think matters more — talent or skill?
Talent, probably. Photos are really easy to make, even on film, and the barrier to entry for photography is pretty low (which is awesome). Anyone can take a photo that looks decent, but it’s much harder to take a photo that says something.
Lastly, what's next for Sebastian Buzzalino?
I’m going to continue working alongside bands this year as they come through Calgary, or heading out on tours whenever the opportunity presents itself. I also have a handful of personal projects I want to work on this year, mostly picking out elements of my life and community that I think are worth documenting. I also want to work on a male nudes series this year.