This week I’m happy to bring to you an interview with concert photographer Rita Carmo. She‘s been a professional for over 20 years, having photographed all the major names in music that have come to Portugal. If you have a photographer you’d like to see in these pages, drop me an email and I’ll do the best to feature them.
How did you get started in photography?
By chance. I was studying fashion design at IADE and communication design at ESBAL when I started photographing in black and white regularly. I ended up specializing in fashion photography. From that to being ‘recruited’ to the newspaper Blitz was a small step.
I think you have to photograph a lot. I didn’t have training in photography myself. I had training in many related areas, but not in photography. Essentially, you must have sensibility and technical rigour. Today, you don’t need to invest much to experiment, contrary to what happened 20 years ago. I think what is most important is to work a lot, whether you have formal training or not.
What were the main obstacles you faced along your career?
I don’t’ feel I have had many big obstacles. I have always been very optimistic and, to me,
those obstacles gave me even more strength. Stubbornness can be a terrible flaw, but has its advantages! I never let myself stand still, I’ve always set goals for myself.
What are the ingredients for success as a photographer?
Talent, rigour, common sense, patience, calm, stubbornness, coherence, availability, ability to adapt to every situation. And love for photography, of course!
Where do you find inspiration?
Odd as it may seem, in many things other than photography. In movies, music, videos, amazing spaces I stumble upon, light and, of course, in people!
What photographers (if any) do you consider a reference in your field?
Anton Corbijn, Annie Leibovitz, Sebastião Salgado, Joel-Peter Witkin, Dean Chalkley, Mark Seliger… I admire their work and their style.
In my work, I’d distinguish the photojournalism work from the portraits of artists I do.
In the first case, there is no post production. It’s pure reporting, the most I do is balance the light (there’s a lot of contrast in concerts) and balance the color temperature. Many years of working with slides have trained me almost never to crop. In portraits it’s a little different. Many times I try to bring some more warmth or coolness to the atmosphere; but little more than that.
In what way is concert photography different from the other photographic disciplines?
Ahaha! It’s essentially at night! Very fast, many colors, a lot of sound and noise. Also very beautiful. Many extremes! It has its very own language, demanding technical speed in light measuring, and a quick hand on the trigger. Through all that, it’s helpful to stay calm.
What advice would you give to someone making a start in photography?
Talent, persistence, and originality. Look for ideas, new ways of seeing. Don’t follow others “just because”, or because “it’s cool to be at a concert”. Be correct and coherent. And don’t give up.
Rita Carmo has been photographing for the magazine (ex newspaper) Blitz since 1992, specializing in concert photography and artist portraits. She is a reference in this kind of photography in Portugal. She has published two books: “Altas Luzes” (2003), and “Portugal XXI” (2008). Her work has been shown in several exhibitions, and she teaches photography at Restart.