out perform // outlast // out work
Way back before I was even thinking about starting this website, I could be found most mornings reading stories on Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York pages. Over time I probably devoured hundreds (maybe thousands) of perspectives, each photo was like a book I’d never be able to finish. In fact, it was a combination of my admiration for Stanton and my musical fascination with Soren Bryce that pushed me to write my first-ever Out of the Woodwork article under a pen name in 2013. What I loved about Humans of New York was that it gave me insight into parts of the world I wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise. It didn’t pander to my religious or political beliefs. Instead, I read whatever people wanted to talk about. I read what was important to them in the moment of their interview. Stanton’s ability to objectively capture both the human being he’s shooting and the quirky soul behind the photo is something I strive to emulate in my own work.
I don’t remember exactly when I started seeing Zoe Rain’s photos pop up on my Facebook feed, but I remember when I started paying attention to them. Earlier this year, Rain was on tour with one of my favorite duos- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Though I’m a big fan of several of their songs, I generally found myself scrolling by performance photos without much of a second glance. Not this time. In addition to the sort of “famous dude stands in front of crowd with mic” photos, Rain decided to start a series dedicated to the first fans in line at each of their venues. This is what grabbed me. Not the flashy stuff, not the crowds. The people. People who had slept on the ground. People who had taken days off of work. People who had moved their lives around in order to be the first to walk in. I wondered what they heard when they listened to the same music I did. So often I feel like fans (and celebrities) are treated more as commodities than human beings; it’s something that really turns me off about the entertainment industry. But these photos worked against that. By focusing small, usually just one or two people in the foreground of each shot, Rain breathed life back into the lines of fans waiting to see these concerts. It’s not that Rain doesn’t do flashy- she has plenty of photos with celebrities adorning her web and social media pages- it’s just that when you look at her work you can see the person inside of it. As a tour photographer I feel that Rain has a unique social vantage point, an ability to see what’s happening both among the crowds and behind the stage. We’re incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with Rain and learn a little bit about where she’s at. All images used in this article were provided by Rain or her web pages.
While touring internationally with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis you started a series where you photographed the first people in line for their shows. What was that experience like? What kinds of stories did you hear from people who had waited in the same place for over 24 hours?
I had a lot of fun shooting this series, and honestly the most feedback on social media than any other project I have posted. People really connect with the idea of a story behind a simple street portrait. There was a lot of dedication and competition in fans to be the first fan. One fan, @macklehaglew, was first in line for two shows, waiting a combined total of 74 hours. That’s over three entire day and nights worth of waiting. I can’t think of anything besides the second coming of Jesus that I would wait that long for…
In a recent interview with Shure you mentioned that you “learned a lot about people’s fascination with and treatment of celebrities.” What did you learn from being on the other side of performances? What kinds of stresses and dangers do people seem to face once they build a big following?
Zoe: I learned that it is true when they say money and fame can’t buy happiness. It usually leads to anxiety, isolation, depression, fear and overthinking yourself. It can lead people to pour their money into material goods, seeking some validation with the fact that they are exactly where they wanted to be and yet it isn’t satisfying.
Over the past few years you’ve managed to get tours, magazine covers, even a little directing under your belt. What’s next for you?
Zoe: No idea! I have been so blessed and lucky in my career so far, and it is hard not to compare oneself to really high expectations, which I try not to hold on to that tight. I would love to get more into editorial fashion work, book more magazine shoots, and do some more self shot and edited videos. It’s gonna be a good year.
What’s your advice for fans on how to treat the artists they love?
Zoe: Realize that the artist you love is a person just as you are, and to respect them as such. Keep the crazed harassing to get a follow back or DM on twitter-it isn’t going to happen. Realize there is only so much time in the day, and these artists are extremely busy. So don’t take it personally when they can’t take a photo with you or come off in a rushed or distracted way. Sometimes they need to be human and can’t put on a happy face all the time. See where they are coming from, respect them because you like what they create, and continue supporting and spreading that art.
What do you love about your job? What challenges are you facing at this point?
Zoe: I love my job because it is like a choose your own adventure. You can steer yourself in whichever direction you want. Which is also completely terrifying. You have to be liberated with the vast freedom you have to change your life. Sometimes I get eaten up in the anxiety of being completely self reliant. There are thousands of incredible photographers and there will always be someone to replace you. So make sure your work stands out and cannot be recreated by anyone!
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