Interview: Jeremy Saffer.

Jeremy Saffer is admittedly one of the better known photographers in rock and metal today. Photographing Black Veil Brides to Megadeth to A Day To Remember to My Chemical Romance, he’s managed to find himself published numerous places, receiving wide acclaim for his photos and hit the point where he can give seminars to those looking to follow in his footsteps.

For many photographers, the interest in photography begins from a young age, but for Jeremy this was not the case. “Not when I was growing up – I wanted to be a rockstar. I was a musician all of my life – in bands – that’s how this whole thing got started. I only really got into it after I realized I could get close to my favorite bands and capture images of them.”

Not only did the interest in photography begin through playing music, that’s how his first opportunities came about. “When I was in bands I would open for bigger bands and take their photos,” he explains. “Then I met Scott Lee and he had me shoot all his local shows which snowballed into national shows and bigger shows, which got me into shooting bands a few times a week. I hated Berklee so I put my guitar down for a camera and gave up playing music for capturing it on film… or digital film.”

“I’m not sure,” he says, regarding a ‘big break’ in his career. “There are so many amazing opportunities I’ve been given from so many amazing people that I don’t want to say I have even had my big break yet, because things I get to do in my career constantly amaze me.”

“My favorite bands to shoot are the ones I work with the most often, the ones with strong images, or the legendary bands I grew up worshiping – same with live [photos],” he says. As for musicians he’d like to have photographed… “Many – I wish I could have done a shoot with Michael more than anything, and Dio, maybe Peter Steele… that would have been amazing. There’s a bunch more but those are the most relevant to what I wish I could have done. Although I shot them live I never got to do a photo shoot with them (and I never got to shoot Michael live).”

“I think the first time I got the cover of Metal Maniacs – with Mastodon – when I was still in photo school was my first moment of glory,” says Jeremy, touching on his favourite moments through his career to date. “[It was] a magazine cover of a magazine I’ve bought monthly since I was little… that was huge for me. Not just in getting me to the next level of my career, but to just realize I would have bought this issue anyway – but now my photo is on the cover? Insane! Then past that, I think my favorite part of doing what I do is the amazing friendships I make with so many amazing people across the world. These friendships may not have existed if I did not have this career.”

As for his favourite bands… “I listen to everything – from Immortal, Dartkthrone, A Day To Remember, Johnny Cash Beatles, Megadeth, Bury Your Dead, 18visions…” It’s a whole mishmash of stuff, but I either like something or can’t stand it, haha.”

Being able to witness music first hand, many photographers tend to promote the importance of supporting their local scene. Is this something that you care about? “Not anymore,” he says. “Back 10 years ago bands were original and didn’t sound like every other band they were playing with that day, let alone every other band living in a 500 mile radius… You gotta remember my local scene growing up was Shadows Fall, Hatebreed, Acacia Strain, All That Remains, Killswitch Engage, Bury Your Dead, Converge, Blood For Blood, and stuff like that…”

“Now you got these shitty clones of a clone of a clone of a clone Warped Tour wannabe bands that all sound the same,” he continues, comparing the local scene nowadays to the admittedly sensational local scene he had growing up. “No one goes to the shows because no one cares… It’s so watered down and destroyed… I mean I’m sure there’s a good local scene somewhere, I just haven’t seen it or heard it. These bands need to step it up – get off Youtube and start doing something original.”

As a photographer – and one with a lot of big names in his catalogue – surely there are certain images he considers definitive in his career to date… “Yeah, I mean I have a few I love: Cristina in bed/in the bath, Mick with blood, with his bass, Acacia Strain on the mower, Lisa – any shot of Lisa because she rules – Alice cooper, Misfits, etc.”
“I try to get the feel and character of the subject the best I can,” he adds as questions turn to what he aims to capture in a photograph. “[I try] to do something that will be looked at as a definitive image for their career.”

For those who haven’t yet heard, Jeremy will be doing a photography seminar in November (5th-6th) for those interesting in learning his tricks. “I love teaching. I love being able to share how I do what I do, so others can do it as well,” he explains. “So many think it’s difficult – it’s not. I move my finger as much as it takes to push down a keyboard key and – boom – the image is created. Everything that goes behind that is a bit more complicated but that’s why I like to teach it to those who don’t know how to do it. It’s going to be great.”

This particular seminar is entitled “Capturing music: A Band Portrait Seminar” and teaches everything from booking the shoot to equipment options. “I bring in a band and do a shoot with them (after the seminar where I teach everything I need to) then the students watch me do a real shoot,” he continues, discussing the upcoming seminars in more detail. “Then the students take over and shoot the band, so it’s an opportunity for kids who haven’t done a photoshoot before to work with a signed touring band and really get their feet wet for the first time or to practice what they have learned.”

“The friendships, the accomplishments, and being able to contribute to the world of music in a positive way” is how Jeremy sums up his favourite parts of having a career like his. As for what his future ideally holds? “So many just want to move up in life [but] I’d say I love what I have now. As long as I have what I have now, I’m happy, but I would hope the jobs, the bands, the tours get bigger each year…”

All photos, of course, by Jeremy Saffer. You can read more about Jeremy and see his work at jeremysaffer.com. If you’re interested in attending his seminar in November, check jeremysaffer.com/workshop for full details!

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