Behind the Lens: Interview with Sophia Ragomo
BY BLENDED STAFF
Blended’s Brooke Bell sat down with three female concert photographers to discuss their artistic journeys thus far and goals for the future.
Each photographer is at a different point in their journey, having worked at various levels within live music photography. As women, Sophia Ragomo, Paige Sara, and Brittany O’Brien have all faced challenges that come with succeeding in a male-dominated industry, such as going on tour. Read below to learn about 20-year-old concert photographer Sophia Ragomo.
Where did your interest in photography start?
It started in high school. I took a dark room class when I was a sophomore [in 2014] and hadn’t had any photography experience prior and I just loved it. I loved the hands on aspect of it. From there, I shot for the newspaper for my school.
How did you get your first job and how old were you when it happened?
I would say my first job was working for my school newspaper. I applied to do that and was a photographer on staff my first year. Then my senior year I was the photo editor, which was really fun because I got to decide what assignments I wanted. Through that, I was able to shoot The Greeting Committee who was coming through Kansas, with another band called KITTEN because we were doing a story about them. I got addicted to shooting concerts after that. I began sending out emails for photo passes and quickly figured out you have to work for a publication to get one. I reached out and the first publication I worked for was called The Sound Bot. It was a really small website run by this sweet guy, who I believe is a dad in the U.K. that just did this on the side because he liked indie music. He let me request photo passes through him, and those were my first job experiences.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I am very passionate about music, so I would say getting to experience music that closely. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of my heros through my job and I know some people say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but that has just made me love them even more. All the people I’ve met so far are really nice and I’ve also made so many friends through music. Music photography has given me this group of friends that I never thought I would have in New York City.
What equipment do you bring to shoot at shows?
I bring my digital camera with a 28-105 lens – that’s what I was shooting with forever and that was a really slow aperture and a 72-200 for zoom. If I’m shooting backstage portraits, I’ll bring a flash. And finally, I always bring my film cameras. And sometimes I’ll bring an instant camera if I think I can get the band for a second to take a photo. And earplugs! You don’t want to damage your ears. My friend ruptured her eardrum shooting at a show, so I got pretty scared after that.
How do you post process?
For film, I will take it to get developed and scan it myself. And I use Photoshop for everything.
What was your favorite tour experience and why?
I haven’t been on a tour, but my favorite show experience was my first show – which has a special place in my heart and the first time I met HalfNoise. I interned for this film company called Lomography and my boss knew the singer from HalfNoise, Zac Farro, who’s also the drummer for Paramore. So she asked me to reach out to HalfNoise to see if I could shoot something for Lomography’s magazine. Their publicist was so welcoming and let me come shoot at Soundcheck at Baby’s All Right, and after that I was on my way home to rest before I came back to shoot the show. But right when I walked into my door, their manager called me and asked if I wanted to go to dinner with the band. We got dinner in Chinatown and were just riding around New York and it was so fun because they were so welcoming and friendly to me, even though they didn’t even know me. They’re all like big brothers to me now.
Who influences you creatively?
Definitely music in general. Also, a lot of photographs from the 70’s through the 90’s inspire me. I just love old photographs of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, and The Beatles. Some specific photographers that influence my work are Bob Gruen because he took so many iconic photos and Mick Rock is another one because he took photos of the Ramones and Blondie in the 80’s! Current photographers I love are Pooneh Ghana because I first found her when I went to see Cage the Elephant with my friend in 2015... and I just thought I want to be just like that. Her photos are so good and the way she uses color made me such a color person. Lastly, my band friends who pick up photography inspire me because even though they aren’t trained they take absolutely beautiful photos. It’s nice to see something different. And it’s cool to see someone who just enjoys photography for the pure joy of it.
What band should we all be listening to right now?
Bring Me The Horizon, they’re a lot harder than I would normally go for but their new album crosses genres with alternative, rock, electronic… which is my guilty pleasure lately. Also, shout out to Dream Wife for being promotional of females! They know how to rock. And Foxygen, Phoenix, Kacey Musgraves and Phoebe Bridgers.
Who is your dream artist to work with?
My top dream artist to work with right now are the Foo Fighters because I love Dave Grohl and his personality and the band’s overall energy. They’re on my bucket list. And of course, Cage the Elephant. I had my top three of Foo Fighters, Cage, and Paramore and I got to cross Paramore off my list!
Do you feel any setbacks in this job or whole industry as a woman?
I mean I’ve definitely had my experiences, but yes and no. Sometimes I feel like people are making assumptions about me based on my gender, which is like fine – we don’t all have to be friends and that’s totally fine. But the people I have been totally lucky to surround myself with now are so supportive. HalfNoise and The Greeting Committee are great to me and support me fully. But it is nice having other young girls around and coming in the industry because I feel like we can all band together.
Are there any challenges on tour as a woman? What are they?
Some photographers may think I don’t know what I’m doing or that they can tell me what to do, which is kind of funny. But, I just am firm and confident and act like a boss and remember that sometimes you have to put people in their place. It’s a tough industry, so you have to be willing to stick up for yourself. Also, this isn’t necessarily a “female” challenge, but when you’re around so many personalities, you have to learn how to interact with a lot of different people, which I think photography has pushed me out of my comfort zone with. It’s made me a lot more outgoing too.
What is your advice for future concert photographers?
Know your gear really well because you want to be comfortable when you’re shooting. I’d also say, shoot things you love because that makes better photos. And finally, don’t take no for an answer.
Beyond live music photography, Ragomo has also dipped her toes into landscape and portrait subjects as well as video production. Be sure to check out her various forms and mediums on her site and her prints for sale.
Lead Image Credit and All Photos: Sophia Ragomo