Veteran Coachella attendee and LA music photographer Agueda Zarate provides an inside look at this year's music and arts festival in Indio, California, known for its carefree cultural vibes, through the lens of the Lomo'Instant Automat. Read her interview with Lomography NYC below to find out how she became called the "Photo Fairy!"
Hello Agueda, welcome to Lomography! What got you into music photography to start?
I have been going to shows since I was 15. First local bands mainly, then onto bigger club shows and festivals. I have always taken pictures of them; I have so many film strips from dive bar shows and old Vans Warped tours buried somewhere at my dad's house. When I got into college I told my teacher I really wanted to take band photos and he shut it down pretty fast and said there was no money to make, etcetera, so I kinda branched out into more conceptual photo/film and sound work. And he was right -- that there is no money in it but also I don't want my passion to become a job. It kinda worked out that I got back into taking more photos at shows when I moved to Los Angeles because I was going to so much more shows and I wanted to document my experiences. I do however have a rule that once I get a few good shots in I have to be present and also enjoy the live experience, you don't wanna see it all through the lens.
What’s the most challenging part of being a music photographer?
This goes back to the question above I think. I used to have a hard time acknowledging that I had THE shot, so I would keep taking more and more photos. I have learned to make myself stop taking photos and be confident in my photos and enjoy being in the moment ... after I get THE shot of course.
How did using an instant camera shape your experience at Coachella?
This was by far my favorite photo taking experience there, I got to connect with so many lovely people and find out about them! Someone called me a photo fairy, which I thought was fitting for the weekend! I actually met MORE Redditors this year too. Once the photos were shared, a few people contacted me that we had met and it was them in the photo! It's always nice to build relationships over my two favorite things: Photo and Music!
So what’s your best story from Coachella this year?
My best story ever from Coachella would be meeting like 30 random Reddit users and becoming best friends with them and getting to go to other festivals and gatherings and spend holidays, birthdays, and vacations with them. How often do you fall in love with 30 people on the same weekend and become life long friends with them? Coachella is that kind of magic for me.
The best story from this year is a toss-up and both happened during the Radiohead set. I went to my first Coachella back in 2008 and I was front row on the rail for Death Cab for Cutie, I was standing next to this guy with, let's say memorable, hair. This year I was waiting for Radiohead to go on and was up front and who do I spot? The same guy with the funny hair from my first Coachella!
The second thing would be leaving that Radiohead set when my phone starts blowing up, nonstop texts, Facebook messages, and Instagram messages. Apparently, the live feed from the show was streaming online and they captured me on the front rail singing along on screens all over the world. My friend even sent me a photo of it.
Out of all the photos you took, which one stands out the most?
I really can't pick just one, I met everyone in the pics and everyone was so nice, from Coachella veterans to first timers to people that went alone or in big groups, I think what I love about all of it is the diversity in experiences everyone I met was having!
Which band had the most memorable set?
This one is hard because I WANT to say being front row for Radiohead because they are my favorite band ever ... but they had some technical difficulties during one of my all time favorite songs (and other songs too). I think Moderat, hands down, had the BEST all around set, which was surprising because I would never sit at home and listen to them but live was on another level! the sound, visuals, and instruments were so clean and in perfect sync, I was really impressed.