Anna Lee is a music photographer who is touring just as often if not more than the bands she photographs. In 2015 she developed a project of her own titled #ALMFANCAM in which she reaches out to fans of the show she's shooting to bring her a disposable film camera to shoot with. She returns the camera to the fan at the end of the night to have their own special photos shot by Anna. We had her test out one of our Simple Use Film Cameras to shoot with on tour. She gave us feedback on the camera as well as sharing some experiences about #ALMFANCAM.
Hi Anna, welcome to the magazine, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks so much for having me! I’m a music photographer from Oklahoma City, currently based in Los Angeles. I shoot a lot in LA, but I’m primarily a tour photographer, so I am on the road with bands for at least half the year.
How'd you get involved in photography?
My involvement in photography is a pretty classic tale of hobby turned profession. I was a bit obsessive about documenting my experiences growing up on whatever little point and shoot film camera I had at the time. Once photography classes became available to me in school, and I started to learn it on a technical level, I upgraded to my first SLR and sought out every opportunity to play and experiment. Fast-forward through a large learning curve and a few jobs later, I became a full-time wedding photographer, shooting live shows for fun. Ultimately, I gained traction in music photography, started touring, moved to LA, and now it takes more of my time than anything!
What about shooting live shows do you love?
What I love about shooting live shows is the fact that I’m at a show. My music photography career is the culmination of being a music fan first, who happened to love photography. Once I found a way to combine those things, I was hooked. Shooting live shows is also quite a challenge that’s fun to navigate. If you shoot portraits, you’re generally in control of the environment, lighting, directing your subject.. at concerts you have to chase the moment. It makes getting that great shot feel like even more of a victory.
How'd you come up with the idea for ALMFANCAM?
I saw a trend of fans bringing disposable cameras to shows during a particular tour I was on. They would do their best to get the cameras in the hands of the band, have them shoot with it, then get it back. As you can imagine, it was difficult and tedious for everyone involved, so I thought, “I could facilitate this and make it a THING.” So #ALMFanCam was born. To briefly explain how it works: the first fan in each city to show up to the venue with a disposable would get to hand it off to me. I kept it with me all day filling it with backstage photos. I would then return it to the fan at the end of the night for them to develop.
What are some of your favorite fan interactions from the ALMFANCAM project?
Overall, it was so exciting for me to hand the camera back at the end of the night to a fan who just had an amazing show experience, knowing that they had an exclusive surprise waiting for them on that film. Sometimes I didn’t even know what would come out of it!
So we now got a chance to give you a camera, how'd you enjoy shooting with The Simple Use Camera?
The Simple Use camera was great! As the name suggests, it was simple, which is a huge perk of something that’s filling the same role of what I would have used a disposable for in the past. I also love that it’s reloadable. So I have a fairly durable and variable (with the flash gels) armature for point-and-shooting film.
What do you think the biggest misconception is that people have about disposable cameras?
It’s not so much a misconception as it is something that people forget about shooting film in general, which is resisting the reflex to look at the back of the camera after they take a shot (guilty!). Additionally, you have to train yourself to be a bit more intentional (or less intentional!) with your shots, as there are a finite number of frames as opposed to the digital infinity that we’re used to now.
Are there any photos with a story to them or any stories from experiences on tour?
Yes and no! The stories are more present with behind the scenes photos, because other than live shots, you’re not going to take any certain photo unless theres a reason to. Sometimes it’s a narrative of what’s happening in the moment, or sometimes it’s a less tangible story- one that only has significance to me as the photographer. To say it in another way- photos during the show are a more high volume output just needed for content, and all music photographers are doing their best to make it creative and interesting every time. But the shots that you get backstage and in the downtime are more motivated by what you can do with the environment (lighting, scenery), or how you can tell the story of that moment in an intriguing way.
If you can give a piece of advice for anyone exploring film photography what would it be?
It depends how technical you want to be, but I find that with even the most primitive devices, it’s good to make a note of your settings so you can learn and adapt what works and doesn’t when you get your film developed. Film doesn’t have metadata! Additionally, unless someone is trying to do fine art film photography, I’d say don’t be to precious about shooting film! The throw away frames and accidental captures are often my favorite images in their own quirky way- something that could never be duplicated.