Sarah Bel Kloetzke is an analogue photographer based in Minnesota with a love for live music. Their work in journalism started out in writing, but eventually turned toward photography after shooting a house show. After finding their passion in shooting, they've now grown to have the opportunity of photographing live performances from bands such as Beach House and Bikini Kill, all while working with Lomography Color Negative 800 film.
Hi Sarah, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work?
Hi, thank you! I’m Sarah Bel Kloetzke, I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and I turn 24 in August. I have a cat named Trinket, I really love music and making collages, and I drink a lot of coffee. I’ve been consciously shooting film since I was 14. I say consciously because when I was a younger kid I had disposable cameras sometimes and I’d run around taking pictures of my dogs. But when I was a young teenager, I lived a bit north of the Twin Cities and it was really easy to thrift cool point-and-shoots the farther from the cities you’d get. I love analogue photography because I think it captures how I experience life (especially live music!) more accurately with its warmth, ambience, and haziness.
How did you get started with concert photography?
I have been hovering around my local music scene for a long time. I dabbled in concert photography with a digital point-and-shoot when I was a young teenager, but then pivoted away from photos to writing for a while, as I joined a youth-run online music journalism magazine. I had it in my mind that I was exclusively a writer and not a photographer, even though I was taking pictures constantly in my free time, just not of musicians and shows.
The pace at which I was shooting film increased during the pandemic (like everyone else, I think) and in late-2021, I photographed a friend’s house show. At that point I decided to try to start shooting live music on film in venue settings, because I’d been previously convinced I just couldn’t do it. I started emailing the publicists for every band I loved that was coming to town, and of all of them, Beach House gave me a photo pass to photograph them at Palace Theater in February 2022. That was huge for me on so many levels. I got to photograph one of my favorite acts of all time, from an actual ‘photo pit’ like the cool photographers I’d observed in my music journalism days, and the photos actually came out, exclusively analogue. I was then able to use those images and the images from the house show to secure more photo passes. I think things really started to gain momentum in March 2022, when I photographed the Best New Bands showcase in The Mainroom of First Avenue, and I connected with more musicians from there on.
Why shoot live shows on film rather than digital?
It certainly isn’t easier! I just hadn’t used a digital camera in so many years when I decided to start shooting live music. My only tool was my analogue cameras, so it made sense from that perspective. But really, when I remember concerts I’ve been to, it’s all a warm, joyous blur most of the time, and I think film recreates those memories better for me.
Why pick up Lomo 800 when shooting concerts?
I use Lomo 800 for almost every show I shoot at this point. Concerts are super low-light, with lots of moving subjects to try to capture. I definitely want to use the fastest film I can get my hands on. I love Lomo because I can actually push it and shoot it at 3200 ISO and it still holds up. I also think the colors stay very true-to-life in all of those difficult lighting situations.
Do you have an all-time favorite of your live music shots on our film? Is there a story behind it?
This is a hard question! I have a really hard time figuring out which of my photos are my favorites. Though, my favorite photo I’ve taken on Lomo 800 recently is of my friend Amaya Peña performing in their band Alairen. It was easily over 90 degrees in that room and their set was amazing. Amaya is another super talented film photographer in the Twin Cities music scene and I really look up to them and their work, so having the opportunity to capture them in their own band was awesome.
What's your number one tip for those looking to get into concert photography?
Send a billion emails! You will get rejected or ignored a lot, but eventually, someone will say yes, and you can get your foot in the door. The craziest opportunity I’ve ever gotten just happened a couple months ago when I sent a real hail mary email and secured a photo pass for Bikini Kill. Bikini Kill!
Do you have any tips or tricks for shooting with Lomo 800?
It’s a really forgiving film stock so don't be afraid to experiment!
What is your usual kit for shooting concerts?
I always use my Nikon FM2. It has an LED light meter built in that I can see easily in the dark, and I also find it easier to make sure my focus is right with the split-prism focusing mechanism. Even though I like the control of shooting fully-manual most of the time, I sometimes have a little point-and-shoot loaded with a different film stock to get a little variety happening. Most of the local concert venues here don't allow flash photography, but when I can use it I have a Vivitar Auto Thyristor 2800 that I thrifted a long time ago.
I think the most notable part of my kit, though, is the glass effects filters I use. I pretty much permanently have a 4-point star filter on my lens, and then I’ll layer other prisms over that to get the weirder effects you see in some of my photos. Oh, and most of the time I’m just using a 28-70 mm zoom lens so I can have variety in my shots without having to take the time to change my lens in the pit.
Do you have any upcoming shoots or projects that you can share?
Summertime is so busy! I have more shows coming up, and I’m excited to take some portraits of a few different musicians soon as well. I’m also getting a lot of opportunities to work alongside other really talented photographers lately and I love it.
Anything else that you'd like to share?
I feel like I have to shout-out the lab I send all of my color film to: Fast Foto in Bloomington, MN. They rule, and they take mail orders, so you should check them out. I also want to thank Ian Dow for being the most supportive and beautiful human on earth. Analogue photography is magic! I recommend everyone get involved! I love sharing my knowledge and passion, so everybody feel free to hit me up if you want to chat film. Oh, and support your local music scene!
To keep up with Sarah and their work make sure to check out their Instagram!