This weeks feature is an interview with Naturalismo music photographer Lauren Dukoff. I first discovered her photography when it was featured in an interview with Noah Georgeson, ever since then I have been following her work and immensely enjoying it. Lauren Dukoff’s close relationship with the Naturalismo artists enable her to provide a glimpse into their private lives. The visual counterpart to the artists she photographs, Lauren Dukoff manages to capture the true essence of artists. Through her photography one is given the rare opportunity to visually see the artists in their natural environment. Lauren Dukoff is a breath of fresh air in this flat post-modern cellphone and digital SLR – era of visually capturing music. I was terrified that the best music movement in years was going to go by documented by a set of grainy sub par digital photographs. All that one needs to be convinced of the importance of the gasping breaths of life from film is to see a single photo from Dukoff. I’m fortunate to bring to you today an interview with Lauren Dukoff.
Could you please tell us about yourself? Your background and how you came into shooting music photography.
I grew up in California in a creative household. My father, a director and photographer always encouraged me to be involved in the arts. There was always a camera available to me. Taking pictures was just something that I did as a kid. I began constantly photographing my friends and some of those friends grew up to be professional musicians. I have portraits of Devendra that I took when I was 14 practicing guitar and piano in our high schools music room. As Devendra’s musical career grew I just kept on taking photos the way I always had been. Not much had changed except that suddenly other people were interested in seeing the photos other than myself. Once I saw that there was a value to these photos, and I don’t mean monetarily, just that they were appealing to his fans I really pursued truly documenting him. Whether I was joining him on tour or catching a moment in his living room of him writing a new song, I was there with my camera. I soon became friends with the family of musicians around him and began taking their photographs too. It was a great feeling to have Devendra share my photos with such great musicians as Noah Georgeson and Matteah Baim and then have them approach me to also take there photos. It’s a wonderful environment of friendship, art and music. I feel honored to be a part of it even if in a small way.
One thing I especially enjoy about your photography is your ability to capture the essence of the musician in a more natural setting that fans normally wouldn’t get to see. Do you think that photographing artists in their natural environment is as or possibly more important than in a live setting?
I just think documentary photography in general is appealing in a way to everyone. I think it is just human nature to be curious what happens behind closed doors. As an artist’s popularity grows so does the feeling that they are untouchable. I think in a way some of the photos I’ve taken just give the fans a little respectful peak into their private lives.
I only ask because I often feel that we only have an artists songs to hear and are left wondering where their sources of inspiration come from. Do you feel that being able to visually see these photographs of the musicians lives add another element to their music?
I think it would be way to bold to say that in any way I add another element to their music.
When a shoot is arranged do you first discuss with the artist what type of setting and mood they are interested in for it or is it more you having an idea and approaching them with it?
I wish I had all the great ideas! No, really so far everything I have done is a true collaborative effort. I definitely come to the shoot with a vision in mind but always run things past the artists I am shooting. From there the concepts always seems to grow and evolve into something even better then what I imagined.
Your black and white live music photos first struck me as being something to the effect of Mick Rock coaching David Bailey on how to shoot live. Who would you consider are your influences and do you shoot primarily with film, digital or both?
I have been really inspired and influenced by my mentor Autumn de Wilde. She is an amazing photographer. Sometimes I look at her work and say to myself why do I bother. Everything about her is admirable. I only shoot with film. There is something about film that digital could just never capture. Shooting film is a blessing and a curse. When I was photographing Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit all the other digital photographers were practically laughing at me in the photo pit because I had to reload my camera with film and would then miss shots. But in the end I feel I have one great shot of Neil during the finale that just wouldn’t have been the same if it were digital. There is such character and depth to film its hard for me to see myself converting to digital photography.
Much of your photography has gravitated towards new-folk artists such as Devendra Banhart, Noah Georgeson, Matteah Baim, Hecuba, etc. What has the experience been like working with them?
Simply amazing. They are all wonderful and beautiful people. We are all friends and I feel honored to be included in this family of musicians in such an intimate way.
What are you currently working on?
I am continually building my body of work, just shooting as much as I can. I enjoy photographing musicans of all genres its such a treat to be invited into a musician’s world even if just for a moment. Devendra is working on his new record right now and if he chooses to use a photograph for the cover we are going to have to come up with a great concept. Really looking forward to that.
Lastly, are there any exhibition plans for your photography at the moment? Where can we see more of your photography and what can we expect in the future?
I do not have any exhibitions planned at the moment, but it something I have always wanted to do. You can see more of my work at www.laurendukoff.com. I wish I knew what to expect for myself in the future.
Thank you for your time.
-Devin Edvard Woolf