Lifestyle and music photographer Josh Goleman recently traveled to Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island to shoot the iconic Newport Folk Festival. While this historical three-day event is known for its many brilliant performers and intoxicating vibes, Josh is known for his ability to capture a moment in time. In this particular series of phenomenal images, we are visually given the full Newport Folk experience. To find out more about Josh and what went into documenting the festival, we asked him a few questions.
What was your favorite part about shooting for this particular festival?
The general spirit of it is wonderful. It’s very relaxed and peaceful, and people are just there to listen to good music. It definitely has a team spirit vibe, as opposed to other big machine festivals. It’s a big community environment for everyone involved.
Were you given any sort of direction for shooting the event?
I’ve shot at Newport for three years now and I’ve gotten more involved each year. The first year I primarily shot video. The next year I shot video and few pictures here and there, but this year I was able to take a lot more pictures. I’ve had the freedom to go after the artists that I want to shoot with, which is such a dream. Given the really sweet spirit Newport has, you can feel a sense of relaxation from the artists and their crews, I think because there are so many festivals now, and most of them so massive and driven by tons of corporate sponsorships, Newport is a breath of fresh air. Most artists seem to want to be there. But to answer the question, I have a lot of freedom there. So I just try and shoot what matters to me, and make something I care about.
What do you think makes a good live music shot?
Any image that gives the viewer a real sense of what the show felt like. A crisp sharp image of someone yelling into a mic isn’t always that, despite what music blogs and stock images might constantly suggest. I love images that show a soulful artist who loves what they’re doing.
Do you have a favorite photo from the festival?
I think for me, the portrait of Blake Mills with Bob Dylan’s guitar is the one. We had met before in LA while Danny and I were shooting the Alabama Shakes videos, and seeing him at Newport, I was pumped for the opportunity to get to shoot with him. He was scheduled to sit down with Jay Sweet, the festival director, and chat about Newport. Jay ended up surprising him with the Fender Strat that Dylan played in 1965, the exact guitar that he was boo’d off stage for playing. After the interview was done, I knew I needed a portrait of him with it.
You’ve worked with a lot of really big names in the industry, do you ever get nervous shooting people that you’re a fan of?
Sometimes. It’s usually the anticipation of the shoot that will make me feel nervous, but once I start shooting, that usually goes away pretty quickly. In the past, I’ve let being a fan get in the way of me doing what I know, worrying that I was asking too much, or taking up too much of their time. I’ve learned to just be excited about my ideas and share the excitement with who I’m shooting, which usually allows me and who I’m shooting to connect on a different level, rather than me just being intimidated by what they’ve done in the past.
Are there any artists you would like to work with that you haven’t so far?
I’ve been very blessed so far in my career, there are so many people who I’ve be able to photograph and work with that I never thought I would. I feel lucky. But, if I were to make a list off the top of my head, I would say: David Bazan, Jad Abumrad, Elon Musk, AA Bondy, Chad VanGaalen.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a music photographer?
Not really. I really started to really listen to music when I was in 3rd and 4th grade, I really loved the Beatles, Buddy Holly, and Harry Connick Jr. (haha). Since then music has always been an important part of my life. I really got serious about shooting photos when I was in college, and very quickly was drawn to shooting music. Doing so has taken me around the world several times now. I feel very very lucky.
Was there a moment when you realized that music photography was something you could actually make a career out of?
I remember seeing photos of the Beatles and Bob Dylan as a kid that felt so….cool. The photos and the artists in them seemed so iconic and legendary to me, a type of image that couldn’t be made today. One day while in college, I remember looking through Rolling Stone and seeing a photo of Dave Matthews that Danny Clinch took sitting on a hotel bed playing guitar. I thought to myself, this really feels iconic to me, it felt so effortless. Following Danny’s work proved to me that you could shoot contemporary artists, that make it feel immediately legendary, that the feeling I got when seeing those photos of the Beatles and Bob Dylan as a kid could still be made. That feeling has really stuck with me since.
Have you gotten any advice that’s really stuck with you?
My grandmother told me that “a teeny tiny step in the right direction is better than a massive step direction in the wrong direction.” It’s important to make decisions, even if they’re small, to get you where you want to be. There are micro-steps and there are massive steps, and it’s important not to disregard the small stuff.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Do it because you love it. Know that the industry isn’t fair, but if you shoot what you love you’ll eventually go in the right direction. With any career in the arts, at some point you have to balance the business side with the creative side. It’s not easy, but at the end of the day, if you’re doing what you love, it’s worth it.