March 20, 2019

Backstage with Erina Uemura

Featured Portrait of Erina Uemura by Nick Senkevichi, 2019. Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by Laura Brown and Jane Fayle.

Erina Uemura (@erina_uemura) hails from the countryside in Japan where “there weren’t that many hobbies”. But thanks to her dad gifting her a camera at age 14, she latched onto a passion for photography from a young age. Weaving this with her love of international music, she now travels the world to capture the energy of live acts – from Coachella to Fuji Rock. We’ve teamed up with her to get a behind-the-scenes look at SXSW (March 8-16, Austin, TX). Read on for how she broke into the scene, her favorite artists and her stand-out career moments.

How did you get started in photography and has your work always being music focused?

I got started with photography thanks to my dad. He studied it through high school and university, and after graduating, he worked at a camera store. So he had a lot of camera equipment. He gave me my first film camera I was 14 years old. Growing up in the countryside of Japan, there weren’t that many hobbies – which means photography became my hobby.
I was also into international music – and in particular, bands from the US and UK. Ever since I was young, it had been my dream to photograph at concerts. I finally got that chance when I was a bit older, and I took my camera to concerts in NY, LA, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. It was a dream.

You’re from Japan but you’re now based in the US, what got you to make the move?

I first moved in 2008 to enroll in a photography class in NYC for 3 months. During that time, a friend based in Chicago submitted one of my photos into the  Lollapalooza rock photo contest. I was fortunate to receive 2nd place, and that’s what kicked off my career as a professional photographer. After 3 years in NYC, I moved to LA. Now I’m traveling everywhere in the US to shoot for the music scene.

Which US city is your favorite to photograph?

That’s a tough question – there are so many cool places in the US. I love NY, LA, Austin – and the desert in California! But if I had to choose, I’d say LA. The LA loco music scene is really inspiring me at the moment.

What’s the most interesting thing that has happened to you while you were shooting backstage?

Photographing Father John Misty during a Japanese festival in 2017. I’d been shooting him since 2012 and he always plays it cool and has a very peculiar style. But when I saw him backstage on this occasion, he looked restless. I knew I had to capture this surprising side of him.

What is your favorite medium to shoot with when you’re capturing portraits of artists?

Polaroid! Lately I prefer to shoot with analog film cameras.

Photography within music is such an important part of the scene. What is it that you love about capturing artists?

I love to shoot the stage. No show is the same and there is always a lot going on. The energy of the fans always excites me.

What got you shooting at SXSW this year?

I was working with a London-based Japanese band called DYGL (@dayglotheband). They are incredibly cool. This year they had 8 shows at SXSW and grabbed the attention of many audiences. They’ll definitely be back for next year’s festival. They’re also about to release a new album and go on tour. Check them out here.

What has been a stand out moment/act at SXSW so far?

Absolutely DYGL. And Liily (@liilytheband).
I got to know Liily through their manager while at SXSW. He invited me to their show – and they killed it! I bet they’ll be big very soon.

What’s your favorite music festival and why?

Desert Daze and Fuji Rock Fest.
I’ve been shooting at Desert Daze for many years. The line-up is very unique and the people are very fashionable. This iconic festivals really inspires me.
Fuji Rock is one of the biggest festivals in Japan. The venue is on the side of a mountain and many artists love it for its magnificent scenery and lush greenery. And the people have such a vibe!  It’s also a really clean festival. Everyone puts effort into protecting nature, like separating trash, reducing consumption and using eco-friendly products.

What artist have you got on repeat at the moment?

DYGL, Tame Impala, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Stonefield, SWMRS

Can you tell us a bit more about what’s coming up for you in 2019?

Soon I’ll be capturing the band SWMRS in California. I’m also really excited to come back to Fuji Rock Fest.
Also this year, DYGL, Calpurnia, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are going to tour. These are my favourite bands and I can’t wait to shoot. Plus I have plans to make a zine.