Article Submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by Stella Gelardi Malfilatre.
New York-based music photographer Thomas Falcone is never short of things to shoot. He combines his passion for photography and travel to document the chaos and creativity that surrounds the bands he accompanies across the globe. From the hustle of the city’s streets to the incredible music scene and nightlife that runs from sundown to sunrise he’s committed to capturing the authentic energy of NYC on film. He talked to us about where his photography career all began, advice for getting into the music photography scene, and what it’s like creating non-stop in a city where anything can happen.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got into photography in the first place?
When I was younger I took my mom’s camera and started documenting my life, friends and local bands around me. I just kept being inspired and wanting to do something different that no one else did. That was my goal – to stand out. I always stood out whether it was being the first kid to wear skinny jeans in high school or the kid who was taking photos instead of doing sports. It was never about being cool though, and never will be about being cool. [Laughs]
Your work is distinctive and slick, but you can tell there is a great experience behind it. What’s the difference between how you used to work with your first camera compared to how you work today?
There is definitely a difference because today people are producing such amazing equipment; new lenses, new techniques, and gear to make photography compatible, quick, fun BUT always expensive [laughs]. I think every trip I try to rent a new lens just to try it out. I love the idea of working with new gear. That said, I don’t think equipment really matters. At the end of the day, I think it has to do with your eye and experience you’re putting yourself in to be able to capture these moments. I was just telling someone the other day that one of my favorite photos of this winter was shot on my smartphone!
What’s your go-to camera that will forever be your best friend?
The first camera I purchased was a Canon EOS Rebel. I bought it on Craigslist when it was first becoming a thing and my mom came with me because she thought it was sketchy buying from a stranger. I worked all summer at my Dad’s friends auto body shop for $100 a week and that was my big summer gift to myself. I think I got it for $500. I’m really in tune with my Canon 5D MKIII at the moment, thinking of going to the IV though. Haven’t decided yet.
Could you share some advice for young photographers wanting to get into music photography? It is a surprisingly tricky industry to get a foot in the door to, so would your advice to them be?
It is tricky. It’s a game I guess. It’s who you know when you know them, and how the relationship is going to bloom. I never looked at anyone and said “wow this person can help me on tour”, no. Just be yourself, shoot everything and go from there. Also, start small you’re not going to get hired as Justin Bieber’s photographer right off the bat.
You work with both photography and video. They are in some way two very different ways of documenting someone, so how do you make sure both tools are in your spirit?
I love video and photo for separate reasons. I did a project with a band called All Time Low and documented them for over a year for their DVD that was released in 2017. A video is so special because you can capture audio and such a different energy that sometimes an image can’t hold. An image to me sometimes is left up to the viewer on what they want to see, where a video is more direct in its purpose in my opinion. I do a lot of random little video clips every day when I’m on the road specifically for audio reasons; if someone is doing a speech, recording a new song, people talking about special moments and so on.
We can sense that there’s a genuine love for music in your work. What has been the most memorable moment on tour so far? And what was so special about it?
I think the first time I went to Europe was extremely special. I was around 19, and it was with a band called Mayday Parade. We did a 4 week UK/Euro tour and so much happened out there that I’ll never forget; from a ferry crossing into Ireland when the boat barely made it across to our tour bus leaking water in my bunk and getting me extremely sick. Drinking bottles of wine at 4 am on a little hill in front of the Colosseum in Rome. Those guys took me everywhere from Australia to the Philippines to their own homes and let me document their trip.
It must be a very intimate thing to spend that amount of time together. What is the most memorable thing anyone’s said to you after you’ve documented their life on tour?
I guess, “thank you”. These artists I around have families like anyone else…I have a lot of beautiful moments with their families and I guess just having them appreciate these moments and saying thank you for being around to capture it, is extremely special.
Being on tour pursuing your passion for photography must be amazing, but how do you manage to keep yourself connected and inspired 24/7?
If you love your job so much then it’s not really considered a job, right? I love shooting everyday portraits, concerts, behind the scenes – that is the fun for me. Getting to be creative and the artists letting me shoot whatever I feel inspired by.
You used to play drums as a kid. Does being on tour never give you the itch to get back into playing music?
Sure. But since I work for a few rock and alternative bands there is always a drum kit set up whether it is a practice kit backstage or actual live kit. The practice kit backstage is fun because it’s just pads. Whenever we start losing our minds on tour I definitely have my fair share of jumping on Rian from All Time Low’s kit and jamming. Everyone is usually surprised on some of the beats and fun I have on the kit.
If you were in a band what would its name be and what kind of music would you be playing?
[Laughs] I’m not sure of the band name, but maybe indie rock at this point. Maybe some funky music kind of like The 1975 or COIN, that’s some of my favorite music at the moment.
Do you think your work life is going to continue to be focused on being on tour with musicians or are there other stuff in the pipeline?
We’ll see, I just am addicted to traveling! The last year my work with Big Sean kind of stood out a little bit more in the fashion world, Vogue, Dior, PUMA, etc. I’d love to get more involved in editorial fashion and back in the studio a little more. A lot of my work location is on the road, outside, random backstage areas. I think that getting some nice lighting and more than an hours shooting in MY space, is the ideal.
The Cultural Impact of Polaroid ➜
20 Original Instant Portraits ➜
Backstage With Vivienne Westwood ➜