An electrical engineer armed with a Ph.D in molecular biology, Matthias Hombauer decided he should pursue his two greater passions - music and photography. Self-taught, Vienna-based Matthais stalked bands and shot 400 concerts before he became the exclusive photographer for Iggy Pop, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Fink and Portugal. The Man. Although he is a music photographer (more appropriately, a rockstar photographer), Matthias doesn’t see himself as a concert photographer but a portrait photographer. When you view Matthias’ work, you’re instantly on location - you can hear the music, feel the beat, jump up and down, go mad with the crowd. Fist in the air and no phones. We wish we were at every performance Matthias shot. Read these tips Matthais has generously shared with us on being a rocker photographer.
1. What do making images mean to you?
As music photographer I always try my best to reflect the atmosphere of the concert I take photos of. My images should give the observer the feeling that he or she was there, standing in the first row next to me. If this is the case I am successful as photographer. For me, making images mean to capture a split second of our reality knowing that this moment will happen only once. This is the magic that motivates me as a photographer.
2. What is life to you? What it should be?
I think everyone has his own perception about it. Unfortunately most of us are trapped in the believe that working for a company, watching television and go out on the weekend is how life should be. I was living such as life until I finished my Ph.D. in molecular biology and started my own business as photographer and entrepreneur. Working on my own projects because I am passionate about them makes a huge difference in both life quality and motivation energy I have for my work. I won´t say that this lifestyle is fitting to everyone, but I found the way for myself how I want to experience life.
3. There are a lot of professions out there - why be a music photographer?
I totally agree on this and because there are so many opportunities to choose from I tested many different professions before I started my career as music photographer. I am an electrical engineer and have a Ph.D in molecular biology. After years of frustration with my job and life situation I realized that I wasn’t going to be happy for the rest of my life with it. Instead I decided to follow my two passions instead: music and photography.
I have been a music lover ever since the first Guns N’ Roses concert I saw at the age of 13. I got my first camera when I was 28 years old and started to shoot concerts in small clubs without any professional photography training. I soon realized that music photography was the way I wanted to go in the future. So, I invested in some camera gear and shot every concert in Vienna I was interested in.
I started to ask bands if I could take their portraits before shows and since then it’s been an unbelievable journey for me. I’ve shot concerts of more than 400 bands, I have worked exclusively for bands like Iggy Pop, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Fink and Portugal. The Man. My photos were used on album covers, as tour posters and in magazines (such as Rolling Stone) and I am a regular contributor to international photography blogs such as PetaPixel and Huffington Post UK Last year, I toured with the German Balkan Band Shantel all over the world.
I also started my online project "How to become a Rock Star Photographer" to help people finding and start living their passion as concert photographers too.
4. Do you have a “second profession” or passion?
Beside my Ph.D. in molecular Biology and being a photographer I would say another profession/passion is marketing. I was able to build a worldwide community of passionate concert photographers form all around the world by self studying the topic for about 2 years reading books and watching workshops.
5. What are you reading now?
My online project "How to become a Rock Star Photographer" started to get a lot of media attention and I give lots of interviews and public talks not only music photography but also marketing related. Therefore my book of choice at the moment is “Steal The Show” from Michael Port which is about how to give great speeches. There is always something to learn and I love these challenges in life. If you never leave your comfort zone and think big, you´ll always be standing in your own way.
6 Do you shoot with your left or right eye?
I shoot with both eyes open. This is a technique that will help me stay alert to what´s going on around me in the Photo Pit. I look with my left eye through the viewfinder and leave my right eye open all the time. This way I´ll catch any activity going on around me such as security guards pulling fans out or the movements of other photographers next to me.
7. Are there any unseen experimental images in your attic you’d like to show us now?
Not that I know of.
8. Have you ever thought of photographing something other than music? If so, what and why?
Yes, because I don´t see myself only as a concert photographer, but also as a portrait photographer. I work as a freelancer for different magazines such as Forbes Austria and for a big austrian newspaper. I like the contrast of working together with managers and politicians where you need a totally different personal skill set compared to hanging out in fucked up clubs and shooting concerts. Don’t get me wrong. Music photography is still my number one passion and therefore I work with bands as often as possible.
9. Who do you respect - in photography or elsewhere?
When it comes down to name someone who I respect in photography Anton Corbijn immediately comes to my mind. This guy has had almost every most famous musician in front of his camera. In addition, he’s responsible for most of Depeche Mode’s videos, and has been working with Arcade fire recently. I also love Martin Schoellers and Dan Winters portraits of actors and celebrates as well.
10. If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently? Why?
Probably I should skip university and start being a photographer 10 years earlier next time. Just kidding. I believe that everything in life has it´s meaning and therefore I would do everything the exact same way. I learned from every chapter in my life and integrated my experiences for the
Bonus Q: Do you think the gear you use affects the way you photograph? Why?
You often hear the quote “It´s not the camera it´s the photographer who takes a good picture”. I basically agree when talking about general photography, but in concert photography the gear matters a lot. Most of the time you have to deal with ultra low light Nikon D700 and Nikon D800 with Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, Nikon 80-200mm f2.8, Nikon 85mm f1.4 f2.8 and a Samyang 14mm f2.8.
I not only love the look of film, but I love working with old analog cameras too. Therefore I am still shooting most of my artist portraits with a 503CX Hasselblad and a Cal Zeiss 80mm f2.8 lens. Nothing can beat this combo in combination with a Kodak Portra 800.