“I try to approach music photography with a superfan mindset,” says Pooneh Ghana. The 32-year-old Los Angeles-based photographer has been documenting the live music scene since he was a teenager.
Her specialty is capturing musicians on stage in front of sweaty faces pouring down over stage barriers. She says it’s more fun that way.
She toured with indie rock heavyweights including Fontaines DC, Idles, Cage the Elephant, Courtney Barnett, Sunflower Bean, Shame, and 2021 breakout pop star Olivia Rodrigo. She shot Travis Scott, Billie Eilish, BTS, and Dua Lipa, just to name a few.
Ghana began his career as an up-and-coming photographer in 2008 documenting the Indies era. As her career reached new heights, she found the world she worked in paused. So she turned her camera to the lens to record the Black Lives Matter protests and the billboards of the venues that were closed due to the pandemic. “We’ll be right back.” Now she’s noting live music is making a comeback after a long Covid silence, and her unique behind-the-scenes position is that of burnout musicians. gives her an insight into what she is experiencing.
“Touring is really taking a toll on everyone. Bands can find more sustainable ways to do what they love and fans will pay $100 tickets to go see these artists. I hope this will no longer be necessary.
She found musicians facing increasing financial pressure from the collapse of the industry. “It’s crazy. We hear that the tour doesn’t even break even if they don’t sell out the 3,000, 4,000 capacity room, basically tonight. How many bands are struggling?” It was really hard to hear.
“Obviously, when a band is canceling shows under so much pressure that they not only can’t afford to live, there’s something wrong with the system,” she says.
Just as touring musicians have been hit, so are the photographers who depend on them for work. “All the music photographers I spoke to this year are very tired. I am grateful.”
Ghana’s first live music shoot of 2020 was two days before the New Year. Black on Wiltern is his two nights of live streaming his performance featuring his Puma and Maggie Rogers. “It was a full production performance for everyone, but we needed live shots,” Ghana says. “Looking back, it was so uncomfortable to see an empty theater.”
In early 2021, Ghana shot the cover photo of a pregnant Juliette Jackson for Big Moon’s recent album Here Is Everything. She went to see Jackson in London when the world was still reeling from the pandemic. Covid compliance required an extra level of planning: two vaccinations and her two weeks of isolation.
“The first tour I did [after Covid protocols were lifted in late 2021] It was 6 weeks at Idles. Idol shows are crazy. People were wearing masks, but most of the time people were relaxed. It was chaos, guys are always in the crowd. But within that six weeks, miraculously no one contracted her Covid.
“Then we did another tour a few months later and it was like a strict Covid bubble where no one was allowed to leave and it was canceled last week and a half because someone tested positive. .”
2022 faces a surge in live shows as the number of live music photographers and tour crews who have managed to survive a period of economic depletion has dwindled. It has been a busy year for Ghana, who is working with new sensibilities.
“I have become more aware of the environment, especially post-corona. It’s fascinating to see how they react.”
Born to Iranian immigrants, Ghana grew up in San Antonio, Texas and attended Austin concerts in middle school and high school. “It started with wanting to go to a show and take a picture with an artist. Then I thought: ‘What if I excluded myself from the picture and just photographed them?'” she said. started sharing his images on Flickr for fun.
“This was a pivotal moment in my life that made me realize that music can change lives. The Arctic Monkeys, all the bands that I found adjacent to them.
Ghana got her first taste of going viral when her early Polaroid of Kings of Leon exploded on Flickr. Now, she frequently shares her vibrant and energetic images to her 79,000 followers on Instagram. “Ultimately, she wants it to feel like it’s there,” she says. To this day, her genuine enthusiasm for her live music has made her a relatable online presence. Her enthusiasm is contagious when the hundreds of comments on her particular post show.
When Ghana started, she took every opportunity. She attributes her success to a combination of her perseverance, focus, love of music and the support of her friends and loved ones. “There are millions of photographers out there and I am grateful to be here today. I can’t imagine what it’s like, but in the same way, it’s very hard to get people to look at it and make a profit from it,” she says.
She is cautiously optimistic about the future and hopes that artists and their crews will find a way to persevere despite the uphill battle. , a community where everyone is in a vulnerable ecosystem, but there is also a support system through it.”