PLAYING ATLANTA: Going Behind the Lens with Alexandra Scuffle

When one considers the music industry, generally the first thought is of the musicians themselves: a sweat-soaked Mick Jagger convulsing across the stage; Freddie Mercury, fist raised high before the crowd at Live Aid; a hazy image of Joni Mitchell, all blonde hair and sharply intuitive eyes nearly hidden behind an acoustic guitar. The music follows – a whisper of a melancholy melody or a ravenous guitar line demanding to be heard, carried along by the captivating rhythm of the drums. We’ve all experienced powerful memories of music to some extent. In fact, I would venture to say it’s generally universal.

But when was the last time you stopped to consider the photographers who captured the greatest moments in music history?

Well, today, PLAYING ATLANTA is doing just that. I got the chance to sit down with photographer and graphic designer Alexandra Scuffle. An Atlanta native of proud Peruvian heritage, Alexandra is known for photography that pulses with life, vivid, colorful graphic design, and an uncanny ability to capture an experience in a single photo. Read on for more about her inspirations, her artistic lineage, and her ultimate photography gig.

Pink @ State Farm Arena. All photos by Alexandra Scuffle.

AF: Alexandra, you are officially the first rock photographer I’ve featured on PLAYING ATLANTA (and also one of my all-time personal favorites). Let’s jump right in; how did you get into photography? Was it something you were always passionate about, or was it a hobby for a while?

AS: It all started when I was in elementary school. Whenever I went on a field trip, I would grab a disposable camera. I really got into it because it was fun, and because of the exciting part of how the photos turned out after waiting for a few days. I didn’t see it much as a hobby; it was [something] I felt passionate about. I saw that there was [the] potential of growing it into a career.

AF: Who are your personal photographer icons and inspirations?

AS: Annie Leibovitz, Tim Walker, Mario Testino, Ross Halfin, Mick Rock, and so on. Mario Testino was the first photographer that I looked up to. My mom’s best friend is best friends and working partners with Mario. That was always close to me. I used to have stacks of fashion magazines and make myself study his photos. I was in awe of his amazing work.

AF: What’s your favorite style of photography to shoot?

AS: Concerts, fashion, nature, and behind-the-scenes.

AF: Music and photography have a decades-long romance; what drove you to make a career in music journalism and photo-journalism?

AS: The creativity and getting to meet people with similar interests. I love the fact that my camera can take me places and your office can be anywhere you go. I’m still chasing further to become a personal world tour photographer, traveling with big-name bands, and dreaming of having my work on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Charly Bliss @ The Masquerade

AF: You’ve gotten some amazing shots from the biggest shows and festivals Atlanta has to offer. Do you have any personal favorites? 

AS: Thank you! I’ve shot Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and P!nk. When I shot Taylor Swift, I was told that the stage will shoot out flames. My shooting spot was at the soundboard. It was about a hundred feet from the stage, a little farther than usual. I kind of knew it was coming, but it really surprised me how incredibly intense the heat was from the flames. I thought my camera was going to melt!

AF: What’s your favorite Atlanta venue to photograph? 

AS: The Fox Theatre. It’s full of art and history; that’s what I like about it. Since it’s a seated venue, it’s easy for me to navigate through the crowd during the show. The security and staff are very friendly and helpful, which helps a lot when I work.

AF: If you could photograph one touring band, who would it be? What about a band that no longer tours today?

AS: Hard to pick just one touring band! I would love to photograph Cage the Elephant and Joe Satriani. The no-longer-touring-band that I would like to have a chance to shoot is My Chemical Romance. They were my middle school crush. I had photos of them all over my locker door. I know there are rumors out there that they could possibly come back together. I’m keeping my fingers crossed hoping they will tour again!

Maggie Rogers @ The Tabernacle Atlanta

AF: You work hand-in-hand with musicians to capture the results of hours in the studio. How do you use photography to tell a story that some people may only experience through the images you create? 

AS: When I shoot a band at a show, each song tells a story. I like capturing each song with the singer’s emotion and movement. The stage lighting can change the mood of the song, and the audience, how they react. Photography is one of the best ways to document, especially keeping the story alive.

ATL’s own Starbenders open for Alice in Chains at State Farm Arena.

Follow Alexandra on Instagram to keep up with her latest concerts, shoots, and all the trippy graphics you could ever want (plus her new puppy!). 

NEWS ROUNDUP: #GrammySoMale, The Superbowl, Sh*tholes & More

  • #GrammySoMale

    Despite a bombastic performance from Kendrick Lamar, a rallying #MeToo speech from Janelle Monae, and an incredibly emotional Kesha moment, last Sunday’s Grammys disappointed in a giant way. Hip-hop got shut out from the major categories again (this time by Bruno Mars) and women were all but ignored, claiming only eleven of the 84 trophies. Best new artist winner Alessia Cara was the only solo female to win a Grammy. She beat out SZA, who despite being the most nominated lady of the night, went home empty-handed. In a night filled with multiple appearances from U2, Sting, and Shaggy, many wondered why Lorde (the only female nominee for Album of the Year) did not perform. Following the show it was revealed that the Melodrama artist was never offered a solo slot, only an appearance in a Tom Petty tribute, which she understandably turned down. Asked for comment on the matter, Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich told Variety, “We have a box and it gets full. She had a great album. There’s no way we can really deal with everybody.” His idiocy was quickly eclipsed by Recording Academy president, Neil Portnow. When asked about the lack of female representation in the awards, Portnow made the following tone deaf statement:

    “It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome…”

    Many were not happy with his comments, especially his suggestion for women to “step up.” Pink and Charli XCX were among those that took to Twitter to lambast Portnow; others followed suit by using #GrammySoMale to voice their disapproval. On Thursday, in response, Portnow announced the establishment of a new task force that will investigate gender bias at The Grammys and the Recording Academy. On the same day, music-business lawyer Rosemary Carroll spearheaded a group of female music executives’ call for Portnow step down. In an open letter, the executives state, “Today we are stepping up and stepping in to demand your resignation.”

  • Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl RevengeOn Sunday night, Justin Timberlake returns to the Super Bowl for the halftime performance. The move has prompted many to ask “What about Janet?” It was fourteen years ago that JT and the “Rhythm Nation” singer shocked television audiences when Timberlake revealed Jackson’s breast at the end of their 2004 halftime performance of “Rock Your Body.” While Timberlake’s career has continued to flourish, Jackson was virtually blacklisted from the industry after the event.Though Jackson won’t be present at the Super Bowl, she is finally making her deserved comeback. Coachella organizers Goldenvoice have announced Jackson as one of the the top billers of the 2018 Panorama music festival. From July 27 – 29, she’ll headline along with The Killers, The Weekend, SZA, Father John Misty, St. Vincent, The War on Drugs, Due Lipa, Gucci Mane, Cardi B, The XX, Fleet Foxes, Migos, Odessa, and David Byrne.
  • Speaking of David Byrne…

    Byrne made news for several events this week. The Talking Heads founder is releasing a new album, American Utopia, in March, and yesterday he released a playlist in response to a certain political figure. “The Beautiful Shitholes” is a collection of tracks from the likes of Amadou & Mariam, Orchestra Baobab, and Calle 13. Byrne released the following partial statement along with the playlist:“I assume I don’t have to explain where the shithole reference came from.Here’s a playlist that gives just the smallest sample of the depth and range of creativity that continues to pour out of the countries in Africa and the Caribbean. It is undeniable. Can music help us empathize with its makers?”Read Byrne’s full statement and listen to “The Beautiful Shitholes” here.

  • Other Highlights

    After a couple of years of heavy touring with a live band and the exit of Rhye co-founder Robin Hannibal, Mike Milosh is back with Blood, the follow up to Rhye’s 2013 debut, Woman. “Count To Five” is the first official video off of the sophomore release. Albert Hammond Jr.’s upcoming album, Francis Trouble, is out March 9th via Red Bull Records. On Thursday night he performed new track, “Muted Beatings,” on Conan. Chvrches released a clip this week for fresh single, “Get Out.” The Scottish trio will play Governor’s Ball in NYC on June 3rd. The tracklist for the soundtrack of upcoming Marvel movie Black Panther has been released; Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar co-produced the soundtrack which features SZA, Khalid, Jorja Smith, Jay Rock, and more. The first single off the album, “Pray For Me,” is out now and features Lamar and The Weekend. The soundtrack drops February 9th. King Krule is asking listeners to submit photos inspired by the cover of his latest album, The Ooz. The collection of pics are being published on a new Instagram account and prizes may be involved. Flatbush Zombies have three new projects in the works. The rappers’ sophomore album, Vacation in Hell is out April 6th, their touring life is chronicled in Building a Ladder, a new documentary out April 2nd, and group member Erick “The Architect” Elliot is releasing Arcstrumentals2 on February 16th. Nas performed his seminal album, Illmatic, with the National Symphony Orchestra. The concert airs on PBS tonite at 9pm. Noughties nostalgia is fulfilled on “Get It,” a new track from Missy Elliot, Kelly Rowland, and Busta Rhymes. The copyright floodgates have been opened! Kanye West and Solange are both being sued by Prince Phillip Mitchell for unsolicited use of his song “If We Can’t Be Lovers.” West sampled the track for 2007 song, “Everything I Am,” Knowles used it in her leaked 2008 release, “Fuck The Industry.”