On Music and Concert Portraiture: A Conversation with Vickey Ford

by Ciel Hernandez

The portraitist’s specialty is to make an icon out of a photograph, to make sure that the image captures the essence of a person. The challenge is doubled for famous faces and voices. Vickey’s photographic representation of musicians is tuned in harmony with their essence. The artists and performers themselves admit to it.

“I’ve had some of my personal favorite artists become fans of my work,” she shares. “A couple have come up to me to tell me how they appreciate when I shoot their shows, because I care about how I capture them.”

Jay-Z, Suicidal Tendencies. Photos by Vickey Ford.

Vickey’s penchant for music and concerts was no accident. She was born and raised in Washington D.C., home to many rock acts, folk singers, jazz crooners, and bluegrass, rhythm and blues sirens. Her mother used to take Vickey to record stores and let her buy a vinyl or two of her choice. Their house never ran out of songs to play. And while Vickey’s love for music came first, photography followed shortly when her mother took her to her first concert.

“I wanted to keep that moment alive forever, the lights, the energy between the crowd and the musician,” she says. “So, when I decided to pick up the camera, I thought what better way to merge my love for music and passion for photography.”

Vickey was meant to play a part in the music scene, not with a microphone or instrument, but with a camera.

Grace Jones, Miguel, Janelle Monae and Rich Medina. Photos by Vickey Ford.

As with many artists, Vickey had no formal training, only practice and passion. When she worked as a music and concert promoter in the 90’s, she borrowed her friends’ cameras so she could take photographs of performers and musicians. A concert fan’s hobby turned into lifelong art.

Today, she draws photographic inspiration from The Photo Ladies, Jefry Andres Wright, Danny Clinch, Ralston Smith, Ravie B, and Sammy Steward.

Macy Gray, Lianne La Havas’s guitar, Loretta Lynn, Lenny Kravitz, The Dream, and Maxwell. Photos by Vickey Ford.

When composing concert portraiture, Vickey would look into two things. The first one, rhythm, is for organization.

“It’s created when one or more elements of design are used repeatedly to create a feeling of organized movement. Rhythm creates a mood like music or dancing.To keep rhythm exciting and active, variety is essential,” she says.

The second is emotion, for connectivity. “I want the viewer to feel the emotion of the performer, or if they were at the concert or event, to remember that moment of the show,” Vickey says. She also wants viewers to find their own meanings in her photographs. “[It’s] because what I might feel or want them to feel sometimes becomes something totally different from what I thought. I like my viewers to feel excitement, happiness and sometimes sorrow.”

The Weeknd, Miguel, and Jesse Boykins. Photos by Vickey Ford.

As of this writing, Vickey is juggling five exhibitions, a coffee table book, and a pending portraiture project. She is also a featured photographer in “She Got Aim,” an exhibit in Brooklyn. But Vickey hopes that this recognition in the art world can extend to others, specifically women of color. “My wish is that more women of color are recognized for the work that we contribute to contemporary art and photography.”

Images are used with permission from Vickey Ford. Want to know more about the artist? Read our first feature or visit her Tumblr for more of her stunning portraits.

Originally published at www.lomography.com.

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