Photo Pass: Kyle Dean Reinford

Kyle Dean Reinford fell into live music photography after his music blog got him a photo pass to a show in New York.

Nine years and countless shows later, Kyle still fancies himself a “music fan who takes photos.” He talked to us about growing up, leaving New York, and the three best shows he’s ever photographed.

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So how long have you been shooting?

I shot my first show on April 20th, 2007. It was Hot Chip at Webster Hall. I’d started a music blog earlier that year, but I had no intention of really pursuing photography. I started getting free concert tickets, got to a show, and they gave me a photo pass. That week, I bought my first camera and never looked back. I grew up in Northern Indiana, and went to college there for theater and music. I moved to New York to do musical theater and opera, which is a very different lifestyle than the one I’m living now. I lived in New York from 2006 to 2015, and I moved down to Nashville this past July.

If you went back to Webster Hall now, how would it be different?

There’s a big difference between me now and me ten years ago. I’m 32 now, I started shooting when I was 23. Going to a club show and not having a photo pit wasn’t a problem. You’d go up to the front, make friends with the people around you, and hope that they didn’t mosh you into the wall or anything. I’d expect to see a lot more photographers. Digital has made it so easy. I don’t know if I would have got into photography if it weren’t for digital. I had never taken a photo class. If I had had to learn on film, and had to learn by trial and error, it would have been too slow moving and frustrating.

Is there a significant difference in the way that you work between New York and Nashville? I imagine the music scene is a bit different.

Here, it tends to be maybe two or three shows a week that I’d like to go to. In New York there were two or three shows a night that I’d want to go to. The thing that I really miss about New York is that I would always get the new British band coming into town for one show. We don’t get as much of that down here. There’s obviously still a lot of new bands in Nashville starting up, but just the sheer number of bands in Brooklyn doing cool stuff and getting involved with them on the ground level – I miss that a little bit.

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You do a lot of documentary work, as well as shooting live sets. After spending a day with an artist, does it change the way that you shoot them at the show later on? 

You realize that a stage persona can be so different from what the person is actually like in real life, but generally, I’ve found people to be really present off stage. I did a “Day in the Life” feature with Soulja Boy. He was out shopping, and he asked me if he should buy this $600 jacket, and then the night ended with us in his penthouse hotel room eating chicken fingers while watching a Russell Brand movie. I could tell that he really wanted us to see a bit more about him.

Musician Loretta Lynn at her plantation house in Hurricane Mills, TN, on January 26, 2015.

The shot of Loretta Lynn in your portfolio – can you tell us a little bit about how that happened?

I got an email from an editor at the New York Times who I had met with years ago. It was pretty surreal for them to send me to Loretta Lynn’s house to hang out with her for a couple hours while I took some photos. She has a ranch about an hour west of Nashville. There’s a plantation house that’s now a museum, and a house next door where she lives. Everything [was] so beautiful. The room was filled with cowboy and Native American artifacts. She was in that beautiful red gown… when Loretta Lynn offers for you to shoot her in a gown, you have to take it.

Have you ever toured with an artist over a period of time?

I’ve only actually toured once, with the band Ivan and Alyosha. I knew them already, so I just hit them up and said “Take me with you – You don’t need to pay me, just put me up and give me all access.” I got to know them really well, and I got some really beautiful photos of them. They ended up using five of those images for their album packaging, including the back cover.

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That just happened through the process, it wasn’t something you’d agreed to.

No, I just went on the road with them and took some photos, and they wanted to use them. I don’t know that they would have hired me to take those pictures. Doing that tour was really cool because they really did give me ‘all access’. I shared a bed in a hotel room with one of the guys. It’s as intimate as it can be, which is a special thing to be able to do. I would love to do that [again].

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After your first show with Hot Chip, was it from that point forward that you decided, “This is what I’m doing now,” or was there a moment down the line where it felt a bit more permanent?

When I started shooting in April 2007, I was waiting tables at the same time. At the end of that year, I was so sick of it that I quit my job waiting tables. I decided to apply for any photo jobs on Craigslist. I shot the most random stuff, so many random Russian birthday parties. I shot everything I could, and a lot of it – most of it – wasn’t music, it was anything I could do to take photos and get paid for it. For two years, I was making the bare minimum I could to survive in New York. Then, one month my income jumped up, and I realized this was actually going to be a long time thing.

I can’t recall a specific show where I thought “Now it’s working.” The closest thing I can think of was CMJ 2007. I was in line for the BrooklynVegan showcase at Bowery Ballroom, where Bon Iver was playing his first New York show ever, and in line I met the editor of Stereogum, who introduced me to the guy who runs BrooklynVegan. Those two guys really introduced me to most of the people I know in the music world. That was a pretty formative show for me, but not because of anything on stage.

Last question, do you remember the last time that you like shot a gig and it felt a little bit different than the rest? What does it take for a show to stand out now that you do it so regularly?

I still fancy myself a music fan that takes photos, rather than a photographer that happens to shoot bands. Music is what got me into everything. I had my own blog, and it was always about sharing music which connected with me at a really deep level. I can think back on three of my favorite shows that I’ve ever shot, and they were my favorites not only because of the musicians or the visual element of it, but just all around they were my favorite music moments.

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Radiohead at All Points West in 2008. It was an amazing show. It was the first time I’d ever seen them. I was obsessed with Radiohead growing up. Being able to see them in this beautiful venue… I remember turning around and there was almost a full moon, and you could see the Statue of Liberty and some of the New York City skyline. I remember hearing “Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi” and these wailing high notes. [It was] one of the most beautiful things. Honestly, my photos from that maybe [aren’t] my favorite photos ever, but the whole overall experience of it was just incredible.

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Phoenix at Madison Square Garden at CMJ. I was assigned to shoot for Spin, and earlier in the day I’d heard from one dependable source that Daft Punk were going to come out for the encore. After shooting the first three songs, I was talking to someone who worked at the venue who didn’t seem to know that Daft Punk were coming on. Suddenly I’m doubting myself, and thinking maybe it isn’t happening. They let us back into the photo pit when the encore started, and Phoenix did one song by themselves. All the lights were off. It was completely silent, pitch black, and then you just hear the Daft Punk keys. That, for me, was one of the coolest, most unique things I’ll ever see. [It] really sticks with me. I took a photo of all eight of them standing across the stage taking a bow together, and that was my first two-page spread I ever had. That was really special.

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The other one was when I was able to see Feist play in a crypt in Harlem. It was literally in a crypt underneath this church, with a 20 piece orchestra and Mountain Man singing backup vocals for her. She has this one song where the chorus is “Bring ‘em all back to life.” Somehow she got us singing along with her. When she came back out for an encore, we all started singing that again. It was so cool.

I don’t know if that answers your question at all. Honestly, what can really make a show special is interaction with the band. If I get a moment with them backstage, a lot of times those are my favorite images from the night. Making that personal connection… that’s the really exciting thing for me, too.

Kyle will be taking over our Instagram account next Thursday, September 1st. Check it out here!

And, if you can’t wait, view more of Kyle’s photography on his website now.

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