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Melinda Oswandel: Band photography is my foundation

pic: Melinda Oswandel

Melinda Oswandel is a young photographer whose pictures i found on Instagram somehow. I wanted to know more, so here is an interview. You can browse her photos in the gallery above this article (just click the little evasive arrows next to pics) or on our facebook.
You do some great photos of bands. Are you a big music fan, and is music very important for you?
Music has been one of the important things in my life ever since I was very young. I’ve been going to concerts since I was 11 years old. In the beginning of my concert going days, I even used to sneak cheap point and shoot film cameras into the venues only to get poor quality photos that would make me very happy at the time. Sometimes I would get caught, but obviously that didn’t deter me.
How did you grow up, what milestones shaped you? 
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and Detroit, so the sights and music of these cities became part of who I am, and led to a fascination with photographing Detroit local bands and other activities around the area. I soon realized that I wanted to make it more than just a hobby. For over 5 1⁄2 years starting in the late ‘90s, I worked at an independent record store in Garden City, MI called Rock of Ages. It was there that my love of music went to a whole other level and I made lifelong friendships including meeting my now husband. Rock of Ages also introduced me to people in the Detroit local music scene. I soon became a part of the scene and local band’s practice space called “The Loft” became my second home. There I made countless memories and took countless photos and videos for years. I was rarely ever seen without a camera around my neck. I started photographing bands live 20 years ago. First just bringing my point and shoot film camera to friend’s shows and then investing in a film SLR to get better, more special shots for both them and myself. More and more opportunities arose through the years and I eventually started to receive photo passes to shoot national bands live when they came to the Detroit area. While at Rock at Ages, I did some brief freelance photography for the Dearborn Times Herald newspaper including doing a phone interview with Max Cavalera of Soulfly and Sepultura. I also shot photos of the 2000 presidential campaign tour for Bush and Gore when they were in town and made the front page of both.

How did you develop your style?
Obviously I started with band photography, so my style of presenting it is based mostly on my love of the music and the action involved. That’s the foundation upon which my photography was built. The interest in the art of photography has led me into many different directions. Photographing a beautiful sunset can present as much stimulation and enjoyment as an energetic band as long as you see that special moment and capture it.

Which pics are you most proud of?
When it comes to concert photos, the ones that mean the most to me are when I either captured a special moment in time on stage (or in the pit) or manipulated the shot in camera... Cage the Elephant (titled “Cage on Fire”), The Dillinger Escape Plan (titled “DEP Zombie Nation), Mindless Self Indulgence (titled “Contorted”), Dead Cross (Pierogi Patton) and Dawes (multiple exposure) are a few examples of that. And still one of my all-time favorite shots is a multiple exposure that I took back in 1999 of my friend’s band in Detroit “Motor City Burgers.” I titled it “Drum Solo” and it made honorable mention in the Detroit Metro Times Photo Contest in 2000.
There are also many outdoor/travel photos that I’m very proud of as well. A couple examples are “La Boca Dog” taken in Buenos Aires, Argentina and “Liberty Gothic” taken in Liberty, NY.
How, where did you study photography/art?
After photographing local bands for a little while, I decided to take a couple continuing adult education photography classes to learn more about the fundamentals. But soon realized I wanted to learn everything I could and go towards a degree, so enrolled into the photography program at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI in the Fall of 2000. I was drawn to that school because I heard they had an excellent, well-respected photography program. While there, I was chosen to participate in a three-week digital photography course in Florence, Italy, which was another life changing milestone for me. I graduated with my Photographic Technology Associates Degree back in May 2005.
Since I moved to the East Coast over 12 years ago, I started going to the annual PDN PhotoPlus Expo in Manhattan, as well as other local seminars, to continue my education and get fresh ideas and techniques in an ever-changing industry.
What makes a great shot?
Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to find the shot that you really want and other times it comes up and hits you right in the face. I’ve seen certain bands so many times; I can anticipate when exciting things happen such as jumps or making a silly face. Some things you just have to be ready for the special moment or for the unexpected. And sometimes you didn’t even realize that you got a certain shot until you’re looking at it on the computer and then you know you have something special. I think the most successful shots are those of when the photographer has captured the mood and excitement of the moment. In band photos, I like catching the action and trying to pick up the energy of the crowd. I want those seeing my photos to almost hear the sounds and feel the energy.

It’s most gratifying when a person connects to a certain photo and relates it to something in their life. It makes me happy when my photos speak to people or bring back a fond memory or experience.
An essential part of photography is learning to use either artificial or natural light to enhance the scene. To keep my photography fresh and unique, I like to incorporate something different into the photos such as creating multiple exposures and using props, prism filters and specialty lenses.
How about retouching - I see on your website you do this also. How does this work?
Photoshop and Lightroom have greatly expanded my artistic side both enhancing and experimenting with my photography and have become a crucial part of my daily photo editing routine. I’ve had fun creating, manipulating and retouching through the years. My training in retouching really took off while working for a talented children’s photographer, Jade Albert in New York City. While there, I honed my skills in Photoshop and became very proficient in Lightroom. I have offered retouching and restoration services ever since.
Is photography what you do for a living? Is it hard to make a living as an artist?
Yes. Photography is my life. I’ve been a full time photographer for six years, which was difficult to become profitable, but very rewarding. The financial reward is not nearly as great as the artistic accomplishment / satisfaction. You know what they say... When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.
What are your dreams and long term visions?
My goals and aspirations are to just keep shooting and improving. I may not be a typical photographer, but in my case, I’m living my dream. I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot some of the biggest bands in the world while freelancing for great outlets such Live Nation, Metal Insider and Q Prime, have been published many times through the years and have had continued success selling my photo prints in my Etsy shop and at vendor shows. I also recently started dabbling in product and event photography. I would like people to continue to recognize and enjoy my photography more each year, and am always opened to new avenues that may arise in my field.

What are your plans for 2018?
To keep creating, inventing, experimenting and exploring... And to continue to challenge myself and my abilities.

Twitter/IG: @melindaoswandel

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