Houston's Best Music Photographers: Marco Torres
Back in June Rocks Off brought you Houston's ten best music photographers, as selected by a small panel of insiders and professionals. Now we'd like you readers to choose the best. Before voting opens, though, here's a little more about our finalists, in alphabetical order -- and a lot more of their spectacular photography. Best of luck to all ten.
Photos courtesy of Marco Torres
Rocks Off: Tell us a little more about yourself. Marco Torres: I've documented my city's rich music and art scene since 2004. As a Mexican-American, I grew up listening exclusively to corridos and cumbias at my parents' home in Houston's East End neighborhood. I attended Jesse H. Jones Senior High in Houston's South Park district at the height of the DJ Screw era, and my love for Houston Rap music was born.
I give credit to my high-school band director, Mr. Ronald J. Cole, for introducing me to and teaching me jazz, funk, blues and soul music. I've been working as a paid photographer since 2009; it was my side gig for years as I worked a day job at a bank. I have been freelancing full-time now since May 2013.
Portrait of the artist
Photo by Chuy Benitez
What inspired you to become a music photographer? Inspired by an uncle who was a professional photographer, I purchased a used camera and promptly began photographing concerts in the Houston area, combining my new hobby with my passion for music. I always thought what he did was so cool, so different than my other uncles and dad who were mechanics and carpenters.
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In my mid-twenties, I purchased a used DSLR from a friend and I've never looked back. As an assistant, I've worked under famed San Antonio glamour photographer Rolando Gomez and Los Angeles-based entertainment photographer Estevan Oriol. My other photography inspirations include Jim Marshall Jonathan Mannion, and Mike Miller.
Do you prefer concerts or portraits? Why? Definitely concerts. The energy and excitement is unrivaled. Plus, I have an eye for creating portrait-like photos of the talent onstage. I'm always hunting for the right moment to strike and snap and capture the ideal image.
Carlos Santana at Bayou Music Center this month
What is your favorite camera(s) to use at concerts? How long have you had it/them? The original Canon 5D is my favorite. I've owned one for about four years now. It has a full frame sensor that captures wonderful colors, and allows for a big range when I'm shooting.
What would be your ideal camera to shoot live music? Any camera that works is ideal. I've created magic with camera phones, GoPros and Rebel XT's. The secret is practice and patience. The camera is only a tool. The photographer makes the photo.
Do you prefer shooting at small clubs, larger venues or outdoor festivals? Why? I really love outdoor festivals. The lights and production are usually ideal for spectacular images. Both the artist and crowd are so pumped up you are almost guaranteed to walk away with something great.
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Jay Z at the 2013 Made In America festival, Philadelphia
What is your best/hairiest photo-pit story? A few years ago, a new group named Odd Future made their debut at SXSW. They are absolutely wild, and really do not like the "pro photog fags" in the photo pit. They jumped on and over us, poured water on us, and really made it hell to shoot.
Each time I shot them again, I made sure to shoot from the very edge of the pit, the crowd, or the soundboard. A few years later, I heard they actually punched a female photographer in New Orleans. They make for good photos, though.
How often do you make eye contact with the performers? Has anyone ever called you out onstage? I have a really great working relationship and friendship with most of the OG rappers of Houston, like Bun B, Paul Wall, Trae Tha Truth, and Slim Thug. It helps when they see me and pose of pause for my lens. The one that surprised me the most was Z-Ro at Free Press Summer Fest 2014 (above).
I was onstage and he looked directly into my camera, allowing me to get an awesome shot. He usually doesn't care about photographers, but that made my freaking year!
Bun B before the Houston Symphony's "Concert Against Hate," November 2013
What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a music photographer? The relationships you create with the artists, fans, and fellow music photogs is what I find most rewarding. I admire everyone that I've encountered in the pits, and I for one don't see it as a competition.
I am genuinely happy if my fellow photog gets "the shot," and it inspires me to keep going and be better.
Marco asked that we embed this brief video as well:
MEET THE OTHER FINALISTS
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