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Work / Photography

Pooneh Ghana’s ambient crowd and artist portraits from Pitchfork Music Festival make you wish you were there 

A couple of weekends ago we enviously watched the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago from across the pond. The curation of the line-up from the music publication is always second to none, with a diverse mix of bands that could be your new ultimate favourites, alongside trusted acts such as A Tribe Called Quest and LCD Soundsystem. 

Pitchfork articles and events are always considered in terms of artistic aesthetics with spot on commissioning. For instance, the logotype for its 2017 festivals is custom made by Swiss type foundry Grilli Type, and the upcoming Paris-based version of the festival’s branding is illustrated by Robbie Simon. 

Of course Pitchfork also invites a group of photographers with an eye for portraiture and ambient crowd shots to document the weekend’s events, which make us even more jealous for not being there. This year Pooneh Ghana, a photographer well versed in travelling the world with bands (and who recently kept a brilliant photo-diary of Form Festival for Rough Trade Magazine), was part of the festival’s photo team. Below, she tells us about her day-to-day routine when shooting a festival and shares her favourite shots from the weekend…

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Pooneh Ghana: Thurston Moore for Pitchfork Music Festival

What was the brief you were given from Pitchfork?

There were five of us on the team, all shooting a variety of live bands, atmospheric photos and band portraits. We also teamed up with the Impossible Project at the festival, which was really awesome as I’ve worked with them quite a bit over the last few years and always love shooting polaroids. So they sent us with some polaroid packs to go out and shoot whatever we felt like. Most of us used them to snap polaroid portraits of the artists backstage. 

Can you describe your day-to-day activity while shooting a festival?

It’s pretty straightforward. We all get onsite, get our gear set up, look over our individual schedules and figure out our day. There’s usually a photo team leader we can relay and question our concerns to, if needed, then everyone kind of goes and does their own thing. 

Our days were pretty much a cycle of shooting, real time editing, texting tour managers for portrait sessions with artists, catching up with old friends (the music festival circuit is a pretty small world), and the occasional food/water break. Shooting for Pitchfork was great because each of us had time between our assigned acts to go shoot whatever we wanted, which is always a nice treat. 

Was there one act you enjoyed shooting the most? Were there any surprises?

Of course, Solange. Her stage setup is so beautiful to shoot, from the props to the red colour tones, to her dancers’ onstage performance. Nothing short of captivating. Priests and Ne-Hi were my other favourites. I’ve been listening to them everyday since the festival and was really excited to catch their sets. Especially Ne-Hi as they’re from Chicago, and had a group of mega-fans up the front going crazy. Francis and the Light was my biggest surprise. Francis gives such an emotional performance. The highlight of his set was when he jumped a fence, then climbed up and sang from the top of a tree in the crowd!

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Pooneh Ghana: Angel Olsen for Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Priests for Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Angel Olsen for Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Francis and the Lights for Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: PJ Harvey for Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Survive for Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Vagabon for Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pooneh Ghana: Vince Staples for Pitchfork Music Festival