Beth Saravo Talks Working (and Staying Relevant) in the Music Photography Scene

All images by Beth Saravo, winner of Red Bull Press Pass. Used with permission.

On the field, Beth Saravo is, quite literally, one of the boys. More often than not, the 24-year-old live music and lifestyle photographer from Los Angeles, California finds herself the only female in the pool of photographers shooting gigs, tours, and festivals.

Music photography remains a male-dominated field but this has never discouraged Beth, a big music fan herself. She believes in the value of working hard and developing a good work ethic, and on finding her own voice to prove she’s just as good as anybody else out there.

Beth’s determination is certainly bringing her places as she continues to land coveted passes to music events like the Outside Lands 2018 (from which the photos in this feature are taken), and the Warped Tour. Her portfolio contains amazing shots of some of today’s biggest names in music; Post Malone, Tyler, The Creator, and Travis Scott, just to name a few.

Whether she’s aware of it or not, Beth certainly helps pave the way for other female photographers to make it, by doing what she loves. It brings hope that, someday soon, female photographers would finally be able to smash the proverbial glass ceiling in this industry and be just as respected and sought-after as their male counterparts.

In this interview, we spoke with Beth about her work, the ways she’s able to stay relevant in the scene, the things female photographers could bring to the table, and much more.

 

Phoblographer: Hi, Beth! Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Beth: Hey! I’d like to describe myself as an “artist shooting artists.” I live and work in Los Angeles and currently shoot various genres of music, from hip-hop to pop punk. I’m a social butterfly, which allows me to meet and vibe with people in and out of work environments. Oh, and I LOVE ANIMALS.

Phoblographer: What made you decide to pursue photography? What are your inspirations?

Beth: Ah. Long story short(er), back in elementary and middle school, when teachers would ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I would always answer, “Director.” I became obsessed with Steven Spielberg (who directed Jaws at age 27). After I got my first camera [I] would film and edit EVERYTHING, from school projects to films with my friends.

Unintentionally, along the way, that turned into taking stills, which I enjoyed more. I pursued it heavily starting late high school. My inspirations include Howard Bingham (Muhammad Ali’s photographer) and Gunner Stahl (prominent rap photographer). I love people who capture seemingly impossible intimacy.

Phoblographer: You’ve been working with some of today’s biggest hip-hop acts including Tyler The Creator, Post Malone, and Travis Scott, to name a few. Sounds like a dream! How were you able to break through the scene?

Beth: It’s not so much a “breakthrough” as it has been a lot of consistent hard work. Each artist I shoot opens doors to other artists so it’s kind of a snowball effect! Sometimes it’s [being at the] right place [at the] right time, sometimes my name gets passed around at serendipitous moments, but overall staying current and working all of the time helps me and my work.

I recently entered a contest by Red Bull called Red Bull Press Pass, [which] was looking for music photographers. I made it to the semi-finals and ended up taking home the title. Putting myself out there in situations like these are always huge moments in my career!

Phoblographer: In all the music festivals, all the places you’ve been to, you are said to be consistently the only professional female photographer on-site. How do you do it? How do you feel about this?

Beth: Music photography is definitely a male-saturated industry. But this is shifting (yippee!). I was on the Vans Warped Tour this summer and there was a handful of female photographers, although we were still outnumbered. The main thing I strive for is having a great work ethic, just like any professional. Just because I’m a girl doesn’t make my abilities any less, and if I have to prove this on-site, I will. It’s humbling to sit with the idea that I am competing in a male-dominated field.

Phoblographer: Photography remains a male-dominated field. What can you say about the importance of equal representation in this field?

Beth: THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING! Women bring such a refreshing and expressive eye to photography, a level of intimacy as well as the female perspective. It’s necessary to expand this art form to celebrate females and what we bring to the table!

Phoblographer: What are your tips or advice for aspiring female photographers wanting to break into the photography industry?

Beth: Although advice is SO situational, I can try to narrow down some tips. One thing I would tell any aspiring female is to be yourself within your art. Although it’s easy to fall into chasing trends, there is a world outside of what everyone else is doing. Finding your individual style and voice is what will keep you around in the long run.

Also, TAKE CHANCES (cliché, I know). Even though you might be the only gal in the room (or the photo pit), that’s a chance for you to be remembered! I took a chance on a contest with a HUGE brand (Red Bull) and it has been a dream and SO rewarding. 

Phoblographer: What made you specifically want to get into music photography?

Beth: Music for me is therapeutic, so combining an art form that I love (photography) with music was a no-brainer! Plus, there is nothing like meeting [or] working with someone you admire. More specifically, the first time I shot music from the stage I got a wild adrenaline rush, so maybe I’m chasing that rush!

Phoblographer: Tell us a bit about the gear you’re using these days.

Beth: I LOVE GEAR TALK. I shoot on both Canon and Sony. Why, you ask? Canon has been my day one, so it feels easy using it, plus my lenses are all Canon mount. Sony is amazing in low light, so it’s my choice in those situations. I shoot with mainly prime lenses because I love the shallow depth of field that they produce.

Phoblographer: How do you feel the job has changed you with often being the only woman at some of these gigs? Has it given you a different or creative approach to problem-solving at all that you can share with us?

Beth: The best way I would describe any change: it would be my ability to “be one of the boys.” I never want artists or crews to think they have to act differently because I am in their presence. Also, I sometimes am able to live up to the “female role” by being motherly or expressive emotionally. More so, I make sure everyone feels comfortable if they are not used to having females around!

Phoblographer: What’s next for you?

Beth: I have so much I am aiming for! I want to continue working on myself as a brand and as someone my audiences can speak to [or] relate to. I want to chase big partnerships with corporate clients (hey, Sony!) and continue working in music.

My current dream is touring with a Top 40 artist, someone I can grow with and essentially document their life. Kind of like what Howard Bingham did for Muhammad Ali.

I also just want to stay balanced. Things can get pretty hectic so as long as I can stay centered, I will be happy.

Visit Beth Saravo’s website to see her recent works.