Manuel "Manny" Frayre, the music editor of the online art outlet NAKID Magazine and experienced music photographer, wears his style on his sleeve. He met up with the Observer in Austin to discuss his career, upcoming shows and committed approach to concert photography.
How did you get started in music photography?
I’ve been in the music industry since before I started doing photography. I appreciate it as an art and I always worked on everything that was surrounding photography except the actual, you know, grabbing the camera and taking the pictures.
Being the music editor for NAKID Magazine, working for different companies and music festivals, I’ve always selected images from photographers. I also have to hire photographers, know who’s good and know who has that special eye.
I’ve edited images and done graphic design for a quite a while, so when I finally decided to start doing my own shots, for my own articles, it all came together. Now I love it. I am still learning and I am grasping my own style.
How would you describe that style?
When it comes to live music photography, my style usually goes a bit toward double exposure — more trippy stuff. It's an older look in a way; that old film look. I try to mimic that look, but still make it modern.
I love film as well; it has a beautiful look right off the back. When I go to music festival or a show, I want those images to be crisp and high quality, and then I can have the opportunity to mess around with them and add my own style as I edit.
Usually, it comes back to double exposure, like mixing the crowd with the artist, and the artist's silhouettes with themselves. I love doing stuff like that.
How does your other work, such as editorial shoots for NAKID, differ from concert photography? Was it a difficult transition?
It was; everything was happening so quickly. No artist is going to come to you and hold a pose for you to have an amazing shot. It's just about knowing how to work your craft, your equipment, and how to predict the artist’s movement with the time that you have.
You must know where to move and where to go next. People are yelling everywhere, and behind you everyone is going crazy. It's more gratifying once you get that beautiful shot from the artist while they’re performing [with such energy]. It makes it all worth it.
Is there a specific music genre that you're a fan of?
As a music editor and as a writer, I don’t belong to a specific genre. Never have; never will. I try to be about whatever big show's coming out or what’s happening in [Dallas]. I want to be there, I want to go there and I want to make sure that my eyes are there, my lens is there.
At the same time, I would like to go back to Denton and go to a house show with a hundred kids in one living room, or see a sweaty band going crazy in a garage. It is about the aesthetics and what you capture. If you enjoy what’s out there and you can grab it and put it in that format of art, that’s amazing and great. I guess that’s why I love Dallas and Denton so much.
What drives your work in the music industry?
I think it’s what brings everyone into this industry: the music itself. If you understand the artist that you’re going to shoot, their accomplishments, their transition from their last album to this album, and understand the hype that is behind it ... [the music becomes] bittersweet. I believe that the music industry is timeless and priceless. That makes it worth it for me.
How is it different to shoot a music festival versus a regular concert?
Music festivals are so unpredictable, every music festival is different. I've worked for music festivals before so I've been on both sides of the industry.
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On one side, I am in charge of managing the media, so I know how difficult it can be for someone who's working for the photographers, and getting the access that they need. Then I've been on the other side as well, like reaching out to a festival and trying to gain access to the festival.
At times, even the artist can be so unpredictable. The artist might be like, "There is no photo access today," because they didn't like their haircut or something like that.
Do you have any advice for novice concert photographers?
I would say always work on your craft, develop it and try new things. That's what matters at the end of the day, regardless of how people might perceive your images or your art. You have to be a tough critic of your images and make sure that they are the best that they can be. Always defend your art, your image, and your ambitions.