"My dream is to take a photo that when someone looks at it they hear a note, loud and clear, " says photographer Zo Gay, better known as Zo Damage.
If you’ve been kicking around the Melbourne live music circuit at all in the past few years, you’ve probably crossed paths with Zo inching, shot-by-shot, closer to that goal. The woman is a veteran of the scene. On 25 February 2016 she set herself the challenge of photographing a band (or more) every day for a full year. Turns out it was a leap year, so the 365 Day Project actually took 366 days to complete. The project is now being released as a book, The Damage Report, with launches and exhibitions to take place in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. We chatted to Zo about life on the far side of the lens.
Tell us how the 365 day project came about?
This year marks my tenth anniversary of being published and I really wanted to do something different to take me into that. I started the 365 day live music photography project to challenge myself and my work ... to push and evolve both personally and creatively. The project has taken me places I would never have dreamed. I’ve learned so much about myself, and my work. It’s pretty amazing!
The project started on 25 February 2016 and was successfully completed on 24 February 2017. I actually photographed 366 days on the trot! Although 2016 was a leap year it wasn’t until about two thirds the way through that it actually occurred to me, despite my shooting The Golden Girls at Northcote Social Club on 29 Feb ... I mean, hello ... 29 of February! Very funny. Anyway, after the penny actually did drop I decided to take the project the full calendar cycle to 366 days. The Damage Report celebrates the successful completion of my 365 Day Project, combining photography from 365 with a selection of quotes and abstracts from artists featured who wrote pieces especially for the publication. The book is about live music culture and community offering an insight into this vital cultural hub from the perspective of the live music scene itself.
I’ve worked with awesome people on getting The Damage Report book launches and 365 Project installations, which is really cool. The project has a strong focus on the underground and emerging live music scene. I'm very into having loads of kick arse underground bands in a book alongside the so-called big guns. The immensity of the project and what it represents is mind-boggling. That being said, what I did with 365 and what is presented in The Damage Report does not even touch the sides of what is out there.
Describe a typical day for you.
During the project, life was simple. Sure, I worked and stuff but each day revolved around a single outcome: Go to a gig and get shots. My life became incredibly simple and time became everything and nothing all at once. Taking photos for the project was the easy and fun part. The archiving and planning for everything
that was to follow, that was, and still is, very time consuming and a lot of hard work. I like it. The trick with time is to make sure I am focused. The reality ... that’s another story!
Are the shows that you enjoy most sonically or performance-wise the best to photograph, or is there not necessarily a correlation (ie can a lacklustre show still have great shots and a great show yield dud photos?)
I love music and use photography as a way to connect with it. Being in the moment is everything and the idea of taking a single shot that resonate so strongly is mind-blowing. High-energy shows are always a blast. That being said there are amazing moments to be found at most gigs. It’s always there, it’s just that it may present differently, which is part of the challenge and what makes live music photography so incredibly dynamic and great fun.
People get into live music photography for many reasons. I try to take photos of energy and sound. My dream is to take a photo that when someone looks at it they hear a note, loud and clear. It’s an impossible dream and I’ll keep shooting until I achieve it. That I have been able to reach my goal of photographing a band or more every day for a full year is testament to the depth and breadth of what is out there: a thriving community and a creative hub that embody the richness and diversity of live music culture.
To say that I am overwhelmed and humbled by the interest in my 365 Day Project and The Damage Report, and everyone's support and generosity is an understatement. Everything I do revolves around the underground and emerging live music in one way or another. The places this wild ride is taking me is trip. I've got a lot to be grateful for.
365 Day Project Exhibition:
Arts Centre Melbourne
Live performance from Wet Lips
Guest speaker Helen Marcou
Launch (booked out) - 11 August 2017
Exhibition 13-15 Aug
Bib'n'Brace Collective Brisbane
25 - 26 Aug 2017
Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary Sydney
31 Aug – 2 Sept 2017