Words by Rod Hunt
Photography by Zo Damage
In February this year, Melbourne-based photographer Zo Damage wrapped up an incredibly ambitious project, shooting at least one band a day for an entire year.
Out of that emerged an exhibition, the 365 Day Live Music Photography Project, and a book, The Damage Report. The Sydney launch is today at Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary.
UB spoke to Zo in between packing down the exhibition in Brisbane and setting it up in Sydney.
What inspired you to undertake such a massive project and year-long commitment?
This year marks my 10th anniversary of being published. I really wanted to do something different that would challenge myself personally and as a photographer that could be shared and celebrated live music and live music culture. I liked the idea of doing something that no one else had done and keeping things transparent as far as photographing a band or more every day for a full year went. The immensity of my 365 Day Live Music Photography Project and what it represents is mind-boggling.
Were there any days where you struggled to find a band/artist to photograph? Or is that impossible in the fertile Melbourne music scene?
Every day there was a choice, even Christmas! The biggest hurdles were personal. Stuff like when my car died a third the way into the project. That was interesting. The most mind-blowing part about my 365 Day Live Music Photography Project is that what I photographed and the shows that are included in the project do not even touch the sides of the live music that is actually out there. It’s pretty nuts!
I remember you excitedly telling me that the Arts Centre Melbourne was going to host the first showing of the exhibition and The Damage Report book launch. Why was that so significant for you?
Sure I was. To have live music culture, in particular the underground and emerging live music scene and contemporary live music photography, presented in Gallery 1 and acknowledged by the art world is amazing. Arts Centre Melbourne were great to work with and what an incredible space. I am very humbled by the overwhelming support it has received.
You set yourself a number of guidelines to work by throughout the project. What were those guidelines and did you come to regret having established any of them?
The main reason for setting some guidelines for 365 was to ensure that the project was transparent and manageable. The further into the project I got, the more grateful I was in having set some boundaries and rules for myself.
As part of the project you also kept a blog. In your entry for Day 294 you wrote, “This project is amazing in more ways than I am able to go into while sitting on the tram writing with my phone and without my glasses! Tonight the project gives me respite from…myself. I’m grateful.” Can you expand on why such a demanding project made you feel grateful?
Yeah, the blog is pretty random. I’d just write when I felt like it. Some of it is more abstract while other entries are related to gigs or what was going on for me at the time. I never once questioned my 365 Day Project or my ability to finish it, which is pretty full on. As for the project giving me respite from myself…all I can say is that it did. My photography and style really haven’t changed, but my approach to shooting shows and dealing with the ups and downs has changed significantly. Things got pretty chaotic sometimes. During the project I had three solo exhibitions and curated two group shows, along with kids, work…life. It’s easy to sit at home or wherever and feed into my own bullshit and worries. The project gave me respite from myself a number of times. It taught me that time is everything and nothing. Make the most of it. Right here right now. It was an amazing experience.
Why did you choose to present the work in monochrome?
I like the honesty and simplicity of it and that there’s nowhere to hide in presenting work in black and white. It makes me think about each shot as a single piece and as part of a collection, each shot telling its own story while working with the whole. I can only speak for my own work, but I guess the thing I like most about working in mono is that there are no distractions from the moment and people are able to interpret and connect with the moments in a way more personal. Hopefully images become less about the actual technical side of a “photograph” and more about people connecting with energy, emotion and story of the moment. It’s pretty cool.
What are some of your favourite images featured in the exhibition and/or book and why?
There are so many amazing moments and each photograph has its own story so this is a hard one. I guess it depends on what mood I’m in. Although I have to admit I do like a good crowd shot! I’m very excited to have The Damage Report book launch and exhibition showing at Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary in Sydney. This project has been a wild ride!
The Damage Report – Zo Damage’s 365 Day Live Music Photography Project exhibition and book launch in Sydney opens Thursday, August 31 at 6pm at Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary, Level 1/66 King St, Sydney. Bevvies provided by Young Henrys. Exhibition continues Friday, September 1, open 9-5.