Victoria (Vee) Sanders is a photographic force to be reckoned with. In addition to documenting major artists on tour around the country, she also co-founded and runs the popular @thephotoladies community—a global collective of women and non-binary music photographers. Read on to learn how Vee turned photography into her full-time career, her advice for newer photographers, and what it means to embody Community Over Competition.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get started with concert photography?
It was a natural progression from how I started taking photos—I started taking photos when we’d all be out skateboarding before I even was in high school. Music and skateboarding are so intertwined, and I had friends who were in bands or deejayed during and after high school so we’d go from skating all day, out to a spot and I’d have a film camera with me already.
Is concert photography your full time job? If not, what else are you up to?
No - photography is my full-time job, but not just music photography. I work with professional sports teams, do portraits, events, still some skate stuff, branding and commercial work as well.
In addition to your work as a music photographer, you also started The Photo Ladies community, an initiative we love at Photographer Tonight! How would you describe The Photo Ladies to someone who’s just hearing about it for the first time?
We’re a collective and community of women and non-binary (music) photographers from literally all over the world, and we want you to join us. (Seriously though, we do.) We’re there to answer the questions you’re afraid to ask because someone was rude to you or you weren’t confident enough to speak to them—we’ve all been there. We’re also a publication covering shows globally and working on a lot of projects that will see the light of day very soon!
What motivated you to start The Photo Ladies?
TPL started as a little bit of an inside joke between about a dozen of us—mostly NYC based photographers—we all met basically because of The Maccabees and Mumford & Sons.
You’ve grown The Photo Ladies community into an impressive group of talented music photographers. What has that journey been like and where do you hope it leads in the future?
We’d love to see it keep growing, and turn the publication into something even bigger and expand where we have community members and the number of shows we’re able to cover for bands and artists that are just getting started all the way to those selling out arenas.
Where do you find inspiration?
90s skateboard photographers were always my biggest inspirations, old skate videos, going to baseball games, bodies of water, really well done television and films, some of my friends, Rafael Casal and Benjamin Earl Turner inspire me more than anyone else I’ve ever met. Having those two around is special. Having someone to believe in you too is wildly inspiring—I feel extremely lucky to have someone around who believes in me and pushes me to be a better photographer all the time, even when they don’t realize they are.
What advice would you share with people just getting started with concert photography?
Don’t go in with an ego, introduce yourself to other people in the pit, ask questions if you’re not sure, don’t be a jerk, don’t hold your camera up and block other people’s shots, move around in the pit, and it is always Community Over Competition.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep it up, I’m proud of you. Your stubbornness paid off.
What’s the best or most memorable advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t ever compromise yourself for anyone and do not compare yourself to others—their journey is not yours.
What gear do you currently use?
Digital: I use Nikon Mirrorless cameras.
Film: I have a dozen or so different Olympus cameras from 1960s half-frame to a few Stylus’ that I always carry at least one with me. I also have a Fuji Medium Format camera which is one of my favorite camera purchases ever.
Lightroom, Photoshop, or something else?
Mostly Lightroom, Photoshop for a little extra here and there, and a lot of effects that are shot directly into the camera instead of post-processing using filters, etc.
Do you have any projects, recently completed or upcoming, that you’re particularly excited for?
I’d really like to do more work in theatre/film/television doing stills, and also doing at least 50% of my work in the future on film. There’s something so much more special to me about film and the feelings and moods that are conveyed through it.