Interview: Shining a Light on Live Music Photographer Eric Canto.

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French photographer Eric Canto started his career off on stage as a musician, before making his move to a live music photographer. Canto’s work spans all sectors of the music industry. Shooting all the big names including U2, Lenny Kravitz and Jay-Z to name but a few.

Much of Canto’s influence spurs from such photographers as Avedon, Lachapelle, Ward, and Lindberg. In todays interview Eric shares with us his outlook at the world of photography and how it all began for him.

Jonathan: Tell us about yourself, where did all of this begin for you?

Eric: In fact, I started out as a musician. The  music scene has always been a place full of magic for me. After several years as a guitarist in a french metal band and two albums later, I  moved into photography, but still in the music field.

My place was not on stage, I don’t think I felt comfortable being the center of attention.

I was interested in photography for many years – My wishes to stop playing whilst staying in the musical environment allowed me to focus on my two points of interest: music and photography.

Jonathan: Describe to us your first real shoot that you can remember; where you were, what you were doing and who you were doing it with.

Eric: The first picture which I remember, at least one that really affected me is quite strange…I was in Mauritius at a party with three friends, during a morning outing, I remember it was really foggy and we bumped in to a procession locals. We followed and I shot a five-six year old girl. Looking at the photos later, I noticed the look of this little girl…The framing was tight and her look was really strange; quite cold, and staring at me. This was the first time that I  had the feeling to do  something interesting, something that really conveyed strong emotions.

Jonathan: What has been your most rewarding achievement as an artist?

Eric: My most rewarding accomplishment is probably my meeting with the band “Mass Hysteria”. This band is probably the biggest metal band in France. I have been following them since they started. The band contacted me and I became in charge of all visual communication, the artwork for the album, press photos, and live shots!
It was so rewarding seeing all of my work on posters, albums, the web for a band I feel so passionately about.

I remember one album I worked on the I was taking pictures of band on stage in front of 12,000 people raising their arms…It was really magic…

Jonathan: When you first started, what was your biggest dream? And have you accomplished that?

Eric: I don’t have a particular dream…I just let things come.

Jonathan: Who is your favorite photographer and who do you draw your inspiration from?

Eric: I love photographers like Joey Lawrence, Avedon, Gregory Crewdson, or Wright.
I’m attracted by very ‘dark’ work…My main inspiration is music. I made a blog (http://www.canto-photographer.com/wordpress/) I regularly put my preferred photos, and music here.

Jonathan: What has been your favorite gig to shoot so far?

Eric: They are all so different…Marilyn Manson was impressive with his very alternative style, The Prodigy was amazing because of their energy, and U2…because, well…It’s U2! There are too many amazing shoots to choose from – it’s impossible for me to select one!

Jonathan: I understand you met Jean Michel Jarre recently, can you tell me a bit more about that?

Eric: I met Jean Michel Jarre last week. It was quite funny, I only received a phone call the day before “Do you want to meet Jean Michel Jarre for a shoot?”

The meeting was very pleasant, and Jean Michel Jarre was very easy going, and we had a funny conversation about my equipment because I had just received a new light system from Japan that amazed Jean. A smile immediately adorned his face  when he saw my equipment! It is always incredible to see a man, who has sold million albums, remaining passionate and curious with something he must be so used to.

Jonathan: You’re signed with photo agency Factory311, did you discover them or did they discover you!?

Eric: I don’t remember exactly..I think they contacted me because they saw my website.

Jonathan: What are the major factors/most important things about having an agency?

Eric: Probably the support and structure. To be a photographer can be a very lonely job – it is important to have an agent that can provide you with good advice, and even moral support.

Jonathan: You’re signed with FACTORY311′s Image Licensing Agency. How do you think that this will help you and the agency grow?

Eric: We both want to move forward, it’s a way to show off work, improve our profile and demonstrate our expertise. I have been affiliated with Factory311’s pretty much since their birth. I had the feeling  that we could grow together.

Jonathan: What is life like as a photographer in 2010? How has your career adapted to meet the changes needed?

Eric: The life of a photographer in 2010 is quite difficult,  especially in the music industry; In France, illegal downloading has caused a loss of 50% to the music industry.

Only those who are really passionate will have the opportunity to work with very best music bands.

Jonathan: What’s on the horizon for you?

Eric: There are a few things on the horizon…I am currently working for the next live album of Mass Hysteria, and the DVD will include a book with my photos from the tour.

I am working on an exhibition with large format photos taken in Nîmes Arena for the next edition of the Festival de Nimes (Metallica, Pink, Jamiroquai, Muse, etc …)  And I am also working on a quite special exhibition that is not related to music…Its a portrait exhibition, rather dark in style, with a particular theme…the human flaws…And of course some concerts..lots of concerts!

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