Michael-Rex Carbonell has become quite the household name for any Blue Swan fan. At this point, it’s safe to say the man has dedicated his life to capturing extraordinary photos and videos of some of our favorite bands. Michael-Rex spent the majority of 2015 on the road, so if you’ve gone to see bands like Stolas or Dance Gavin Dance, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen him running from one side of the stage to another to get the perfect photo.
This year he’s slowing it down a bit, and I had a chance to sit down with him and talk about where he’s headed in 2016, what it’s like to be a touring photographer, and of course, some of his favorite music.
Kayla: How old were you when you bought your first camera?
Michael-Rex: I consider my first film camera my first real camera. I was almost 22 when I bought it. I never did anything too big with that, just kind of took photos for fun. It wasn’t until about a year later that my cousin gave me my first digital camera, and that’s what really changed things for me. I was able to shoot more frequently as well as more effectively since I could see the photos instantly.
K: Did you always have an interest in photography?
M: At least as a hobby, yes. In high school I did black and white film photography as an elective. I was really into graphic design and painting as well. But those were never anything more than a hobby until my last year of college. I majored in music and engineering, but by the end of it I was just so burnt out. I needed something different, so I picked up a camera again and just fell in love with it even more than I ever had.
K: Would you consider photography your full time career?
M: Yes, definitely. I’ve been doing it full time for over a year now. I’d like to evolve this into more of a cinematography/film-making kind of thing too. But still photography will always be my biggest passion.
K: Do you plan on branching out from concert photography?
M: I’d like to branch out, yeah, but I feel it’s important for me to stay somewhat involved in some sort of music community. I used to play music, and when I stopped, I wanted to keep a connection with the community who raised me to be who I am today. This scene has continually opened doors for me. I would really like to see what I do evolve into more than just music photography. I would love to make a movie one day. I want to put a lot more of my focus on video in this next year or two.
K: You’ve been on over 10 tours now, what has your favorite tour been thus far?
M: I did a tour this past April that was Dance Gavin Dance, Polyphia, Hail the Sun, and Stolas. That was a lot of fun. The dudes in Stolas and Hail the Sun are such a tightly knit group, so it was more like hanging out with friends the entire time, rather than work. Also between July and August, I did a run with Stolas again along with Artifex Pereo and Eidola. I’ve been listening to Artifex Pereo for a while now, so getting to tour with them and see their set and fall in love with Eidola every night was just awesome.
K: Do you have a favorite band to shoot?
M: Two of my favorites would be Artifex Pereo and Letlive. Artifex’s stage performance is just so on point. There are six of them, and each individual member has their own stage presence which makes them so much fun to shoot. With Letlive., Jason Butler is just a madman and he’s constantly keeping me on my toes as a photographer so that’s always a blast.
K: Your girlfriend, Kayla Surcio, is also a photographer. How is being in a relationship where you both have the same career goals?
M: When I was in college, one of my professors told me to never get involved with someone in the same profession, but in our case it really works out for the best. She truly inspires me to better myself. If I didn’t have her, I’d probably be content with doing the same things over and over, but having her in my life pushes me to be different, to evolve, and progress. So it’s definitely a good thing. She helps me better myself and vice versa. It works for us.
K: What’s on your playlist right now?
M: I listen to too much music, man. I love the first two Weezer albums so I could listen to either of those any day of the week. The Beatles are on Spotify now, so I’ve been on a huge Beatles kick for the past month. A bunch of weird stuff too, like Tera Melos and Hella. Portugal. the Man has been one of my favorites for the longest time. I just enjoy anything that means something, really.
K: So what should everyone be expecting from you in 2016?
M: I’d like to tour a little less and focus on doing work for bands that doesn’t involve me being on the road. Definitely expect more video work from me, that’s one thing I’m completely certain about. I would really like to do a music video this year, that’s my main goal.