If I were to say Lori Garnes takes pictures of the Seattle music scene, that would be both true and misleading, because what she does is so much more than chronicling bands and venues. Her style has the same spontaneous, gritty, joyful energy as her subject matter. And movement! In unexpected ways, she captures the rhythm of the band, the press of the crowd, the noise in the room. She places you right inside the experience.
While most of her pictures are dynamic, grainy black and whites, she also shoots still-lifes in super saturated color. In both cases, it’s an underground aesthetic turned into high art.
I had the chance to ask Garnes about her work and find out how she got started and how things are going in these challenging times. Here we go—
AMY VAUGHN: Hi Lori! Tell me about Art & Noise Photography. How did it get started? What’s the driving idea behind it?
LORI GARNES: Art and Noise Photography was started after I had a major heart attack 4 years ago. When that happened my way of everything changed. I’ve become very aware of mortality and time. I’d always taken photos, but not seriously for many years. I dedicated my life to photography, art and fulfilling my passion for life. It’s been a long road and I appreciate the opportunities.
AV: How would you describe your style?
LG: My style is I’m an emotional photographer (smerks). Seriously (hand to head). I’m in a whole other world when I’m taking photos. I take a moment, feel it, capture it and hope to transfer the feeling to the observer through the photo.
I’m super “artsy ” but hate forced weirdness. I’ve never done photoshop, probably because I haven’t learned yet. I like to use whatever is around me—long exposure is a favorite and utilizing negative space creates a different atmosphere than a usual “rock “photo.
People always say “Oh, it’s artsy.” I like that. I like a challenge. I prefer to be in the pit, rather than in a photo pit.
AV: Did you go to school for photography or have a mentor, or are you self-taught? Any insights about the different paths for people who are thinking about leveling up their photography game?
LG: I took a film class when I was 15, in 1986, but no formal education. I’m mainly self-taught and learning through other artists, online, and through books.
I say do what you want and find a way to do it. Learn and keep learning. I don’t work for anyone, so I have 100 percent creative control. And yes, there will be pain, self-doubt and rejection. Keep going.
AV: Since venues haven’t been open for most of the year, have you expanded your subject matter? Are there other ways Art & Noise has had to adjust because of the pandemic?
LG: Yeah, it’s been trying, my two jobs, photography and being a manager at a Italian restaurant are no more. I’m high risk and have been quarantined since March 11th. My subject matter has been what is around me. It can be temporarily satisfying, but I miss the energy of live music. I’ve been creating in between overthinking. Ha ha.
AV: Who would you say are your strongest influences in art and photography? How about in music? How has music influenced how you approach photography?
LG: I have many influences, I’m pretty eclectic with music and art. I love old noir, renaissance, macabre, boudoir, anything aesthetically pleasing. I love many photographers.
Musically right now, it’s underground noise, metal, punk, experimental: Melvins, Fucked and Bound, Daughters, Old Iron, Whores, Derelicts, The Jesus Lizard, Haunted Horses, Pissed Jeans, Dillenger Escape Plan, Dead Cross, Torche, and many more. There’s quite a scene.
If I know I’m going to be photographing a specific band, and I have a heads up, I go online and watch videos and learn about them, physically, how they perform live, how they move, what their quirks are, and try to capture the style and feeling of the band.
AV: What’s next for Art & Noise Photography? Any projects in the works?
LG: I have no idea what could be next. The game has completely changed. Shows seem a long way off. I’m 100 percent DIY, and trying to connect with people is just different right now. But hopefully another art show and maybe a third book? Collaboration with another artist? Just trying to remain sane and passionate during the pandemic.
Lori Garnes has two books of photography available, Music Through My Eyes and Inertia, as well as prints and t-shirts on her website artandnoisephotography.bigcartel.com. You can also find prints of her work at society6.com/velvetqueen13.
Connect with her on Instagram @crimsonvelvetqueen or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy M. Vaughn writes weird little books like Freak Night at the Slee-Z Motel and Skull Nuggets. She’s also the editor of Dog Doors to Outer Space and a contributing editor at Babou 691.