Photo Spotlight

Photographer Spotlight: Sarah Dunn

Sarah Dunn from her self-portrait series where she recreates her favorite album covers.

Sarah Dunn is a gifted photographer who is also the Art Editor of the Underground Journal, the undergraduate art and literary journal of Georgia State University. A passionate music fan, Sarah can also be found risking life and limb at various music venues throughout Georgia, capturing some of the best hardcore and rock bands around today.

Check out some of Sarah's work, and get to know her, in this new Photographer Spotlight piece.

Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?

Okay, this may sound strange to some, but I grew up on a farm in Covington, GA. My parents split when I was very young so I would go between staying with my mom in some city apartments, to my dad's farm in the middle of nowhere. My dad shot on a Nikon film camera all the time and his father (my papa) used an even older Minolta and took the most beautiful nature photos I've ever seen. They both let me use the cameras from time to time as well as disposable cameras. Mom also had a Polaroid and that was fun. Admittedly, my whole family saw I was too shy for sports or summer camps so they put me in an at-home art school every summer at a lady's house. I was definitely fortunate for that and it helped inspire me to stick with art and forge my own path.

Gorilla Biscuits at The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, 2016. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?

This one is hard. I mentioned taking photos at an early age, but I have been caught digging through my dad's old records even younger. At current my dad is 60, so I grew up on all the old classic acid rock bands and loved when he played them loud on his stereo set up. I also sang all. the. time. I collected my own tapes and CDs and would pretend to sing at concerts in front of the mirror (what kid didn't?). Eventually, I got into chorus in 1st grade but by high school I tried to break away and play in the band but my chorus teacher loved me and just wouldn't let me go. I guess it's safe to say that both photography and music have been predominant in my life.

Tigers Jaw at The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, 2016. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

What was your first musical love?

It wasn't until about 5th grade that I began listening to my own music and not my parents'. I didn't have any siblings, but I had the internet and would zone in on AOL's music page. They used to videotape these studio sessions with bands like Slipknot, Green Day, and The Used and I thought they were so damn cool. I also played a lot of the Tony Hawk Skater games so all the metal and punk playlists in the game molded my taste in music.

No Warning at Canal Club, Richmond, VA, 2017. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years?

Olivia Bee and Ryan Muirhead. Neither were music photographers back in the day. Both shot on film, primarily, but have dabbled in digital. Olivia's style is colorful and saturated with youth and nostalgia. Ryan is a magician with black and white, moody shots. Within the last few years Ryan has done a ton of work for The Used and Olivia has shot album covers for a plethora of women in music such as Kesha, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus. Both inspired me to move past regular portraiture and focus on the artists and bands I've looked up to for so long.

Harm's Way official promo shot, 2017. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

What is your camera and post set up?

I mainly use my digital Canon camera, a 60D, with my 85mm, 50mm, or 10mm lenses, with or without my external speedlight flash. I definitely wish I had a full frame digital camera [laughs].

Bayside at The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, 2017. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?

I love energy so honestly any and all hardcore bands. The lighting doesn't have to be good whatsoever, as long as people are jumping around and walking on some heads. My own personal favorite photos were from Down to Nothing, Foundation, Harm's Way, and Angel Du$t. I also interned at a music venue for a while and was able to photograph a lot of bands I wasn't so familiar with. Surprisingly enough, a Japanese band called Pinky Doodle Poodle were really fun...The guitarist got into the crowd and just went nuts.

Down to Nothing at The Broadberry, Richmond, VA, 2015. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?

Verse, Kids Like Us, Linkin Park, No Doubt.

Malfunction at The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, 2015. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?

The lighting. It is ever changing and you have to be quick to make it work. I've second guessed some moments and missed some good shots.

Trapped Under Ice at The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, 2016. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.

Revenge Season, Pay to Cum, Threat Level, Drowning Lessons, Except, Below Zero, Watchdogs, Downfall, Candy. 

Josh Novak of Full Measures, Atlanta, GA, 2017. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?

Angela Owens, Rebecca Lader, Danielle Parsons, Elena de Soto, Ashley Osborn, Ashton Garner, Adam Elmakias, Brett Sweeney, Ken Penn, Todd Pollock. 

Blind Justice at Beltline Bikes, Atlanta, GA, 2016. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)

If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists, which one would it by and why?

This is hard...I would have to say this shot. It's of my friend Ashley crowd surfing and catching the mic that Terror's vocalist [Scott Vogel] threw into the crowd during Atlanta's Warped Tour in 2014. I just so happened to turn around to try and get some crowd shots but the Warped Tour security were being the usual dicks about stage diving and all. I noticed they were having a hard time controlling Terror's fans and I thought it was funny...All of the sudden I see a mic falling from the sky...I take a photo and realize after the show it was my friend! It gave me this faint reminder to not get discouraged from all the technical B.S. that happens at shows and to keep my focus on the actual meaning of live music and the bond that listeners have with the artist.

The crowd during Terror at Vans Warped Tour, Atlanta, GA, 2014. (Photo: Sarah Dunn)


See more of Sarah's work on her website, and she's also on Instagram.

Tagged: photographer spotlight