Photographer spotlight: An Interview With Joe Puxley

Photographer spotlight: An Interview With Joe Puxley

13th October 2022

Earlier this year, we launched the inaugural Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards, the first ever awards to celebrate the art of music photography and the talent behind the lens.

The competition ran across a series of distinct categories, with winners selected by a panel of photographers, music artists and creatives. The awards recognised 2021’s most unforgettable, unique and unsung music moments and the varied and talented photographers who captured them.

Shortlisted emerging & professional photographers were unveiled and celebrated at an exclusive awards ceremony, hosted here at Abbey Road.

We recently started profiling some of the talented photographers who participated and had their work shortlisted by our judges, including Rankin, Shygirl, Jill Furmanovsky, Moses Sumney, Sacha Lecca, Dana Scruggs and Simon Wheatley.

You can read some of the previous pieces in the series below:

- Anthony Harrison

- AboveGround

- Chris Suspect (winner of the Zeitgeist Award)

- John Lyons (winner of the Live Music Photography Award)

- DeShaun Craddock

- Riccardo Piccirillo

- Neelam Khan Vela

- Hana Kovacs

- Jason Sheldon (Junction10)

- Nat Michele

This week we spoke to Joe Puxley, who was the winner in our Undiscovered category. This category was set up to identify and recognise the emerging, unsung talent that exists in music photography. We wanted to provide a platform for the best upcoming photographers of all backgrounds forging a path in music photography.

Check back every Thursday as we continue to profile some of the talented photographers who participated.

Shortlisted Photo

Undiscovered (Category supported by adidas)


Photographer Spotlight: Joe Puxley

**Joe Puxley**
Joe Puxley is a 21-year-old British photographer based in Brighton.

An alumnus of the BRIT School, Joe's portoflio already boasts features in publications such as Vogue Italia, The British Journal Of Photography, DAZED, Wonderland, Notion, The Face and CLASH. Having photographed artists such as Arlo Parks, Erykah Badu, Gregory Porter, Tom Misch, Loyle Carner, Desta French and Pa Salieu, Joe is certainly making a name for himself very quickly.

Escapism is an important theme in his work as he strives to create a vibrant ontology of youth through his photography and an approach that offers an alternative perspective. Outside of photography, Joe is also an avid filmmaker.

We spoke to Joe about his artistic approaches, influences and advice to budding photographers.

How did you fall into music photography specifically?

Good question!

Seeing artists perform when I was younger was so mesmerizing. I remember watching IAMDDB, Alt-j and NAO at my first music festival, and dreaming of photographing them, somehow that felt like I could almost be a part of the music.

Festivals are generally a big influence for all of my photography. I love the elevation from reality that they offer, just like music does. I’m really interested in saving that ungraspable feeling in my work.

And was there a particular image or body of work that was a major inspiration when starting out?

There wasn’t a project in particular starting out BUT there is one I often think back to, Adrienne Raquel, who is an American photographer that has photographed people like Travis Scott, Rhianna and Meghan Thee Stallion in colourful, warm and often extremely luxurious worlds.

One of my favorite series is Raquel’s ONYX, shot in a Texas strip club. The pictures are full of colorful lights, luxurious furniture and outfits - I’m so inspired by these beautiful images because she managed to find everything she had been creating artificially in real life.

Before I focused on creating worlds within my work but now I'm always trying to find my visual ideas in reality, It's something I often think about when I'm shooting artists and music festivals.

What makes a good subject in music photography and what makes a good music photographer?

I think to have a deep understanding of each other's work is always the dream for me. When we trust each other to experiment with ideas, without having to put them too much into words, that's when the best results are made.

I love photography and music because they create transcendence and feelings we can’t describe. To do that effectively I think you have to let go of words and trust how each other feel. I take every opportunity to collaborate with artists like that because we always create the best work and have fun.

What advice would you give to someone getting started?

I think you’ve got to be compassionate towards yourself, stay open minded, approach photography from a perspective of experimentation and most importantly, curiosity. I think quite a few people start from a place of "I need a passion" or "I need a career" but this stops them from developing their style and understanding what they love about photography. If you’re putting yourself under lots of pressure to be commercially successful, then you can’t be very creative and take risks because you have to rely on what you know already works. That’s why a lot of new photographers emulate successful ones or keep recreating work which they know people already like.

I did all of this by the way, and it's understandable because starting a new creative interest with the belief that your way is the best is crazy. I believe the key is; to remember that being a successful artist is extraordinary, and maybe it's so rare because they're the only ones who dared to do their own thing. If you’re coming from an authentic place of creativity, and have learned how to compose your images well, then I'm sure the outcome will be beautiful. Thinking about all of this reminds me of one of my favorite photographers, Mous Lamrabat - make sure to check out his work.

The pressure to be successful feels really intense, especially growing up with social media. One of the most important lessons for me was learning that if you make work that is powerful and valuable to you, then you don’t need to care what other people think of it. It's like if you made a meal that you didn’t like for a dinner party, then all of it's value would come from what your guests thought of it. If you love the meal in the first place, then you’ll be happy with it in the end. It's also more likely that your guests will too, because you really connected with it and put your heart into it. Realising this allowed me to stop comparing myself to my peers, stop caring about likes and ultimately made me a much better and, (ironically), more successful photographer.

How does your approach differ when working with upcoming talent versus established artists?

I’d say with emerging artists it's more about encouraging them to trust your ideas and with established artists it's about finding the perfect placement for them.

Big artists are usually confident in your ability, they're just very conscious about how their image could be used. Emerging artists need more reassurance in terms of your skills and concepts I think.

Do you think there’s a genre of music that naturally lends itself to powerful portrait photography?


Do you have a preference of working on location/on tour vs in a studio? How easy is it to create “tour energy” in a studio? How easy is it to get “studio focus” on our/on location?

I love working on location personally. I like the idea of putting my favorite artists in the kind of mundane settings I'd normally experience their music in, bringing their magic into our world visually too.

In terms of creating energy in my work, I’m more interested in what's organically there because that's where the truth is.

How does the photographic process differ between working with introverts and extroverts?

More closed off people can actually be a lot more exciting to shoot for me, because they go to a really honest and tender place when they’re comfortable. That being said, I think of extraverted subjects as being more willing to create movement in their images which is cool too.

Have you ever been starstruck when photographing someone? How do you overcome that?

I get a kind of post-shoot starstruck, rather than when I'm actually in their presence. It’s normally when I'm laying in bed after the shoot, and I'm just reflecting on how I've done this.

When I’m taking pictures I'm more focused on the photography, because it means so much to me to be able to take their portrait. It's kind of a blessing and a curse because I'd like to be more present when I'm meeting my favorite artists, but I’m also not sure how well I’d handle that haha.

How has social media shaped music photography, both as a craft more generally, as well as your personal work?

It's really cool that artists and photographers can easily find each other and connect directly but I do think it can have a negative effect on the creative process.

It's hard to make mistakes because there's so much pressure to be constantly sharing your progress that experimenting can be scary. People can get lost in themselves sometimes too I think.

Who is someone, alive or dead, you’d love to photograph?

I'd love to photograph Frida Kahlo, Frank Ocean, The xx, Brittany Howard, Amy Winehouse, Grace Jones and many more.

In one word, how would you describe your photography?

Optimistic :)

How did it feel to be nominated in the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022?

Insane! I found out in the beginning of Spring after the most difficult time for me and it felt like such a genuine and major appreciation for my work.

I was, and still, am recovering from a serious health condition that had stopped me from shooting for over five months prior, so this felt like a really special reintroduction to everything.

Why do you think it is important to create a platform like the MPAs to showcase music photography?

I think it's so important to celebrate music photography, because it's actually a very singular and potentially lonely role. You're always surrounded by people but you're a very independent unit and meeting other photographers and celebrating each other's hard work was really special.

Walking through the halls of such a breathtakingly iconic place like Abbey Road Studios, to an award show that's actually about us, was so wicked.

Have there been any benefits to you since being nominated?

Being nominated connected me with some of my favorite photographers and has also been a big stepping stone to connecting with new artists and clients.

I was also just really filled with joy to be reminded of how much my friends and family are so proud of me. They really care and seeing how happy they were meant the world to me.

What have you been doing since the awards? And what do you hope is next?

Well I think I'm just excited, I feel like I'm discovering myself creatively and the world I want to make for myself this summer, which is very life affirming.

Part of my prize was spending a week with the incredible Simon Wheatley, which I've just finished. Simon's known for photographing a seminal documentation of Grime and is someone I've looked up to for his ability to make everyday settings look stunning. We spent the week at Abbey Road Studios, Rinse FM and NTS Radio, discussing everything about photography at galleries and other places. It was so valuable to understand some of Simon's philosophy and unique approach, as well as to hear his thoughts on my work.

In terms of my personal work, I’m making a few things. I’ve begun shooting a new project on music festivals in the UK which has been a lot of fun. I am mainly focussing on an experiential perspective but it has featured photos of artists like Tom Misch, Gregory Porter, Olivia Dean and Erykah Badu, too.

I’m also working on some very exciting projects with adidas, as part of my prize.
Don't forget to head to the official MPAs website to get a comprehensive overview of all the participants, nominations and winners. Also, follow us on Instagram at @abbeyroadmpa for more MPAs related content.

To keep up with Joe, follow him on Instagram at @joepuxx and his website.

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