Behind the lens with Brian Lima

It’s no easy task to catch a glimpse inside the mind of an artist–although they are deeply passionate and very creative, they can be complicated. Nevertheless, I recently got the chance to grab a brief look inside the mind of photographer Brian Lima, who specializes in music photography. (He recently documented the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, for example.)

Lima picked up photography in college as an elective, and then found himself as a photo assistant at weddings. He was later able to parlay that into gigs capturing rock stars and other natural wonders of the world.

Here’s a sampling of what we talked about:

Hey Brian, let’s get started, shall we…

What got you started in photography and what inspires you today?

When I was going to college at Arizona State University I needed to pick an art elective, and by love
of images and the encouragement of my roommate who took the class previously, I figured I would give photography a try. As soon as I developed my first roll of film and then went into the darkroom and watched my first image appear on the printing paper, I was hooked for life. I fell in love with the magic of photography.

I am always inspired; I am constantly looking at photographs and photography. My current favorites would have to include Jeff Lipsky; he shoots amazing fashion portraits and editorial imagery. Embry Ruckersis is another favorite of mine. He shoots action sports and editorial imagery. Mark Tucker is my favorite portrait photographer right now. Mario Testino is just a legend in the fashion realm and Danny Clinch, Jim Marshall, Autumn de Wilde, and Lauren Dukoff are just brilliant. They shoot a lot of music photography, which I also love to shoot.

In simple words I would say, “I love the magic and imagination of photography. I love photography that makes you think or feel a certain emotion.” We live in such a fast-paced, image-based world, that we often overlook imagery that is often force-fed to us. When an image holds my interest for more than 30 seconds, I’ll often find out who took it and learn about that photographer. The constant learning that is involved in photography inspires me to no end.

What is your favorite photo, and why?

Out of the thousands and thousands images I have taken, my favorite has to be the one I call “The Fan.” I was hired by a magazine to photograph Radiohead.

I noticed, out of 4,000 general admissions, one guy who waited in line for hours, made himself front row, center stage and was just stoked to be there. He sort of towered over the fans around him.

I hopped up on the gate to get this perspective of him with the crowd behind him. He just represents to me what it means to be a music fan.

The people’s faces all around him have their own thing going on.

Do you have any favorite action sports shots or style shots?

I am an avid surfer and have traveled with many friends on surfing trips. I have only done some surf photography and by no means consider myself at the level of some of the guys I admire in this niche of photography.

Although I did travel to the Kingdom of Tonga with a high school surf team from San Diego, and it was the hardest photo assignment of my life. There was a huge swell the whole week and the waves were going off. Being behind the camera and not in the water was painful.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for the kids. We scored some epic waves, and we took in a culture that most people would never have a chance to be a part of, so this made it unique and special for all of us. The guys who are actually shooting from within the lineup in the water are animals. These guys are taking beatings and are amazing swimmers, not to mention they are creating amazing images.


Where do you want to see your photography take you in the future?

Photography has taken me to many places around the world. New Zealand, Tonga, Thailand, Europe, just to name a few. So I’ve been lucky enough to travel and get paid to see amazing places. There are so many people and places I’d love to photograph and be a part of. Top on my list would have to be Patagonia in South America, and also Iceland. Professionally I’d like to shoot way more music photography. The bottom line is that I’m happiest when I’m creating images, so where “it” takes me sometimes isn’t up to me. There really isn’t a place I won’t go for a good image. Well, almost…

Any advice for someone who wants to pursue photography?

This is a loaded question… My advice to anyone considering photography as a profession is to think outside the box, and be willing to hustle. Schools teach you a lot but don’t teach you how to run a business as a photographer. Yes, I said the “B” word. The business of photography is not the art and craft of photography. I wish I had taken business courses or learned the business of photography early on. My advice to newbies is to listen to your gut. If school seems too expensive and isn’t for you, then it’s time to get your hustle on. Hit the pavement and assist, care cameras, do what it takes to learn the craft. “No” should be your second favorite word besides “Yes.” You’ll hear it often. Bottom line is that if you are passionate enough about photography you’ll find a way to make it happen. It isn’t and hasn’t been an easy job, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

To see more of Lima’s work, click here.

Lima’s photos in order: Ice Cave in New Zealand; Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree, California; “The Fan” at Radiohead concert; surf photo from Tonga Trip; Brandon Boyd, Incubus