Interview - Violeta Alvarez

"I love sharing the sense of emotion of the electrifying moments that I’m witnessing as I’m capturing the images."
We caught up with Houston based music photographer Violeta Alvarez to talk about her fascinating career in music photography. Passion is a huge driving force for Violeta, this was completely obvious from the beginning of this interview - a passion which is equal for both music, photography and imagery of all kinds. Her affection grew from an early age in the 1980's leading to a stream of notable career moments which anyone would be proud of.
Arctic Monkeys
© Violeta Alvarez - Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys

Violeta should be inspiration to us all, she's a glowing example of what can be achieved with drive and determination. Starting out in her early teens, Violeta fondly remembers using an Olympus point and shoot as one of her first cameras and switched quickly over to a Canon T-90 she borrowed from her mum as her interest in photography progressed.

Her fascination of the arts and imagery began with vinyl album covers through her childhood, citing the likes of KISS and Led Zepplin for her early inspiration. Her introduction to music photography came via The Rolling Stone magazine which inspired her to start shooting at the concerts she attended - scanning back through old negatives, the earliest images date back to 1987 which were of Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe) at a meet and greet. Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) also make appearances in Violeta's early work.

© Violeta Alvarez - Vince Neil, Motley Crue
© Violeta Alvarez - Vince Neil, Motley Crue

"Sometimes I would meet band members at shows and I would photograph them, scanning through old film as I go through looking for old negatives. The earliest image that I have found so far is of Vince Neil at a meet and greet in 1987, I was 14 years old. Also Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder in 1992. "

Shooting regularly around the Houston music scene, particularly the legendary music venue, Emo's and quickly gained a name for herself in the wider area. In the early 90's, with Violeta in her late teens she took a position at Justin Records which is when her first professional work came along. There, she documented the alternative music of innumerable seminal bands that helped create the “alternative” music sounds of that decade in Houston, including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Jesse Dayton, Reverend Horton Heat, Tab Benoit, and Kermit Ruffin to name a few.

Willie Nelson
© Violeta Alvarez - Eddie Vedder
© Violeta Alvarez - Willie Nelson
In the late 90's, she moved from Houston to New York City to study Art History and Media Studies: Film and Photography at Pratt Institute of Design. Wanting to continue her education even further, she enrolled at Parsons The New School of Design where she studied photography with influential artists Bill Gaskins and Charles Harbutt (former President of Magnum Photos).

"I gained valuable experience by working for award winning music photographer, Danny Clinch and interned for bit with the amazing David La Chapelle. Additionally, I had the honour of assisting world travel infrared photographer Terri Gold. I spent time assisting artist Pamela Singh which is how I met Steve McCurry and was offered a job at his studio."


Violeta has racked up some seriously good recognition throughout her career, such as being named in Houston Press's Best 10 Music Photographers and PhotoShelter's The List (Top 5 music photographers), two awards from Houston METRO: 'Hispanic Influence on the Arts' and 'Women's Influence on Arts' in 2016 and her images were showcased at the First Annual Hispanic Heritage Month presented at Houston's City Hall in 2018.

"Being a woman of Hispanic heritage and a native Houstonian, these are great honours and are something I'll always cherish."


Selecting the shots to show here wasn't easy, the list of bands and artists Violeta has shot goes on and on and on... from Queen to Christina Aguilera and Arctic Monkeys to Five Finger Death Punch!

© Violeta Alvarez - Chvrches

© Violeta Alvarez - Luke Spiller, The Struts

Her music photography has been featured in a huge list of publications across the world; New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Alternative Press, Boston Globe, Variety Magazine, Sterogum, Pitchfork, MTV, and many others. Her images has been published in some phenomenal books too; with ZZ Top and Alice Cooper images in Smithsonian Rock 'n' Roll: Live and Unseen, a book by Bill Bentley and Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean? a book by Aaron Tanner. Sometimes I'm in disbelief when these things happen, but so proud to have made one of goals come to life.

© Violeta Alvarez - Lenny Kravitz

Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa
© Violeta Alvarez - Wiz Khalifa
© Violeta Alvarez - Wiz Khalifa


"I've had so many amazing moments with my camera, but if I have to pick one I think the it would be the first festival I photographed which was Willie Nelson’s Forth of July Picnic in Luckenbach, TX in 1995. KISS is also on top of that list. I was a huge fan since I was a little kid and I told my Mom that I was going to photograph the show, she was very excited and proud of me."

Violetta pulls inspiration from an enormous range of people and places - her education provided rock solid foundations to build on while looking to people like Bob Gruen, Steve Selgrier, Annie Leibovitz, Linda McCartney, Jim Marshall, Mick Rock and Danny Clinch where she interned for at Parsons School of Design.
She is also a part of The Photo Ladies, a collective of creative women across the world
Also, I do love Ebru Yildiz, Robby Klien and of course the amazing talented women photographers of The Photo Ladies which I am part of. 
Other photographers that are not music photographers that I greatly admire: Adam Fuss, Sally Mann, Roy DeCarava, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Robert Frank, and Charlie Hurbertt {who was my professor of mine at Parsons}.

© Violeta Alvarez - Brian May, Queen

© Violeta Alvarez - Kirk Hammett, Metallica

© Violeta Alvarez - Christina Aguilera

© Violeta Alvarez - Winston Marshall, Mumford and Sons

ZZ Top

© Violeta Alvarez - ZZ Top

© Violeta Alvarez - Patrick Carney, The Black Keys


Quick fire questions:

-  Favourite venue / festival?
One of my favorite festival that no longer exist was Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, TX. One I’m looking forward to checking out is a festival co-created by my friend Steve Matrick called The New Colossus in NYC. One of my favourite venues to photograph is Toyota Center (home of the Houston Rockets, who play in the NBA Western Conference) is one of my favorites place to photograph and many smaller venues.
- Your favourite photo you've taken?
That would be the portrait I took of the legendary Willie Nelson also the Willie Nelson and Kris Kristoferson images. It was taken at the first music festival I photographed in 7/4/1995. 35mm black and white film / Nikon F4 and zoom lens. 
Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson
Willie Nelson


- If you could shoot any band, past or present, who would it be?

So many to name but these Rolling Stones, Madonna, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Prince, PJ Harvey, Bjork, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Beatles, Grace Jones, Kim Gordon, Tom Waits, Dolly Parton too many to name. 
- What is your favourite part about being a music photographer?
Since I am a music fan, I was greatly inspired by album artwork and photography in music magazines. I feel that energy all me that moves me.  I love the idea of eternally preserving a piece of cultural history. I want to share the feelings of inspiration that I felt from photographers I admired growing up.


- Your go-to lens?
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 or 50mm are the lenses I use to photograph everything.
- Do you have any tips for new music photographers?
My advice is to always be prepared for the unexpected. Follow your instinct and absorb the energy around you. You want the viewer to feel the emotion and experience of the moment you are capturing. You want to transport them to feel the sensation of the place despite not having to have been there. I try to convey that honestly in every photo I take.  
- What would you be doing if you weren't a photographer?
I use to work for galleries and for artist as an assistant for many years. Working in the gallery and/or in the art industry as an art buyer and curator would the career path that I would have taken. This is still something that I would still like to pursue.
- Who inspires you as a music photographer?
So many to name, as far as music photographers Bob Gruen, Steve Selgrier, Annie Leibovitz, Linda McCartney, Jim Marshall, Mick Rock, Danny Clinch {who I interned for while I was at Parson School of Design}. All the greats! Also, I do love  Ebru Yildiz, Robby Klien and of course the amazing talented women photographers of The Photo Ladies which I am part of. 
Other photographers that are not music photographers that I greatly admire: Adam Fuss, Sally Mann, Roy DeCarava, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Robert Frank, and Charlie Hurbertt {who was my professor of mine at Parsons}.


A huge thanks to Violeta for sharing her story, make sure you head over and follow her on Instagram.
Violeta shoots with: 
Canon 5Dsr w / 16-35mm / 24-70mm / 70-200mm
Canon 7D w / 50mm / 18mm - 200mm 
Nikon f4 w / 35-70mm / 50mm {My 2nd camera. Shoot with this one while I was at Parsons and beyond}
Minolta x-700 w / 35-70mm / 50mm / 80-200mm {My first camera that I bought when I was 18 years old and I shoot with while I was at Parsons}
Canon T-90 {This was my Mom's camera that she let me use it when I was about 15 years}
Nikon f3 w / 35mm / 50mm / 300mm {My Godfather's camera that was given to me recently that I'm starting to photograph with this camera}

A huge thanks to Violeta for sharing her story with Faze Music Photography, what an inspiration to us all! Make sure you head over and follow her on Instagram - go, right now!


Thanks for stopping by, Will


Faze Music Photography Magazine

Est. 2019

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