Over the last few years, Dara Munnis's profile as a music photographer has soared, thanks to his work with the likes of Hozier, Ed Sheeran, The Coronas and more.
The 31-year-old Dubliner – who is also a musician himself - has displayed how his keen eye for setting and light with both his portraits and live shots has carved out his very distinct, elegant style.
We chatted to him about how he first got into photography and how he's made it a full-time career despite no professional training, going on tour with Hozier and his best advice for those who want to follow in his footsteps.
Where does your interest in photography stem from?
I've been interested in photography as long as I can remember. I never really aspired to being a photographer on a professional level, but I was a very early adopter of consumer digital cameras, which led to me being the guy who was always taking photos at parties and gigs. It’s been a fairly natural progression since then.
You've worked in various tech jobs over the years, but what's kept you coming back to photography?
I studied computer science in UCD, so I’ve worked in tech and web development since then. That has always coexisted with my career in photography, and it’s only recently that I’ve been able to support myself financially with the photography alone.
Has making that step into full-time photography been a long process? When did you decide that you could make a living from doing what you do?
Absolutely. I’ve been working with bands and musicians for over 10 years now. So, that, and constantly trying to improve my skills has led me to making a full- time career from it. Late last year, when I was finding it hard to split time between my day job and the various photo gigs I was getting, I sat down and did the maths and figured I could make photography a full-time career.
What would you say has been your biggest motivating force over the years?
Always trying to better myself. Genuinely trying to be the best at what I do.
What's more satisfying to work on – live photography or studio/portrait shots?
I love them both, but for different reasons. With live photography, it’s highly competitive, and quite challenging to make your work stand out from the rest, given the very limited about of variables provided. So I like the challenges there. I also get to go to some amazing gigs. I’ve been introduced to a lot of bands through photographing them. With studio and portrait work, there’s a lot more room for creativity and I have more input into the production obviously.
Is there one particular source of inspiration that you've drawn on over the years?
Oh there are plenty, from various backgrounds. I’m a big fan of Henri Cartier Bresson, a French photographer. He was the master of composition. Nothing to do with music though.
You've worked and gone on tour with some big names over the years, most notably Hozier in recent times, The Coronas in the past. What are the best and worst things about being on the road with a band?
The best thing is seeing different countries. I’ve always had a travel bug, so it’s great to way to see the world. The worst, is the inherent lack of sleep.
You've got some extensive experience behind the lens at this point. What's been the most valuable lesson that you've learned?
Context. For live music photography, there should always be some context. A photo of a singer's face up close could be taken anywhere, so, I always try to include some element of the venue, crowd, or the energy of the performance in my photos.
Are there any trends in photography that you've noticed in recent years – stylistic or otherwise – or any that you see emerging in the near future?
A relatively recent trend is processing digital photos to look like they were taken on old film cameras. Software like VSCO is being widely used to achieve this. For the most part, I’m a fan of it, but it can be over done.
What project or shot or collection are you most proud of?
I’m quite proud of my work with Hozier, mostly because I’ve covered so much of his career. Portraits, live music, music videos etc. I also got involved way before he had broken mainstream, so it’s nice to be involved at that stage, and then kept onboard after he’s gained so much commercial success.
What's your secret to getting the shots that no one else is capable of getting?
It's all about access. I don't shoot concerts these days unless I have stage access and permission to shoot the entire gig. I’m really only hired by artists themselves, so it’s usually not a problem. I also make sure to talk to production crew such as lighting designers and stage managers, so I know in advance everything that will happen during the show. They say photography is just being in the right place at the right time, so I try to give myself as much as an edge as possible.
What advice would you give to young aspiring photographers looking for their big break? How do you stand out from the crowd?
Shoot as much as possible. Work with anybody and everybody, make a name for yourself as being easy to work with and always delivering the goods.
If you could work with/shoot/go on tour with anyone in the world, who would it be?
I’m hoping to get involved with Ed Sheeran's next tour once his new album drops in August. Ed is the biggest artist in the world at the moment, playing in the biggest venues, to the biggest crowds. Would be amazing to get involved.
Check out more of Dara's work here.
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