Behind the scenes of the Side Door to SXSW tour
Meet the creatives documenting the artists’ journeys.
AJ Clemens // @aj.clemens
The Portland, OR-based AJ Clemens is a freelance photographer “working up and down the west coast, primarily doing outdoors shoots for brands—that means I sleep in a tent a lot,” she says. (It took her a few days to connect for this chat due to said tent-sleeping.) Her website is packed full of beautiful landscapes and portraiture (and dogs), and she often shoots on 35mm film.
“If you’re behind a camera long enough you definitely develop a good intuition to read the room you're shooting in,” says Clemens of her trip to South by Southwest following the queer rock bands Partner and GRLwood. “It also never hurts to keep an open line of communication with the folks you’re photographing! That helps to bring a sense of collaborative energy to projects.”
This is Clemens’ first trip to the festival. “I love Austin, deeply and I’m expecting it’s going to be a good time. I’m looking forward to catching a lot of my friends’ shows! It’s going to be a great window to see so many people.”
On tour with Partner + GRLwood:
Brandon Jones // @renavision
“It’s a question, to be honest, that constantly changes. Mainly what I tell people is I consider myself a multi-visual artist, that’s what I specialize in,” says Brandon Jones. He rattles off a list from his Chicago home: “Filmmaking, video creation, photography, and other digital assets people might need.”
Jones created his company Renavision—the Renaissance art movement + Panavision camera—in his first year at Columbia College Chicago, when he learned the work he made there would be owned by the school. Under its umbrella, he could do “anything I chose to do—short films, commerical work, documentaries. Everything I was interested in visually, there were no limitations.”
In addition to his day job as a marketing assistant at an architecture firm, Jones creates content for music and fashion clients. He’s already acquainted with his Side Door to SXSW subject, Madison McFerrin, having created a minidoc for her 2019 appearance at Pitchfork’s Midwinter festival at the Art Institute of Chicago. “It’s been a dream to just tour with an artist I care about,” he says.
It’s his first trip to SXSW. “One of my favourite sayings is ‘expect the unexpected,’” he says. “When it comes to South by Southwest there’s a lot of music stuff, but there’s also movie events, a whole bunch of festivities. I’m there not to just do a job, but also to say I was there.”
On tour with Madison McFerrin:
Tedde Rae Albertson // @tedderae
Music industry hyphenate Tedde Rae Albertson has a lot on the go in the arts. The list includes artist management, helping produce the feminist music festival Venus Fest, writes grants, and volunteers at the non-profit SKETCH, a community arts organization for marginalized youth.
“I’m really into dreams and dreaming,” Alberston adds. “I try to write my dreams down in the morning, and spend some time interpreting them.”
This is her third time at South by Southwest and she has tips for newbies: “One, 6th Street is the worst route to take if you’re in a hurry. Two, always accept the free energy drinks being handed out, because they’ll come in handy later. And most importantly—three—it’s supposed to be fun.”
On this trip documenting buds WHOOP-Szo, Albertson plans to be communicative and transparent. “I value consent, and I think that’s the right approach when it comes to shooting video or taking pics. I’d say it’s best to err on the side of being respectful and considerate, honestly. There’s no point in documenting something if the subject isn’t going to feel good about it being shared.”
On tour with WHOOP-Szo:
Larissa Jaks // @snapsbyjaks
As the only Austin native on this list, the California-based photographer Larissa Jaks is a veteran of South by Southwest. “I have been to SXSW many times! It’s forever been my favourite festival as it’s without walls,” she says. “The entire city comes together and celebrates the arts, it’s so unique in that it encompasses more than just music.”
Like her friend AJ Clemens, she loves to shoot on film, as seen in colourful, evocative detail on her well-populated website of fashion and outdoor portraits and landscapes. “I gain a lot of inspiration from some of the first colour film photographers, in particular William Eggleston and Stephen Shore,” she says. “They both shoot in a sort of documentary style that is absolutely timeless and incredibly touching.”
For her tour with the introspective singer-songwriter Hayfitz, kicking off in New York, Jaks will rely on her instincts. “When you’re behind the camera you’re obviously trying to capture those natural and raw moments, which as a photographer you are actually usually a part of,” she says. “You’re in the room, you know these people or person, you’re feeling the energy. So I think it all just comes down to your gut—you know when you should put the camera down and just be present.”
On tour with Hayfitz:
Glenda Lissette has been active online since she was 14 years old, making her part of the first generation of influencers. Since 2016, she’s been taking self-portraits and using Photoshop to manipulate the images, “blurring the lines between reality and fiction,” as noted by the bio on her official website. “By investigating the role of influencer, Lissette’s work forces viewers to acknowledge the often gendered labor that sustains the expanding business of social media.”
Chris Fanelli—who, like Lisette and their Side Door to SXSW subjects KAINA and Sen Morimoto, is based in Chicago—is a filmmaker and graphic designer who leans toward irreverence in his video work. (As his instagram bio reports, Lissette helps him make his vids.) He’s also made music videos for KAINA and Modern Vices.
On tour with KAINA + Sen Morimoto: