Feature Photo (Above): Musicians Ben Lanz and Kyle Resnick (of The National, Beirut, and more)
Photographer Robert Lundberg is a unique visionary that we have had our eyes on (no pun intended) for a little while now. His buzzworthy series Uncontaminated Sound, which is already becoming legendary, was created by Lundberg a little over a year ago. The series is meant to bring the 'real' side of musicians, comedians, performers and artists to life; an aspect of their worlds' that the general public rarely see.
As his breath of work grows, so does his vision. This year will also see the release of the Uncontaminated Sound interview series, in which Lundberg goes one on one with some of the latest and greatest of their industries.
Recently shooting notable names such as Sinbad, Louie Anderson, Ben Lanz and Kyle Resnick (The National, Beirut), Ron English and more, Lundberg also focuses on noteworthy up-and-comers like comedians Martin Urbano and Mike Cannon.
With his lens in focus, Lundberg takes us on a magical and breathtaking journey, as his vision comes to center stage.
We had the distinct honor of catching up with Robert Lundberg as we jumped into the New Year, for an insightful and thought-provoking conversation that will have you diving deeper into his impressive works.
Comedian Mike Cannon
Of all the subjects you've shot in 2019 year, which 2 or 3 would you say were your overall favorites?
Hmmm always a tough question, this is because in the moment whichever artist I’m capturing is my favorite, however 2019 I was fortunate to have covered a diverse range of interesting persons. As you may known I’ve evolved my coverage from strictly music to covering comedians/actors, so given that I’ll give you four to balance things out. On the music side of things I’d certainly say shooting Ben Lanz /Kyle Resnick (of the National) backstage at BU’s Agganis Arena was a surreal experience, paired with capturing Spiral Stairs (Pavement) prior to performing Brooklyn Brewery, that was a trip of a shoot. Comedy side of things I’d certainly say capturing Martin Urbano at Union Hall, Brooklyn, I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the shoot, and finally it was another surreal moment to capture Maz Jobrani prior to taking the stage at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY. It’s been a cool journey so far, who knows what 2020 will bring!
New York is a great place to create; as a Boston native like yourself, I personally felt like I could never really reach my full, or much of my artistic and creative potential there. Currently I am residing in the Hudson Valley, as I made the move from New York City a couple of years ago and it has become life changing to me as an artist; the seriousness of the work here; the peacefulness to also create it without the distractions (the inexpensive studio spaces!) How has New York personally helped to drive your work, vision and story?
Yes! As you well know New York is the place for artists to be seen, I’m mean Boston is a great city known for academia, tech, finance, but if one wants to be a serious artist New York is the state, particularly for east coasters like ourselves. Prior to picking up and moving to NYC, however, I was just teasing with the idea of taking photography seriously, at the time I was about design and tech. A lull in contract work, afforded me time to re-think things over, and I always had a vision of NYC, so I picked up and made the move to Brooklyn in late 2016. There a met a few fellows, that introduced me to a decent camera, which allowed me to document this completely new environment, I guess you’d say my eyes were finally opened. Skip a few months into 2017, I meet my current partner Melissa, and one of my biggest supporters, whom noticed my street stills on my apartment walls and pushed them to Paste Magazine, that August I was off and running covering bands all over the city and the northeastern region. Uncontaminated Sound was birthed 2018, from my initial backstage coverage in 2017 of the likes of “We are Scientists”, “JukeBox the Ghost”, “Xperience on Mackelmore’s Gemini tour”, and more…
Not like it was an easy transition, everything earned so far has come with tons of difficulties and unexpected challenges, ying with the yang in essence balance. But New York has modeled me into a new person, I’ve experienced things I would never have if I’d stayed in Boston, in New York I’ve finally found my identity and it has pushed me way beyond what I imagined I could create or deal with. I mean, if you spoke to me early 2016, and said that I’d have three shows under my belt, a growing acclaimed photographic series, while having captured Sindbad and Louie Anderson backstage, I probably would have laughed.
Comedian Martin Urbano
Dabbling in the Hudson Valley yourself as you've shot several notable artists here, what creative differences do you see between the area and NYC? and both compared to Boston?
Indeed, like yourself I've made a few similar observations regarding the Hudson Valley compared to the City, certainly less distractions and costs for living and work space, plus the pockets and communities of serious artists, one never knows who’s hiding away in the Hudson Valley region. But let’s approach this regarding energy and access, I believe for young artists it’s important to grow their name in the city, I mean the city is designed for youthful living, energized by a crazy diverse population, paired with innumerable avenues to show their work. Along side the hyper-energy, there’s also the access to the museums, groups, and communities, which having access to what’s current in the market will help develop one’s selected craft. You learn the business in the city, how to hustle, to market, and to compete, on the flip side in the Hudson Valley region one goes up to seriously create after learning who they were in the city. As for Boston, again I love the city it’s near and dear to my heart, but the access and tools to develop a serious artistic practice are limited, but it all depends on the individual artist and what works best for themselves.
This year also saw you capturing a good amount of comedians; both upcoming and notable. What do you feel the difference is between musicians before a show, and comedians before a show?
Yeah, that’s an interesting question, on the surface there are obvious differences for example with musicians: sound check, crew, band members, managers, and who ever else may travel with them linger backstage thus making things a bit chaotic, well that's generally for bands, of course a solo act is much quieter. Pertaining, comics I’ve observed that they can roll in from the road and get up on stage, no need really for down time, and they generally travel with one or two other people.
Also, the dynamic between lens and subject is a bit different as well, in my experience (which is very limited) I feel like comedians are more laid back and while you as photographer attempt to document they make you laugh hard. I guess they’re more receptive to conversation, where as, I’ve noticed musicians are generally pulled away by other persons, or need time to warm up vocals, instruments etc. I guess more of a focus on the technicalities of the craft, though I mean musicians are friendly folk indeed, though backstage prior to a musical performance there’s generally no time to chat.
Either way, my heart still pumps fast while backstage, no matter the type/genre of performance, it’s what keeps me going.
Going behind the lens backstage at notable Hudson Valley and upstate venues as well; do you see a shift in the audiences and their responses to what they are seeing onstage either musically or comically, as opposed to NYC crowds?
To riff on that, I think there is a shift in crowd energy. I’d like to say upstate you’d find certainly more of a mellow crowd, thus creating an atmosphere for a relaxed experimental performance. This is because, I believe the performer doesn’t have the same pressure like they would stepping on stage in the city. The intimacy dynamic between artist and crowd northward of the city is certainly a unique experience.
Pending on performances, I think crowds in NYC are hyper-amped up, and maybe more critical of a performer, say than the crowds upstate. Reflecting, it is kinda of like night and day, I’d suggest for people to venture northward to see an artist of interest, to compare for themselves or vise versa, I mean one still can’t beat a NYC performance either.
Like any craft we sometimes burn ourselves out, mentally, sometimes. What helps to spark your creativity and vision, big or small?
Totally, I’d say simply just stepping away taking a walk, experiencing a new environment, visit a museum, watch a film, read, or write. Certainly attempting to create new work with a completely new medium, it forces one to think differently again and is a great exercise to break away from the continuous thoughts that cause burnout. And always a trip to the ocean, plus some type of movement like dance, working out, etc works wonders to clear the mind, thus allowing for more production.
With 2020 now here, where do you see Uncontaminated Sound going in the New Year? Any surprises up your sleeve?
Well Uncontaminated Sound will continue to explore “the performer”, be that musician, comedian, actor, but will also expand to capturing fine artists and possibly dancers. Paired with documenting new subjects, I see another show or two that immerses one with imagery and performance, and plan on piecing together a photo book.
I’m really excited, however for a new element I’ve recently started working on for the series, which is a collection of filmed conversations with creators my lens has and has not captured. Just pure loose conversations without knowledge of where they’ll go. I’ve recorded with a camcorder and edited in black and white, in the hopes to keep it raw and not over produced. 2020 has already brought some big surprises for this new aspect of the Uncontaminated Sound series and am excited to share with the world shortly!