I Needed An Instrument

Photographs & Words by Marcus Maddox
Interview via emails, August 2017

Images from their new book, Pom Poms, a documentation of the DIY music scene of Nashville.

Where were you in your life when you first found photography?

I was in a bad place when I got into photography: college. Most of my close friends were musicians, yet I could never play music. I never learned, so when we all hung out it was awkward for me to just watch them play music. I felt very alone, and I needed a purpose. I needed an instrument—so I bought a camera. Photography became my way of expressing myself, and having purpose in my friend group.

What is the Pom Poms project, where does it get its name?

Pom Poms is a romantic view of the DIY music scene in Nashville, TN. Most people's impression of the south might be "country music." Or "conservatism." Or "inequality." Pom Poms sheds light on the indie side of Nashville. It is all concert photography, but instead of focusing on the performances, it focuses on the people in the crowd.

It is real life indie culture on a page, and every moment in the book is not posed. Pom Poms is a symbolic title that references cheerleaders—since the book emphasizes fans of music. It is also an acronym that stands for "Pictures Of Many People Of the Music Scene."

Did the project begin intentionally, or did it develop organically over time?

The project slowly developed over time. A year and a half ago, I was a typical music photographer. I only focused on the stage and the performer. My music photography looked like everyone else's. Then something changed after I went through a dark time. I was in the hospital last summer for 8 days after a near-fatal surgery. I had to recover in isolation for 6 weeks.

While away from the DIY music scene, I thought about all the bands I missed seeing. But more importantly, I missed the people. The culture and the style of all my friends. While in the hospital, I promised myself that I'd make something so that I'd never feel isolated from the music scene again.

In what ways do you feel that documenting these spaces is important?

It is important to me because I want to solidify a culture that might disappear in the next 5-10 years. The beauty of Pom Poms is that these moments and people are fleeing. People in the book will get old and move on to different things, but the pictures will stay forever. Thus, the culture will stay forever.

Who is someone you’d love to photograph someday?

I'd like to photography Kendrick Lamar one day. That would be an otherworldly experience. To photography someone so legendary and iconic.

What compels you to want to pick up a camera?

I pick up a camera to express myself through color and composition. Those two components of the photograph are very important to me. The colors have to make me feel a certain way. If there are no feelings involved, then the picture is very boring.