Juan Fajardo

The Photographer who wanted to be a Musician
By Blanca Lacasa

“An anecdote? Well, even though I’m not the biggest KISS fan, I remember some photos that I took of them. I’d already seen them live and photographed them playing, but being with them in their dressing rooms, with all that paraphernalia, was nuts. I freaked out when I saw them without makeup and in those crazy outfits that look incredible on stage but up close seem like they’ve been bought in Poundland. The thing is, I wanted to take a picture of Paul Stanley touching up his makeup in the mirror. I asked for permission and he told me: “You can’t take that picture because, by contract, KISS can only be photographed with front light.” Juan continued: “Can you believe that? Everything has to be set in stone for Americans. Amazing!”

This is just one of a thousand anecdotes that the photographer, Juan Pérez-Fajardo (Madrid, 1969), keeps in his memory. He is rightly considered one of the great Spanish music photographers, and his camera has captured the likes of Loquillo, Enrique Bunbury, Luz Casal, El Cigala and Camela, as well as international superstars such as Nick Lowe, Bobby Gillespie, Santana and Neneh Cherry. Some have been portrayed almost in spite of themselves (like Patti Smith, who wasn’t having her best day, “she was just rude, but it’s understandable because she had been on a European book signing tour”), others with the urgency and authenticity that posing five minutes before showtime gives (Bobby Gillespie with that unmistakable, unchangeable gesture of his) and many others – the majority – posing for the usual album launch. I’ve hardly ever worked with models, it’s just too easy. You tell them: “look over there” or “put your hand like this” and they nail it. However, for many musicians, promo photos are a pain in the butt and you have to win their trust. You have to get them to forget about the camera so that it isn’t an imposing situation and they don’t feel like you are stealing their soul. There is a lot of psychological groundwork to be done beforehand because I want the musician’s craft to be immediately understood, so I need them to trust me. This blind faith is based on the fact that Pérez-Fajardo is a musician at heart. He looks and moves as if he were one of the band. He is, in a way, the artistic version of the frustrated musician, the term that perfectly describes a music critic.

Although he was determined to be a musician from when he was a child, (he also played in a couple of bands), he had to conform with being the person who expressed, in a single image, what happens in concerts. “Deep down I would have loved to be the one in the photo, but in the end, I work within the music industry, which is something that gives me great pleasure.” Pérez-Fajardo started out by chance. He was kicked off a Physics degree that bored him to tears and booted out of his high-earning job in the entertainment industry because of the 2008 financial crisis. He then started work as a concert photographer, purely by chance. Luck gave him a huge push one night in Madrid. “ I was showing a friend some photos of my trip to Utah in El Sol Club and Eva (from the group Amaral) saw them, loved them and understood what I was about. Shortly afterwards, the South by Southwest Festival took place. As I wanted to work with Rolling Stone magazine, I came up with the idea of contacting Amaral and telling them that Rolling Stone was interested in me going to the festival with them to take photos, and I told the magazine that I had spoken to Amaral and that they wanted me to take photos of them. I’ve never done this sort of thing again because it’s not right, but I guess it worked out really well…” You better believe it you cheeky b******!

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