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Words with Anna Warr

Anna Warr is a Wollongong-based photographer, featured in the City of Sound exhibition launching in June in Crown Street Mall. Anna loves photographing people. With an impressive career in live music, event and portrait photography, Anna has a distinctive style that captures the colour and vibrancy of her subjects.

Anna's clients range from news media, to theatre, to the tourism industry. We asked how Covid has affected her work, and took a glimpse inside the life of an event photographer.

How long have you been a photographer?
Professionally, around 16 years. But I have been taking photos for about 25 years.

How did you get started in the industry?
I studied photo media part-time at Sydney College of the Arts in Rozelle. I then learnt on the job as a nightclub photographer. I also spent time assisting other photographers, which is where I probably learnt the most.

I’ve always loved live music. I used to go to all age gigs all over Sydney from about the age of fourteen. But I’m no performer! I’m much better at capturing a performance then being in it.

What’s your approach to music photography? Are there particular challenges or techniques unique to this type of photography?
My approach to music photography is to be ready for anything. Conditions can often be challenging - the lighting is constantly changing, subjects can be unpredictable and you often get a very limited amount of time to shoot. So being ready to capture whatever happens in the time that you have is important.

Did you have any mentors or influences on your style?
I love the work of a number of Australian photojournalists, including Trent Parke and pretty much all of the Sydney Morning Herald photographers. Annie Liebowitz is also a big inspiration, who made a name for herself as both a music photographer and a photojournalist, then as a celebrity portrait photographer later in her career.

Is there a moment in your career that really stands out?
When I started touring nationally with major music festivals, that was pretty special. Being part of a tour from start to finish allows you to see and photograph so much more. Favourite memories are things like Robyn tearing up a dance floor at 2am or the Dandy Warhols on a tour bus doing an impromptu rendition of “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

How has Covid affected your work and the industry locally?
Covid has turned the events industry on it’s head. Basically there was no live music and no festivals for a whole year, which meant that the whole industry had no work for a year. It’s just starting to come back now, hopefully things can continue to get back to some kind of normality.

What do you like about living in the Illawarra?
The lifestyle. I love having the ocean 5 mins in one direction and the bush 5 mins in the other. I've lived here for 7 years. It’s perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities. Plus there’s a great sense of community here.

How would you describe the Wollongong music scene? What’s unique about it?
The Wollongong music scene is is a small, tight-knit scene that has had a really high output of quality music over the past 5 or so years. In terms of live music, I think it is on the rise. There is now somewhere to see live music almost every night of the week.

What’s your favourite local music venue?
At the moment, it’s the Shy Postie. It has low key cafe/bar vibe, reasonably priced drinks and a focus on quality music. Plus it caters to an array of age groups and musical tastes.

Visit the City of Sound exhibition in Crown St Mall this winter, or learn more about Anna Warr here.

A guitar player on the stage of Wollongong youth Centre.
Photo: Anna Warr. Band: Floodway. Venue: Wollongong Youth Centre.