Pooneh Ghana's Polaroid Portraits


Written by Leah Connolly
02 Wednesday 02nd March 2011

Pooneh Ghana is a Texan-based photographer whose Polaroid portraits of musicians, models and artists are becoming a who's who of the cool and famous. Sure, she has the typical SLR equipment for live shows (a Canon 5dMKII) but with years of self confessed “globe-trekking” shooting for the likes of Dazed digital, Gorilla vs. Bear and Pitchfork Media, she has been lucky enough to shoot subjects ranging from the weird (Al Yankovic, anyone?) to the wonderful. I caught up with Pooneh to talk fortunate accidents, her favourite new bands and er, almost getting arrested.


So Pooneh, how did you first get into photography?

I globe-trek quite a bit which became a great excuse to practice and experiment with photography. I moved to Austin when I was 18, and everything kind of happened really quickly in terms of my photography. I was lucky that I had (and still have) some great photographers with YEARS of experience around me. Gorilla vs. Bear (a music blog in Texas who also does band Polaroids) was the very first site I started shooting for. The guys there did so much for me at the beginning, just with getting my name and work out into the public. They really catapulted what I was doing and I'm so grateful for that.

Agness Deyn

Tell us about this ‘globe-trekking’, any strange experiences whilst jetting around the world?

Well the main reason I do travel so much is music/photography related and England is always great to visit. I'm usually there a few months out of the year, and there's always some amazing music event happening, no matter what part of the UK you are in or what time of year it is. I always love visiting. I'd say one of my all time highlights was catching Blur at Hyde Park. They're one of those bands I thought I’d never get a chance to see in my life and of all places, in London! I also met met Jarvis Cocker at the Blur show; another thing I never thought would happen. On the other hand, I remember travelling to St. Malo, France back in 2008 to go to a festival for a day, then my friend and I ended up being homeless that night and almost getting arrested. That was memorable but for very different reasons. I wouldn't take them back for anything though, all of the ups and downs.

Jarvis Cocker

Your Polaroid shots are practically iconic now; talk us through those and the equipment you use.

Well I have one digital camera (Canon 5d MKII) which I just use for my live music stuff. Outside of concerts, I’m pretty much all analogue. I think I have about 20 or 30 film cameras that I've been handed down or have collected off E-bay over the years. My recent favourite is the Zenit-B. It's super cheap, like $5, but the quality of the shots are so crisp, yet dreamy and old-fashioned. The whole band Polaroid thing happened. I just fell in love with the idea of capturing some of my favourite musicians (and at times, heroes) candidly in that manner and people generally seem to embrace the idea of getting a "Polaroid" taken of them, rather than just another photo. I think it's more enjoyable, for both myself and the person I'm photographing. There's something special about a Polaroid.

Alice Glass (Crystal Castles)

What with you having moved to Austin, surely you have shot at SXSW before?

Of course. I've been shooting SXSW for the past two years, and have been attending since 2006. The next one is only a few weeks away, actually! There's probably nothing else I look forward to more in the year than that week in March. There's just no other festival in the world like it (though many have tried to imitate). Well I’m definitely looking forward to seeing DOM again, they were one of my favourite discoveries of last year- excited to see JEFF the Brotherhood again as well. They're one of the best garage-rock bands out there now and their live shows are totally psychotic. Hmm, The Vaccines, Black Lips, The Kills, A Place to Bury Strangers...there's too many! 

Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips)

You can check out more of Pooneh Ghana’s work here.

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