We had the good fortune of connecting with Harmony Gerber and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Harmony, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I was brought up in a household where everyone worked in healthcare; my family was (and still is) extremely “left-brained.” I was always enamored with the how & why of who they became as professionals, but I always knew deep down that I enjoyed the arts, music & expression entirely way too much for me to go down the same path… So, why did I pursue becoming a photographer? Because it’s fun, that’s the truth of it. There isn’t anything in the world I’d rather do. When I first started out, I was shooting a lot of landscapes, random scenes, objects in the studio, anything I could to practice developing & printing in the darkroom, but there was a depth of solitude to that, where the relationship was between myself, my camera and the darkroom, it was my muse, but it was very lonely, figuring out who I wanted to be as an artist, I love people, and I also play music. Most everyone in my family played an instrument. My brother got me into music at a young age, my father taught me how to play the guitar. We grew up on a steady diet of rock, blues & jazz music. We’d play music together almost every night after dinner. I’d sing and yell and attempt to play the harmonica, my Dad would play guitar… Music was always a form of expression in my household (hence my name), but it all kind of comes back to that connection with other people. It’s a lot like when you’re observing musicians, or playing music with other people, an old instructor of mine used to call it being “in the glove,” where it suddenly all connects, and you find yourself with an involuntary smile on your face, and that to me is the essence of joy and the creation of art. It’s inexplicable… When I get the opportunity to stand in front of a musician or celebrity and take their photo, while knowing they’re invested in their craft in a similar way as myself, it’s all about the process of taking the attention off of myself and putting it on the subject matter, that’s when you see the true performance (or photo) that occurs, because you’re giving completely of yourself to this other person. That resonates, and that’s when I get that involuntary smile across my face, that’s the connection… Technically, I could explain it to you chapter & verse, but the joy of it, the fun of it is inexplicable and that’s why I love being an artist. It all goes back to “dress-up,” or “role-playing” or just simple imagination, that which we did as children. That’s what art is; it’s living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. For me, what could be more fun than that?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My very first concert was at the Hollywood Palladium in 1996 for Blink-182 & Reel Big Fish. I was thirteen. I remember waiting in line with my crappy, little disposable camera and being super excited about my evening. It was after that night that I made a connection. Falling in love with live music and photography, my life as a photographer officially began. The anticipation of returning to the photo lab to see if my prints “came out,” was always a thrill. Being pretty young, I had a few good photos under my belt. I needed to find a way to “publicize” myself. That’s where I met Sheri from All-Ages Magazine, (a total DIY zine in Orange County) and my journey began. I began photographing concerts, anywhere I could squeeze in, I was slowly establishing a name for myself. I made connections with club owners, managers, musicians, etc. I was eventually asked to cover a few shows on my own; everything was falling into place… I was 16 years old when I stumbled upon my first professional photo “gig.” I was asked to cover the 1999 Vans’ Warped Tour at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for SLAMM Magazine. I had met Kevin Hellman (SLAMM’s editor) at a concert prior to this. We exchanged information and my photos ended up in print about a month later for the first time. I was hooked. Fast forward to present moment… I’ve always had a “go for it” mentality. The worst that can happen is that people can say “no,” but on one particular summer day of 2013 I received an e-mail to attend an interview for Getty Images. I was floored. This was my dream job, and I’ve been working there since June 2013. It’s been one wild ride, and I wouldn’t change it for anything on this planet. They always say, “Find a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Well, if that is true, I haven’t “worked” in a long time …
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
All the Southern California gems I enjoy are a little bit off the beaten path…. I’ve learned by research, bad dates, trying new spots with friends and I hate to say it, but Yelp too… A great day in LA for me involves a little exercise, good food & a drink or two with a view to cap the night off… Lately, I’ve been finding myself in Venice quite often. A good bike ride from the canals to Malibu is always a great way to people watch and take in all the sights. Maybe a surf sesh at Zuma, grab some fish tacos from Patrick’s Roadhouse, watch the skaters near the Venice pier, then maybe a drink or two on the rooftop at the Erwin Hotel. Such a magical view of LA!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Without the love and support of my parents and family, I wouldn’t have the tenacity, passion & heart I have today. Also, Orange Coast College. Where do I even begin? Some of the best moments in my life were at this school. Not only did I learn from some of the best instructors on Earth, but they were some of the most soulful, most down-to-earth human beings I have ever met… Rick Steadry, you made me strong-willed, opinionated (with a smidge of sarcasm) & open to the harshest criticism I could ever handle, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Leslie McCall, you taught me that patience, time & care can achieve most things in life, you also taught me the valuable lesson of not “wasting time by hurrying.” Kathleen McLaughlin, my imagination ran wild in your classes, and I thank you for how you taught us how to let our “freak flags fly.” Damian Tsutsumida, you showed me how to excel as business woman, a photographer, a colleague and overall person. You were my mentor, my boss and friend. I value the knowledge you’ve given me and respect you and everyone else at OCC Photo so very much! Thank you!