We had the good fortune of connecting with Kirby Gladstein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kirby, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I first made the conscious decision to pursue music photography, I utilized every waking moment to learn, shoot, and grow my business. I’d work 12-14 hours on set at my day job, then go directly to a concert and shoot, then head home to edit until 2 or 3 am (music photos have to be turned around almost instantly), before falling asleep for a couple hours to wake up and do it all over again. Burning the candle at both ends was an understatement. This unrelenting hustle couldn’t be maintained, and after a couple years and a lot of forward movement in the industry, I let up a bit. I began forcing myself to set aside a couple days a week where I would not do anything photo related whatsoever. Over time, I realized this forced me to be much more efficient during “working hours” and kept me from completely burning out. While I think that initial grind was absolutely necessary to get my work off the ground and develop my style, I’m so glad those days are behind me.
Please tell us more about your work. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
No matter what I’m shooting, my goal is to distill emotion in my images. I might be shooting a campaign for a shoe company or social media content for a music festival or some random street photography with a little film point and shoot, but my approach is always putting emotion first. Being human is what connects all of us, and I think finding connection in a photo through that emotion is paramount. The work I create that excites me the most are the 3D gifs. They’re shot on these terrible, finicky 35mm film cameras from the 80s, and you never know how they’re going to turn out until you develop, scan, edit, and animate them. But the risk is so worth the reward because (when done well) they are so eye-catching and mind-bending. It’s just so fun to bridge that gap between the still image and the moving video while playing with space.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite way to experience a place is to eat my way through it. Given an unlimited budget and never-ending stomach, I’d start west and work my way inland. First stop, my absolute favorite cheeseburgers from The Window in Venice. A little further east we’d stop at Little Fatty in Mar Vista for Taiwanese street food and damn good cocktails from the adjoining Accomplice. Those spots are right off a great little strip of Venice Blvd, so that’s the perfect place to walk around, grab coffee, shop, and even go bowling. My final stop on the west side would be to the nearby Lodge Bread Company (technically in Culver City). I’ve spent the bulk of my time in LA in West Hollywood/Fairfax Village, so plenty of time would be allotted for food from Jon & Vinny’s, Escuela Taqueria, Izaka-Ya, A.O.C., and Spartina. The Darkroom was my neighborhood watering hole for years, so we’d have to swing by, get a drink, and hit the photobooth. During the pandemic, Pan Pacific Park has become such a little refuge, so we’d probably need to run in Erewhon to grab canned rosé and chocolate on the walk there. Can’t leave that side of town without stopping at Mickey Hargitay’s – my favorite plant nursery. Before heading further east, we gotta head north to catch a show at The Hollywood Bowl (it’s iconic for a reason) and hydrate at the super intimate MiniBar on Franklin. Koreatown stops include Slurpin Ramen and the unforgettable Dan Sung Sa. If we’re in the mood for dancing, a trip to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang at The LINE is in order. With all this fun, I’ve probably shot a lot of film. My favorite place for fast, inexpensive film processing is Gold One Hour Photo between Ktown and MacArthur Park. Pre-covid, I always checked who/what comedy was going on over at Dynasty Typewriter. My favorites in my current neighborhood of Los Feliz include Little Dom’s, watching movies on film at Vista Theatre, Spitz, walking up and down Vermont and Hillhurst for shops and coffee, Skylight Books, and wandering the Franklin Hills to see the Shakespeare Bridge from below. I can’t mention Los Feliz favorites without mentioning the late, great Good Luck Bar (RIP). Silver Lake and Echo Park are overflowing with places I love; Little Pine, Silverlake Ramen (get the lunch special), Yeastie Boys Bagels (they’re running a bagel food truck empire), all the little shops dotting the entirety of Sunset, Triple Beam Pizza, Monty’s, Kien Giang Bakery, Lady Byrd Cafe, and Button Mash. Heading south into downtown, we have to stop at The Broad. Since it’s free, I force all my friends from out of town to go and work up an appetite before being entirely bombarded with food options at Grand Central Market. My favorite venue downtown is The Orpheum. It’s beautiful. In the Arts District, we’d grab Guerrilla Tacos, Bestia, and Salt and Straw. In Sheep’s Clothing (a Japanese-style listening bar) and (just across the river) Common Wave HiFi are audiophile heaven. And finally, we’d drive up to Highland Park to catch a show at Lodge Room, eat Tex-Mex style tacos at HomeState, and peruse all the shops and bars along Figueroa and York. Still hungry?
Who else deserves some credit and recognition in the story of your success?
There have been countless music photographers that have mentored me, passed gigs my way, and supported me in a million ways through the years, but the first one that was really instrumental in my success was Greg Noire. We’re both from Houston and he was generous enough to take time out of his life to meet with me and teach me stuff about all aspects of the business. Greg is still one of my biggest inspirations.