||The topic of this thesis is backstage photography. Backstage photography is a genre within
photography that contains intimate behind the scenes photos of celebrities. This thesis is focused on
backstage photography within the music industry and in particular the rock & roll genre. Backstage
photography however does not solely entail photos that are literally made ‘back stage’ (e.g. in the
wings or dressing room of the artist); they also pertain all the photos that are made when the artist is
‘off stage’; whether that be on the street, at a bar or at home. Backstage photos are more private in
comparison to the photos that are made of the artist on stage, but can still be part of a ‘public’ space.
The main question of this thesis is what these backstage photos mean and how this relates to
the photographic aspects of voyeurism and exhibitionism, journalistic and documentary photography in
specific, and their position in portrait photography.
The first chapter of this thesis explores the applicability of the concepts of voyeurism and exhibitionism
to backstage photography. Particular effects such as absorption and ‘to-be-seennes’ are present in
backstage photos, albeit incomplete: the artist is never fully absorbed but the photo also does not fully
contain an embedded theatricality. The relationship between the artist and the photographer is of high
importance; due to the intimate relationship between the subject and the photographer, the subject
lowers its guard and allows the photographer to get closer than ever. As a result, the photos explore
and explain the artist’ character in new ways. This in turn leads to exhibitionism and shows how the
artist, even behind the scenes, partly remains in his role. The spectator of these photographs has
certain expectations that the photographer aims to satisfy.
The second chapter of this thesis discusses in which ways photojournalistic and documentary
photography fit with the concept of backstage photography. The argument is made that backstage
photography can be viewed as a result of two important developments: the rise of the tabloid press
where photos were first published in the media and the rampant rise of the music industry that
permeated global culture and new methods of production, marketing and distribution were realized. It
is important to note that a backstage photo can initially be categorized as photojournalism and become
part of documentary photography later. Whereas photo assignments are being done under the
pretence of photojournalism, they may eventually ‘evolve’ into products of high artistic value and be
considered as documentary photography or even ‘art photography’.
The third and final chapter analyses the position of the backstage portrait photo. A backstage portrait differs from any other portrait because of the location, setting and attitude or feeling of the
photographed artist. Besides, these portraits are often not published at the time they were made.
Therefore, the argument can be made that the backstage portrait is part of the private domain instead
of the public. This domain changes once the photo does get published. Interestingly, the backstage
photo is made in a more private environment, but the model is a public figure.
Backstage photos are intriguing because they give a new, different image of a celebrity. Our
fascination with the human face resulted in an ever-growing celebrity culture. We like to see how
public characters behave on the stage, but even more so within private environments. Backstage
photography embraces these desires.