As a rock star photographer, Matias Altbach has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s most famous musicians.
Now, the award-winning photographer from Argentina is sharing a glimpse of some his favorite moments with artists right before, or just after, they’ve taken to festival stages across the world.
Speaking to DailyMail.com, Altbach has also revealed some of the secrets behind the tour he shared with Pete Doherty, how he met Liam Gallagher and the time The Hives decided to perform as animals just for him.
Altbach has been working the festival scene in Europe for the past three years but now plans to take his photography to the United States.
Pete Doherty at VORTERIX in Argentina: Rock star photographer Matias Altbach is sharing a glimpse of some his favorite moments with artists including this shot of Doherty’s dressing room – complete with empty alcohol bottles, pizza boxes and lighters strewn across the room
Mac de Marco in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2014: Altbach says this photo of Mac crowd surfing was not only one of his favorites but also one of the most important he has ever taken
Altbach on his favorite photo:
The photo of Mac DeMarco is not only one of my favorites but also one of the most important I’ve ever taken! I won the NME Music Photography Awards with that photo. I have always been a fan of NME, even before I was a photographer, so it was an honor to have that recognition.
Moreover, since the NME award my career as a professional music photographer took off and I started to work at the European Summer Festival Season, so that photo represents a real breaking point for me. It was a life changing experience.
It is very difficult to choose favorites between so many shows, festivals and bands, but I always enjoy taking photos of crowd surfing. I love to capture the passion and intensity of those moments. In my portfolio I have photos of different artists throwing themselves to the public or being passed overhead, from Fran Carter and Foals to Mac DeMarco and Die Antwoord.
When The Rolling Stones visited Argentina I covered their shows (three shows in one week!) and it was amazing to capture all the energy they have on stage through my lens. Best experience ever !! Those are obviously some of my favorite photos as well.
Liam Gallagher at Lollapalooza in Paris in 2017: Altbach says ‘As a fan, all I ever wanted was for Liam to give me the finger’
Behind the scenes with Pete Doherty in Argentina in 2014: ‘Pete is a God. He is the number one rockstar,’ according to Altbach
The Rolling Stones in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2016: Altbach shot all three of their shows in the space of a week
Rihanna at Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2016: Albach says Sziget in Hungary where he shot this photo is among his favorite festivals to shoot
The craziest moment you captured backstage?
One of the craziest moments I captured was at Roskilde 2015 when Damon Albarn was kicked out of the stage by a security guard. The festival was almost over, it was very late, Damon was playing and most photographers had already left.
Matias Altbach, the photographer, is pictured above at Home Festival in Italy last year
Either way, I was still covering the show, always working with enthusiasm until last minute, so when the festival was over, I was able to pass through security entering backstage.
There, I met Damon just before he was kicked out and shoot one of the few photos of that moment. We discussed about Argentina, Messi and politics, and then I asked him if I could make a portrait. He smiled at me, so I told him how much I love his smile and that I wanted to see his golden tooth. So there he was smiling at me again and showing his whole mouth. That photo conclude a very important event of that festival.
In 2016, after his tour with The Libertines, Pete Doherty stayed in Argentina and offered a few shows, so I decided to make an approach by giving him some of my pictures. That is how I met Pete for the first time at MOD club in Argentina and after that, I don’t really know how, I ended up partying with him and a very close group of friends chanting Argentinian songs all night. It was amazing!
A few months later, when he came back to Argentina, I also had the opportunity to work with Pete and his band in a road trip and it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.
Even though I couldn’t capture this, I also had the chance to meet Jack White in New York in 2012 when I sneaked backstage after the show, and it was unbelievable! Last year I also met Julian Casablancas at Vorterix. After the show in which I made a collaboration, we talked about politics, democracy and Donald Trump. It was incredible to share such a deep talk with a character as Julian.
Die Antwoord at Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2016: Altbach says he loves to capture the passion and intensity of moments like when artists crowd surf
M.I.A at Melt Festival in Germany in 2017: Last year was Altbach’s first time shooting at Melt, which takes place at an abandoned coalmine
Fatboy Slim at Melt Festival in Germany in 2017: The award-winning photographer shot this photo of Fatboy Slim right before his epic four hour festival set
The Hives at Lollapalooza in Paris in 2017: Altbach shot this photo of the band right before they went on stage. He said they started jumping around with the same energy they have on stage
What festival is your favorite? Who does it best?
Years before I have started my career as a photographer I saw a documentary about Roskilde and I was fascinated about it, so the first time I went there I instantly got goosebumps and I was moved to tears for making my dream come true. Nowadays I work as an official photographer at Roskilde and still enjoy every minute. One of the things I like the most is that you have to be all week in it, camping !! So it is a full festival experience. It also has one of the best lineups in Europe which makes it unforgettable.
Another festival I really like is Sziget. It is also a seven day festival and it gathers an eclectic audience from different cultures and nationalities, so it feels like a cultural exchange for me! It has great lineups and it is located in Budapest, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Any crazy ways some artists prepare to go onstage?
At Lollapalooza Paris I was shooting some pictures of The Hives before they go on stage and ask them to stand on the grass to have a particular view of the racecourse. As they placed in position, they started to act as different animals, jumping and shouting with that same energy they have when they perform on stage. It was like a wild prelude of their show and it was astonishing!
The rock star that surprised him most:
I am a fan of Oasis since I was a teenager. First, I met Noel Gallagher in an interview for a radio station and some years later I met Liam at Lollapalooza Paris. As soon as I saw Liam I decided to make an approach and asking him to do some portraits.
He hugged me and arranged everything with his manager. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening! When the moment came, there were three photographers accredited and I was the last one, so I knew I had to be quick and precise. I analyzed the scenario while the other two photographers were doing their jobs, and I decided to make a serie of portraits where he would be standing right in front of the camera doing different things with his hand, looking provocative and rebel.
It was finally my turn and Liam followed my instructions perfectly. Just for a few moments, I had complete control over him! Contrary to the character he may shows to the media, he was kind and reachable. Being able to speak with Liam and took photos of him was a very special moment for me, both as a photographer and as a fan.
The Foals at Mad Cool Festival in Madrid in 2017: The photographer shot this photo of lead singer Yannis giving a killer look while smoking a cigarette back stage
Glass Animals at Melt Festival in Germany last year: The band were spotted hanging back stage drinking beers
The Kills at Melt Festival in Germany in 2017: US singer Alison Mosshart and English guitarist Jamie Hince pose up a storm
Blur at Roskilde Festival in Denmark in 2015: One of Altbach’s craziest moments was photographing Damon Albarn – Blur’s lead singer – after he was kicked off the stage by a security guard
What is Pete Doherty actually like?
Pete is a God. He is the number one rockstar. The time I shared with him on tour, I realized he is very sociable and funny, his charisma is contagious and appealing. He also has a great approach with the public, he stays after each show to talk with the fans, signing autographs and taking photos. I think that, as every great artist, he lives through his fans’ energy.
The Gossip announced that they have split – what was it like capturing their backstage moments?
I started working as a photographer in 2010 and I worked with Gossip in 2011 so it was one of the first times I was at a festival with full access to backstage covering so many international bands. I met Beth Ditto at backstage, she was really nice and she was delighted to be in Argentina. I didn’t have the chance to talk much more with her or the band though, because I was a bit shy at that time and I didn’t know how to approach artists yet.
Later on, when she was about to get on stage she recognized me and smiled at me. A second later, I took that photo where she is running into the stage prepared to give everything to the public.
Justice at Ultra Music Festival in Argentina in 2017: Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay or the French electronic duo are spotted backstage waiting to go on
The Gossip at Pepsi Music in Argentina in 2011: Altbach says some say this gig was one of his first jobs on stage with an artist
All you need is love: Paul McCartney in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2016
Gogol Bordello at Groove in Argentina in 2012: Altbach shot this pic of the Gypsy punk band from New York
The Libertines at Home Festival in Italy in 2017: He snapped this photo of Pete Doherty, Carl Barât and Gary Powell embracing off stage
Your recent project Curtain Call has been in the works for a few years now. What made you release it now?
In my career as a professional photographer I have worked many years as the curator of the Photographic Museum of Humanity so I have a lot of experience in documentary photography. As I was preparing my portfolio I found a lot of pictures with a common theme and I wanted to produce a personal project connecting my knowledge of documentary photography and music photography.
In this sense, I have decided to gather images of different artists captured right before they went on stage. It is still a work in progress and I will definitely keep on adding new artists to this series. Also, as I am already having a great response, I think it would be shown later on as an exhibit or be published as a book.
Did you learn anything about any of the artists while shooting this series?
I have learned a lot by working with artists live. From knowing where do I have to stand to wait for the best shot, to think in advanced a good framework where I will have to lead them before the show for the Curtain Calls series. Even if my job is to capture the instant, I have to be always prepared and have a plan b in case things don’t work out. That balance between spontaneity and a good plan is the most important thing I have learned.
Altbach’s new photo series is called Curtain Call.
Muse at Lollapalooza Festival in Berlin in Germany in 2015
The aftermath of the Mad Cool Festival in Madrid