How Zoe Rain Shot a Rolling Stone Cover Before 25
If you follow Macklemore on Instagram, you’ll probably notice that he posts some pretty incredible photos of himself on tour and other backstage moments. Behind all of those images is an amazing photographer named Zoe Rain, who first met Macklemore and Ryan Lewis back in 2010.
Although Zoe has worked as the duo’s full time photographer and videographer for several years now, she wasn’t always into photography. In fact, she started taking photos merely because she needed credit in high school.
Fast forward to 2017 and she has now had her work featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, worked with huge names like Ed Sheeran and Chance the Rapper, and even owns her own studio in Chicago. I recently sat down with Zoe to talk to her about her incredible journey, what it’s like to tour with such a majorly successful artist and where she sees herself in the future.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you first got into photography?
So I was failing my high school photography class, I was just taking it to get credit. My now-boss came in to help kids pass and my teacher pointed to me and was like, “She needs some help!” So he kind of took me under his wing and gave me a professional camera to shoot with, which I never used.
I started assisting him on weddings for a few years and he’s who introduced me to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. He was a good friend of Ryan and he was shooting some of their photos at the time and he brought me to a show and I started shooting shows. The first show I don’t think I got a single photo in focus.
You’ve toured with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for several years now. What is your favorite part about touring?
I just enjoy the adventure of it. I think traveling the world with a set group of people that become really close friends is such an experience that is out of the ordinary. Especially the kind of trip where you’re not really paying for anything, like you’re getting paid to be in Europe and travel the world… You’re just so carefree and everyone is doing exactly what they want to be doing and pursuing their passion, I miss that about tour.
You are virtually shooting the same set every night. How do you manage to switch things up and keep things unique on tour?
I think as far as live show stuff, once you kind of memorize the set — and I can pretty much predict like when he’s going to move to this side or like jump — so I think knowing that, you’re able to then capture each of those moments from a different spot. So I think moving around a lot is just kind of key and trying to remember like, alright, I already got this shot from the front. Maybe I’ll try to get it from the back or try to capture him in the middle of it.
As far as behind the scenes, that’s what’s always different, so it’s not as hard. Especially him and his daughter or family, [that involves] waiting for key moments that are going to be different. Like his daughter took her first steps, that’s something that’s very new in a repetitive situation.
Do you have a specific memory from all the tours you’ve been on with them that sticks out your mind? Do you have a specific moment that you’ve captured that’s really close to your heart?
I mean there’s a ton. I think one that’s a really memorable experience that I’ll never experience again was in Ireland, he has such a huge fan base there just because he is Irish and he has an Irish celebration song, and I think just right before he went onstage just feeling the energy and how loud the crowd was. [That] was something I’d never heard in my life.
I remember a while ago you were taking photos of fans outside of the venue. You did something with the first fans outside the venue, right?
Yeah, I shot the first fan in line at every show. A lot of the people had been there from 12 hours, someone was there for 36 hours, so it’s pretty cool to put a face to what types of people are doing that and just the dedication of people that are waiting that long just to see their favorite artist.
You shoot for a lot of different artists as well. Recently you shot behind the scenes for Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”, I know you’ve worked with Chance the Rapper, do you have a favorite moment either personally or creatively with an artist besides Macklemore?
I was able to be backstage for the iHeart Radio Music Festival a few years ago and I’m like a die hard fan of Miley Cyrus, I can’t tell you why I just love her, so to be able to shoot her set and then also shoot her backstage walking onstage and I was able to capture a moment where she’s looking right at my camera. I think that’s one of the coolest moments with another celebrity that I was really geeking out about.
You just opened up your studio, Rain Studio, how does that feel? What kind of work will you be doing there?
I mean this has been such a dream ever since I first really pursued photography. It feels like a real thing to have a space that’s large enough to kind of facilitate other artists. We’ve been open for a few months and we’ve had a lot of events, we’ve hosted a lot of queer friendly events as well as galleries and a lot of photographers that are shooting their own work in the studio. So it’s been really cool to kind of sit back and watch Chicago have a space to gather and to create.
Who’s someone you are dying to work with?
There’s a lot of rappers that I’m obsessed with but I think I would probably say Miley Cyrus again. I’ve been trying for about four years to somehow get in contact and get on her tour. But I think working with, if not Miley Cyrus, then a larger female pop artist would be fun like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga. Just because of how much energy there is on stage and how many costume changes there are, there would be a lot to capture. And as a female it would be cool to be working with a high profile female.
You recently had your work featured on the cover of Rolling Stone and that’s huge in itself. Do you have any other major career goals that you’ve set for yourself in the future?
I mean more covers would be great. I would love to just start working with one of the larger magazines and being kind of commissioned to work for them like Fader or even like Nylon, or any music magazine. It would be cool to be able say I worked for Fader or any music magazine.
Lastly, if you could have any photographer to document your life who would it be and why?
@goodboyshady @dkessler @gradybrannan. Three of G Eazy’s photographers who I really love. I would love that squad shooting my life.
Photography by Zoe Rain
Interview by Keri Dolan