Prolific photographer Zo Damage is selling prints to help save Melbourne’s live music venues

Prolific photographer Zo Damage is selling prints to help save Melbourne’s live music venues

Photo: 'It's A Long Way' (2010) by Zo Damage
Words by Kate Streader

For over a decade, Zo Damage has been capturing Melbourne’s live music scene from the frontlines.

You’ve probably seen her behind the lens in moshpits around town and there’s a good chance she’s poured you a pint at The Tote.

You can find her work hanging in The Australian Music Vault, it’s featured in Art Centre Melbourne’s 2020 SLAM Rally installation and it earned her an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Age Music Victoria Awards in 2017.

She’s as much a part of Melbourne’s live music scene as the iconic pubs we music-lovers call home and with coronavirus shutdowns threatening the livelihood of these very venues, Damage has launched a new initiative to give back to the community she holds so close to her heart.

Launched last week, Damage’s Support Live Music project was a result of wondering what she could do to support the live music venues facing an uncertain future. The initiative will see her donating 20% of sales from prints of her photos to the venues they were taken in.

“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What can I do?’ and I thought, ‘Well, hang on, I’ve got this massive body of work’. I wanted to do something where the body of work can give back too, that can bring people a bit of joy and be inclusive and help people feel like they’re actually contributing to something that they love,” says Damage.

So, she started rifling through her archives, launched a web store and started listing prints. From Cosmic Psychos at The Tote to Camp Cope at The Curtin, the collection is full of special moments from across the years and she’s adding to it daily.

Shot in black and white, Damage’s photos are raw and visceral. Beyond capturing a snapshot of a moment, her work embodies the electric buzz of energy in the air and the rumble of bass that ripples through your chest in the presence of live music; you can almost taste the sweat just looking at her photos.

“My goal is to photograph energy and sound and emotion – so crowd shots and community shots are really important to me in hopefully sharing the energy and the feeling of a show,” she says.

“Live music venues are the great connector. It’s a place where we actually connect with what we love and the place where we find our community, and they’re the things that I believe are really important: culture and community.”

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The foundation of my work as a photographer has been in live music culture and the underground and emerging live music scene. Due to the CODVID-19 crisis, the entertainment industry finds itself shut down and in disarray. As with many from the scene, I have been struggling in isolation and with an overwhelming sense of helplessness. I believe there is something I can do to support a number of local live music venues, bring some joy to your walls, and a little coin to my family. For a LIMITED TIME ONLY I am running an online store to sell my photographs at heavily discounted prices (up to 50% off) AND donating 20% of SALES of each print to a local live music venue. Simple. Free shipping. AU only. Link in profile. #deadmoon #kingparrot #screamingfemales #slamrally #leonardcohen #iggypop #tomahawk #cosmicpsychos #thetote #peaches #supportlivemusicculture

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Damage has also included a bunch of shots from bigger shows in her Support Live Music initiative, including acts like Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen and Portishead, where punters can choose a small venue to direct their 20% donation towards.

She’s also slashed her prices significantly to make the initiative more accessible, as well as scrapping shipping costs altogether.

“People are struggling,” she says. “This isn’t a time to be like, ‘This sold for three grand here’, right? It is what it is and that’s not what this is about.”

“It’s a really challenging time for so many people. This initiative is a tiny, tiny – I don’t even think it’s a little speck of a splash in the water – but who knows? It might inspire somebody to do something else.”

Despite the devastating effect the current shutdowns are having on the live music sector, whenever Damage catches herself stuck on a negative thought, she quickly pulls herself up.

“Hope’s really important and being positive is really important right now, for everybody,” she explains. “Even if you’re sitting in a pile of shit, there’s always something you can take from that and move forward with.”

Across the past 15 years, Damage has witnessed and documented some of the industry’s toughest moments, along with the countless glorious ones.

She points to triumphs such as the 2010 SLAM Rally, which saw 20,000 punters taking over the streets of Melbourne to save Australia’s live music in the largest cultural protest in nation’s history, as examples of the strength and power we have as a united force.

“I feel like we’re a strong community and that hopefully, with a positive outlook, that we can come together and make good things happen so that our community has, and continues to have, the incredible voice that it does have,” she says.

“At SLAM, I was standing there and I thought, ‘I’m really proud to be from Melbourne today and I’m really proud to be part of this community’. I feel really proud of it still and to have a body of work that can hopefully give back.”

Visit Zo Damage’s website to purchase her prints and support local live music venues.

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