PJ Sykes’ Photography: A Voice of the Underrepresented Music Scene


PJ Sykes has been taking photos around town for a few years now. Consistently and diligently documenting the local scene in black and white, his photographs present the community from the perspective of someone independently involved. There is no sense of assigned coverage. His images are captured glimpses of the concert experience, the silence beneath the sound, preserved in megapixels and light. If you haven’t seen his work make sure to check out “In The Black & White” right here on RVAMAG.COM, or his own site at www.pjsykes.com.

R. Anthony Harris: How did you get into photography? You didn’t go to school for it. So what got you hooked?

PJ Sykes: It’s true I’ve had no formal training in photography. I always liked taking photos. As a kid I took lots of pictures of my action figures, took my camera to summer camp and that sort of thing. It wasn’t until I started playing music that I found my passion for photography. No one was taking photos of bands back in Lynchburg. All we had were crappy, fuzzy, red eyed photos from a couple of shows. Some of the bands we were playing with at the time were really crazy and exciting to watch. So I started taking some photos of the bands that were billed with my bands. At some point I started using my parents point-and-shoot and figuring out how to get interesting shots. From there I just kept at it. I’ve always sort of approached photography from a “punk rock” DIY attitude.

What is it about “punk” that draws you to it? The energy would be obvious, anything else?

It’s the idea of doing something powerful with what you have and not waiting around for someone else to help you. I started shooting with the most basic gear, got up close to the subjects and went for it. No one told me the “right way” to do anything that I’m doing. I just go with what feels good and is comfortable.…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

I know you cover a lot of bands and you absolutely love it. Does religion or ancestry or documenting the city hold an appeal to future work?

I do like documenting protests. I love the idea that a photograph can amplify the signal of a view point. It’s a very important subject that too often is distorted in the mass media.

If you had your choice of any one band to hang out with for a week and document who would it be?

Wow that is a tough one… Maybe the Flaming Lips in the studio… or if Fugazi were to tour again. I’d welcome the chance to work with just about any band that is interesting and working hard.

Do you think you will always shoot in black and white?

I prefer to shoot in black & white for most subjects that I work with. It really allows me capture a moment without other distractions. I’m also able to isolate motion better. I do have some projects in mind that will work better in color. So don’t be surprised if you see my name next to a color photo in the future.

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work: www.majormajor.me

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