A.F. Cortés Uses Photography as a Visual Mixtape

A.F. Cortés
A quick frozen moment | A.F. Cortés

Bogotá-born photographer, director, and musician A.F. Cortés speaks with passion about the raw power of Brooklyn’s underground punk, indie, and hardcore scenes. These pictures are his visual mixtape.

Turbonegro is a really interesting revival punk bank from Norway. This is the lead singer. I really like how they dress. Their sound is revival, crazy, party, glam, ’80s LA, the Whisky, and they take that to a whole different level. They have a cult following. When you go to the shows, everybody wears those hats and has their style.

“These are all bands that I listen to and care about. For one reason or another, they are important in music history. I’m not an event photographer. I document bands that I love. That is the reason I go to the shows and do what I do. I’ve been lucky that people have seen my pictures and they’ve been featured in a few places. For me, I could do this forever even if I keep all the pictures under my bed. For me it’s a memento of my favorite shows.


These photos are from the past three years. I started taking pictures and documenting the underground hardcore scene in New York. Because I was also writing and producing a TV series about a famous boxer in Latin America, KID PAMBELÉ.”

“Writing is a very lonely thing. Even when you’re writing with a group of writers, there’s a lot of time when you’re just by yourself. I kind of needed to be surrounded by people. I needed to do a different kind of work. So I went out in the evenings and took pictures at live shows.”

Sloppy Jane is a very interesting artist. I think they’re part performance art and part music. She performs in a way that’s very confrontational and challenges audiences. Her music is very theatrical. She removes her clothes as part of the performance. The way she directs the band is like a maestro in an orchestra. In the middle of the chaos, she’s giving cues to the tempo to the drummer, let’s build a crescendo here.

“My relationship with music started at a very early age, when I was 17 years old and I played guitar in a band. My plan A in life was to play in a metal band forever. When I finished high school, it was time to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I decided to go to college for graphic design so I could design the record covers, flyers, and posters for my band. For some reason I fell in love with design. I stopped playing in the band. And I started to work in advertising. But since then, I always had a close relationship with music.”

Starcrawler is a garage punk band from LA. In a way, they’re picking up where Iggy left off. The singer goes insane every time she performs. She used this horror imagery with blood. Her body is part of the performance. She plays with the camera and the audience. I have no idea how she stretches her body that way, maybe a lot of yoga.
The first time I saw the Kills was in 2001. And they were opening for Primal Scream. I was not taking pictures at that time, just in the audience. But I remember they didn’t have a drummer and no other backing musicians. It was just the two of them. And it was the first time I was watching a band with only a guitar and a singer. And they were so confrontational back in the day. So I just continued to follow them and watch them grow. It’s great to see Allison Moss now with her project with Jack White. And they still manage after all these years to continue doing great music. This picture was taken recently at a small intimate show in Brooklyn. I was right there on stage.
Stuyedeyed is one of my favorite bands here in Brooklyn. They’re a band with a strong message. They grew up in the projects. Their message is against police brutality, against injustice, and against everything crazy that is happening right now. Their music has a strong message and they also give it all on stage. It’s not only about breaking guitars, it’s about why you break guitars. The message is nonconformism. It’s not being happy about what’s happening in the world today. And they are a testament to that attitude.

“I have several cameras. Most of those are regular Canon 5D or 7D. Nothing very fancy. It’s not about the camera that you use. You can get good photos with any camera. It’s more about who you have in front of the camera. You can have the best camera and the best lenses but if your subjects are boring, the pictures will be boring. It took me a while to discover that.”


Words by A.F. Cortés

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