Q&A with 2024 MMF Featured Photographer Misty Phillips

Give us a quick bio: Where you are from, what school(s) you’ve attended, any special training or recognition you want to mention, where you work, the name of your photography business, and family.

    I’m from Alpha, Kentucky (on the Wayne/Clinton line). I’m an 80s baby. I attended Lexington Community College and Somerset Community College and served four years in the Kentucky National Guard. I’m a full-time web designer at Forcht Broadcasting and I’ve been shooting under Misty Phillips Photography since 2020. I reside in Somerset with my 17 year old daughter, Ava Noelle, husband Matthew Phillips, our dogs Charlie Earle and Benny, and our four cats.

    How did you first get involved in photography and what drew you to this art form?

      It’s funny– I got a free digital camera with the purchase of a Dell computer in 2004. I thought it was the fanciest thing ever and I was immediately drawn to the notion that art could be created and stories could be shared, with just an image. I wanted to do that. My entire family is artistic– my dad is a musician, my mom is a creative person– but I can’t sing a lick or decorate a bathroom to save my life. The camera became my tool, my self-expression. Of course, my friends gave me plenty of practice behind the lens as Myspace was becoming the “big” thing and they all wanted cool profile pictures. Eventually I invested in real gear and professional software with the encouragement of my photography mentor, Bruce Orwin. He recommended me for hire for real jobs and soon, I was booking my own.

      Stylized portrait of woman outdoors among yellow flowers

      What has been your most memorable experience as a photographer?

        Wow! This question is much harder than I first thought. A hundred memories come to mind. I’m going to have to go with Moonlight Festival 2021– photographing Devon Gilfilian in downtown Somerset as the sun was setting and the stage was just lit up with sun flares and good energy. A few people were dancing but this one particular couple was really tearing it up, really into the music– and they were incredible dancers. The entire experience was beautiful. I loved capturing that emotion, that vibe. It was contagious.

        How do you prepare for an event like the Master Musicians Festival in terms of equipment and mindset?

          I’m on-the-go when I work, so I want to be comfortable and travel lightly. You’ll definitely see me rockin’ my trusty fanny pack with my photography necessities– 2nd lens, lens tools, batteries, and SD cards. My mindset is the same for every occasion– tell the story and do it as visually beautiful and seamlessly as I can. Oh, and I plan to stay hydrated. 🙂

          How do you describe your photographic style, and how does this complement the atmosphere of MMF?

            I feel like style evolves. Mine certainly has. I’m continually learning, finding inspiration within our community, and striving to improve. My style is more bold and colorful these days because that’s how I see the world. I love a good candid moment. MMF is full of life, full of vibrancy, and set in an incredible green natural ‘venue’ on the campus of SCC. I’m a sucker for natural beauty and campus delivers every time!

            We hear you’re a pretty big Wallflowers fan. (wink, wink) Can you share what it is about our headliner that you love, and your favorite song they perform?

              Picture it– Alpha, Kentucky, 1996. It was the year of my musical awakening. You know, when I started having preferences that didn’t include my parents’ playlists. It was a huge year for music, the best in my humble opinion. I started watching a lot of MTV when my parents were away and they still showed music videos then. ‘One Headlight’ by the Wallflowers came on and I loved the sound. It was different. It’s still different from anything else out there. The mood was chill, melancholy but not… sad? I can’t tell you the hundreds of times I played that Bringing Down the Horse album. They’ve continued to release great music through the years but due to nostalgia, One Headlight will be iconic to see. Fourteen year old me CANNOT BELIEVE THIS, YOU GUYS!

              What do you aim to capture in your photographs at MMF? Are there specific moments or emotions you are hoping to document?

                With these influential and skilled musicians taking stage coupled with the spirit of the MMF crowd– it’s a recipe for sweet photography goodness. I want to tell the MMF 2024 story through my coverage this year. The smiles, the styles, the music, and the artisans and vendors who work tirelessly to make it all come together. I want my images to make people smile.

                Tell us about your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken and why it’s your favorite.

                  Ooooh, this is hard, too! Some of my favorite photographs aren’t the best quality or even considered ‘good’ technically, but it was the being there aspect that made it so special. I waited in line for eight hours for a front row seat at the ‘first-come, first-serve’ sold out Chris Cornell acoustic show in Washington D.C. It was held in a gorgeous old synagogue. I met the coolest people in that line who I still talk to to this day. I was able to snag a couple of photos of my favorite singer. It’s not a great photo with my less than stellar skills back then, but this photo has always been one of my favorites.

                  Woman holding camera outdoors

                  What must-haves do you carry in your camera bag when you’re shooting?

                    My nifty 50mm lens is always with me, as well as my 24-70mm. Other than gear, I keep the typical girl gear– ponytail holders, chap stick, and beef jerky.

                    What is your favorite type of camera and/or lens?

                      My favorite has always been Nikon and my trusty 50mm 1.4 lens. I’m not a huge ‘gear’ photographer and tend to stick with what I love. I have a couple of items on my wish list that I hope to integrate this year.

                      What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who want to get into event or festival photography?

                        I would tell them to simply start. Get the experience– most of it’s out there for the taking. Come to MMF, create your art, and share it. I shot my first MMF from the crowd, many years ago when Old Crow Medicine Show headlined. Volunteer your time to good organizations and hone your craft. And most importantly, allow yourself to have fun with those around you, even if they’re strangers to you. You’re most likely going to capture your best images when you’re having a blast yourself.

                        What’s your favorite thing about MMF?

                          My favorite thing about MMF has always been a combination of the environment in which it’s held with the line-up. I love that it’s a family-friendly event. Kids should absolutely have safe and beautiful environments to experience music and art. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention seeing the familiar faces and the hard work of so many come to fruition!