The worst photograph Danielle Parsons ever took in her life appeared on a Jones Soda bottle for the world to see.
Granted, she was only 13 years old at the time, and had just won a photography contest with the company. Now, Parsons said seeing her work broadcast at such a young age made her realize she wanted to be a photographer.
“I was never the star of anything, or I was always the weird one,” Parsons, 23, said. “So it just didn’t feel real. My mom still talks about it. Sometimes I’ll completely forget and she’ll find the bottle and ask me if I remember.”
The 2014 Temple graduate started her career in photography early, picking up her mom’s old 35mm film camera when she was 12 years old. Parsons credits learning on film as a huge reason for her success.
“I was pretty much hooked once I picked it up,” Parsons said. “And I think that learning on film forces you to actually understand how the camera works.”
Parsons said she enhanced her knowledge further with film photography classes in high school. She enjoyed the medium so much because it did not allow for what she calls the “trial and error” of digital photography.
The other largely influential factor in Parsons’ life as a child and young adult was music. Parsons started going to live shows in the Doylestown area when she was 14 years old, where she met some of her closest friends.
That early love of music opened up a natural career path for Parsons – music photography. Parsons said she grew up in the local music scene, always with her camera by her side.
Parsons has been on tour three times. The first time, she hit the road with Pennsylvania pop-punk band Tigers Jaw in January of 2010 to Canada for a smaller tour, lasting about a week and a half.
“The second time, I went on Tigers Jaw’s full U.S. tour in July of 2010, and that was crazy,” Parsons said. “None of us had been away on a tour for three weeks before. We traveled from Wilkes-Barre to California – and back, in a van.”
Parsons said it was exciting to wake up in a different state each day and get a chance to visit so many venues she had heard about growing up – an amazing experience for the then-college freshman.
Parsons was invited back on tour with Dads when the band supported Touché Amoré this past July.
“I think I approached it differently, being a little older,” Parsons said. “I think I was more appreciative and took it in a little bit more. It was way too short!”
Parsons said while on tour she ran into issues in the music world – just because she’s a female.
“All the time,” Parsons said. “All the time. Last summer, I was trying to get my photo pass, and one of the security guards kept asking me if I was a groupie.”
Though she said she has not faced this issue quite as much since becoming an established photographer, Parsons said that starting out, it was much worse. People accused her of only getting press passes to shoot shows so she could, “have sex with band guys.”
“I grew up with these guys,” Parsons said. “If I wanted to do it, I would’ve done it by now.”
Just being a female involved in music, Parsons said, can lead to a lot of problems – people always seem to be questioning her motives, she said. She felt as though it is best to “stick up for yourself.” Parsons said she’s found that her female friends, who are band members, tour managers and “merch-girls,” often run into issues.
“Things seem like they’re getting a little better, though,” Parsons said.
Parsons said she is grateful for being able to shoot what she calls “so many insane shows” in Philadelphia, an area she considers to have a number of bands that people are both invested in and wildly excited to see live, and being in the middle of all the energy is an incredible experience for her.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Parsons said. “I don’t think I would want to do this anywhere else.”
Victoria Mier can be reached at email@example.com
*Editor’s note: Changes to this article were made on Oct. 21. The second time Parsons went on tour, she was invited by Dads, not Tigers Jaw.