Host Portrait Sessions with Daniel de la Bastide

You may recognise Daniel de la Bastide from serving up your morning coffee or slinging a pint from the other side of the Melodic Bar. But when he's not working away here, you'll find him on the other side of the dance with his camera.

Resident for in-house meraki events, Daniel has photographed in various venues in Liverpool including Invisible Wind Factory, 24 Kitchen Street and Q U A RR Y, as well as prolific events in the city Baltic Weekender and Gottood Festival. Having graduated from the School of Architecture, he's now using his work to challenge the roles Architects can have within the creative sector. Integral to his practice is the desire to provide the quotidian with the intention to shift cultural value towards the lived experiences of the working class, grassroots communities and often underrepresented demographics. Focusing on event, portrait, fashion and documentary, his photography serves as a vehicle to express unheard stories which should be considered, celebrated or championed.

Earlier this year, Daniel won a competition with The Creative Street Studio, which gave him the opportunity to take some photos in their studio. He used the session to take press shots for MDR hosts Aiden Brady, Ella Fradgley (Where Are The Girlbands?) and Lupini for their creative use. We travel from the humble beginnings of his creative journey to now, below...

L-R: Aiden Brady, Ella Fradgley (WATGB?), Lupini

Hey Danny. We’re loving the host portraits you’ve done of Lupini, WATGB and Aiden Brady. How did the project come about?

Thank you so much! Glad you folks like them, it was really fun to test myself in a photography studio with the lovely bunch.

Back in October ‘21 I came across an opportunity on Instagram from Liverpool-based photography studio ‘The Creative Street’. They popped out an open call competition where you could win 4 hours worth of studio time, asking what you’d used the studio time for and the reasons why. It resonated with me during my adolescence years growing up; I’m always striving to support early career, local, grassroot creatives who may not have had the opportunities provided for them for whatever reason. So, I ran with the idea of offering press image portraits to Melodic Distraction Radio hosts at the start of their career, who therefore may struggle to afford costs. I was incredibly grateful that the project got selected out of a lot of good submissions, allowing the support of people doing great things within Liverpool’s creative community. Big up to Marieke!

Can you tell us a bit more about how you first got into photography?

I started a good few years ago… maybe around 2016? During the summer after my college exams I went to Budapest - my first holiday! I came across a lovely lookin’ bit of kit on a Facebook group (basement crew yano) before the trip. The Olypmus OM-10, in all its beauty, sitting pretty at £50. This nifty film camera was my first dive into photography. It entered me into a rabbithole of research into the medium of photography, learning all the basics - from the sunny 16 rule to the film process - as well as watching endless amounts of YouTube videos. The result of that holiday? A couple of blank film rolls that had no images whatsoever, and a handful of images with light leaks and poor composition… but the start of my creative process nonetheless.

University was a massive turning point for my photography, despite having enrolled into the School of Architecture at Liverpool University. Whilst growing up, I never really had the income to delve into hobbies that took a lot of financial startup, so once I arrived in Liverpool and my student loan dropped into my pocket, I finally felt like I had the resources to explore my areas of interest and experience the creative world. My working class status meant I was entitled to much more than I had ever experienced, which was scary but exciting. Film photography back in 2017 was inexpensive (RIP to that), with the latest digital image-snappers costing way out of my budget. It helped me journey through the creative process of mistakes, learning curves and sometimes, photos that gave this feeling… where you just admire it. I think these moments are where I began obsessing over photography. Pure curiosity and the love to explore this newfound passion.

After a year of film photography, I saw an opportunity on Smithdown Ticket Exchange from Meraki looking for a range of roles within their newly-formed music space. I reached out to Jack and got offered the chance to photograph a couple gigs. I grabbed my Mum’s digital camera and tried out event photography. It was a massive struggle ngl, the daunting idea of a dark club environment was challenging the principles of photography being light-based. I spent countless nights researching processes on how to combat these issues whilst meticulously watching photographers in similar spaces, absorbing and adapting these techniques to develop my own method or style. I guess I’m looking to convey a narrative of how I perceive the hedonism of Liverpool’s nightlife, reflecting on these experienced memories of the music scene.

Mixed in with constant imposter syndrome and creative burnout, alongside still finding the pleasure of ‘that one photo’ which makes you feel that little something, I’m still in the early days of what I hope will be something lasting.

What other projects are you currently involved in?

I’m in the process of getting more portraits booked in with various creatives, from more Melodic hosts to press shots for an upholstery business. It’s fun being tested with new environments or different subjects - it helps to create more organic portraits!

Soon I’ll be supporting a very dear friend of mine, shooting their fashion collection they’ve been working on for nearly 2 years now. The project has quite a low profile currently, but it’ll be worth the wait! Super excited for this one.

Does music have an influence on your photography and vice versa? How do the two worlds collide?

I think that my photography has a strong relationship with music for sure. The majority of my work has music as the core subject, either that the people are part of the music scene or looking at how music can influence us. I guess music is the narrative and I document the impact it has, in particular to Liverpool. Similar to music’s ability to evoke emotion, I look to translate the deep connection we can feel with an image. Photography can be a way to capture the way you see the world, but it can mean so much more than what it superficially shows.

A good example to kinda explain what I mean is a photograph I captured at Meraki back in September ‘19. To paint the scene; two people lay across two handmade, upholstered benches, side-by-side, looking to the pitch black sky above. In the foreground is similar style furniture, whilst the background has various people interacting with one another and the Meraki building behind - all lit by the incandescent light bulbs spanning the courtyard. I was just smoking outside, getting some fresh air, away from the smoky, sweatbox of the club and encountered this moment. There’s so many things I love about this photo, isolating small, intimate moments like these. I honestly hope (or strongly encourage!) people take time to look at the physical moments in front of them or photos like these. It's a shame that technology and social media makes moments like these easily overlooked. Beautiful things happen around us; just take a second to look out for something and find the simple beauty in it.

I sort of side-tracked from the question there, but I guess that’s what music does for me. Certain lyrics or sounds evoke an emotion to me, relating to the moods I’m feeling or have experienced. Music can shift my emotional state - both good and bad - and sometimes question how I feel. I’m always trying to push my photography to create that impression; to make someone stop and think deeper than the surface of the image. Because there’s so many layers to both music, photography and other forms of art.

If you could shoot anywhere in the world with one of your favourite artists, where would it be and with who?

Easily Tyler The Creator. His fashion style heavily influences mine and I imagine it’d be so easy to capture his personality. I have memories of my brother listening to his music a lot in our shared bedroom back in high school and seeing Tyler grow over the years. It’d be class to chill and chat with him in a very laid back environment for the day, go do some dumb shit and get some boss portraits.

As well as photography and of course running Melodic Bar, what else keeps you busy? Do you have any tips for keeping a clear mind whilst spinning many plates?

Both of them keep me very busy for sure! I know my family must have a love-hate relationship with the hard work I do whilst airing their texts or calls.

It’s important for me to surround myself with inspiring people to keep me busy in my downtime. I always enjoy the company of others; small discussions over a pint at the pub or just hanging out in the smoking area of a club night keeps me inspired. It can be tiring being in two very sociable jobs and being around people outside of those roles, but it’s what keeps my creative brain ticking!

However, downtime on my own is also an important thing. Usually I’ll be dotting about galleries looking at art for inspiration, chilling at a coffee shop reading random online articles, charity shopping for the majority of my wardrobe or scaling the walls at the climbing hangar! The latter I’ve been slacking on, but looking to sort that out this month haha.

I’m currently trying a little detox from the booze as well at the mo. I’ve been saying that it feels more rockstar nowadays to be sober and I have a lot of respect for those that do. The summer was a much-needed period of fun, but now I guess I’m trying to shift my creative approach and push myself to explore new ideas, projects and creative processes.

What was the last record/tune you bought?

I’ve been buying a lot of charity shop records for my radio shows as kind of a ‘first listening’ in the studio, since I don’t own a record player. I’ve found a lot of silly, fun vinyls, as well as some white label records - it’s super exciting to listen alongside those who tune into the show!

My most recent purchase was actually from Dig Vinyl. It’s none other than a record by Meco - Music inspired by Star Wars and other Galactic Funk. Following suit of silly, fun tracks being built into my vinyl roster, this little cosmic disco, boogie-central record has some wicked tracks on it. Who knew samples from Star Wars would slap so hard! The graphic is equally epic, two space folks bumpin’ hips - drawn by someone called Rodriguez.

What else do you have planned for 2022?

Loosely-speaking, I’ve got some things in mind for 2022 but I’m not being massively strict on myself.

I’m keen to look into hosting an exhibition of my own in some capacity, or at least a new way to showcase my work. Social media can be limiting but also a great medium if used creatively. However, I have a desire to push myself out of my comfort zone with this technology and find new ways to view my work. How am I going to do that? I’m not entirely sure, but that makes it exciting.

Alongside that, I’m super interested in exploring how I can utilise some of the film photography processes I’ve learnt over lockdown and how a creative relationship could form with newer, digital technologies. I’ve been holding off on this for a while now and who knows, maybe writing it into this article will somewhat get me to commit to it!

Aside from all the photography stuff, I want to make more of an effort to slow the pace of my life down a little. What I mean by this is to appreciate the things, people or surroundings a lot more than I currently do. During lockdown, I really enjoyed the slowness it brought. I have a strong reminiscence period where I really saw things differently thanks to the influence of someone I hung out with at the time. Since the pace picked back up, it was hard to see the beauty in the simple things due to the manic time post-lockdown brought!

Overall, I'm just gonna take it easy and do the things I love, I guess.

Join Daniel for his next Mornings With show on Friday 23rd September. In the meantime, listen back to the latest episode below!