“Have confidence in your work. It’s less about what you do, and more about why you do it, and how you do it.”
Caitlyn McGonigal is a photographer and the founder of Ascribe Magazine. She is based in Philadelphia and attends Drexel University, where she studies Entertainment Communications and Digital Media.
To learn more about Ascribe Magazine, a magazine which focuses on pop, indie, and alternative music, head over to their website here. There is so much to read and learn about! Don’t forget to follow their Twitter and Instagram pages as well.
Along with her work for Ascribe, she works with a few other publications and does some individual work with some artists.
Here at For The Punks, we are honored to have Caitlyn as one of our Women History Month features! Her work is phenomenal and we are excited to share it with you.
Tell us how/why you first got started in this industry? How did that lead to you joining/starting your organization?
I’ve been going to concerts since I was really young, particularly pop punk shows. The sense of community at shows and within music in general is something I truly love, so I knew that I wanted to incorporate that into my career path. For a while I had no idea what I wanted to do, seeing as I can’t play an instrument or sing. With that being said, I’ve been interested in digital media and the arts for all of my life, and I’ve been studying them for many years. I photographed my first show in early 2019, and in that moment I knew it felt right. It just clicked, and I knew I had found something I truly loved.
I think it was inevitable that I’d end up in the music journalism industry at some point (my parents called it when I was a kid!), but I never knew what capacity I’d want to be in it. Some people I had networked with suggested I should join a publication to take my craft to a more professional level.
I didn’t have a ton of experience on my resume, so I figured I might as well start my own after not hearing back about my applications. It’s been really neat to give a voice to artists of different sizes, and to also give creatives of all sizes an opportunity to create work they’re passionate about. Capturing the energy and emotion between fans and artists at the shows I photograph is something I’ll never get tired of. I’ve also discovered a newfound love for writing about music. Who would have guessed I’d have so much to say about the songs I listen to?
What do you hope to accomplish in this industry? How did certain life experiences help shape that goal?
There’s so much I want to do! I want to tour as a music photographer, and I would also love to grow Ascribe into something that covers a vast amount of genres. Maybe we could see it go into print one day? I feel like I’ve learned so much by building a publication from the ground up, that I can make lots of little goals for myself and actually achieve them. I would also love to have Ascribe continue to be there for up-and-coming creatives. Whether it’s the artists we cover or the people who work with us, it’s so important to give a voice to those who might not have one otherwise. That’s kind of why the publication came to be, you know? I’m very grateful for the opportunities Ascribe has given me, so I want to pass that one and give back by helping other people get those opportunities. If I can teach them a thing or two about photography or writing along the way, then that’s cool too.
Overall though, I’m just really curious about the future. I mentioned that my parents had known from the start that I would be in music journalism, even when I was interested in completely different things, and that’s been the one experience I always look back on. They would tell me while I was growing up that when I was older, they would sit down with me and watch Almost Famous, since they thought I would also be working with bands and touring with them one day. They were that convinced I would end up in music journalism! They were right, though, and that’ll always be funny to me. It’s the kind of experience that, from the outside, wouldn’t seem like it’s that important. But in everything I do, I always remember that they knew from the very start that they believed in me, even when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself. I might not always know what’s coming next, but I know I’ve got good people in my corner.
What is one thing you hope to teach or show others through your art?
Your passion is one of the most important things. If you truly love music journalism or music photography, that’ll translate into everything you create. It’s a learning process. Let yourself make mistakes and learn from them as you improve your craft.
What’s your favorite part of what you do?
I get to work with super cool people! Be it the contributors for Ascribe, the artists I work with, or the artists’ teams, everyone has their own story to tell. Like I said, it’s a learning process, and I think you can learn a lot from the people around you. I’ve also been able to work with some artists that I really enjoy, which is always really wonderful.
What’s the most challenging? How do you work through the challenges?
Taking a step back to breathe can be hard. I’m running a publication on top of being a full time student, so it became very easy to put myself in a “Work Mode 24/7” mindset. I would get out of class, go photograph a show, stay up all night editing, and spend the mornings sending emails, doing homework, and writing articles. In the moment, you think you’re more efficient for working that way, but you’re not. You can’t give your personal by doing that. You just can’t. At the end of the day, I’m just a person! You need to make time to relax. I’ll go to shows sometimes and I’ll be like “Aww man, I should have applied to photograph it!”, but that mindset it a quick way to kill creativity, in my opinion. One of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn was that not everything needs to be a work opportunity. You’re allowed to take a step back and have fun! It can be hard to beak out of that mindset of always needing to be working, but once you do, you’re all the better for it. I try my best to give that same flexibility to my contributors as well. I don’t expect them to be in work mode 24/7, nor would I want them to be. We’re all human and need time to focus on ourselves and our own lives sometimes, so I try to give that to those I work with while also giving that chance to myself.
One final message you’d like to get across to our audience would be..
Have confidence in your work. You don’t need the fanciest gear right away, and it’s never a bad time to get started. If you wanna start doing music photography, or writing about music, just do it! It’s less about what you do, and more about why you do it, and how you do it.
Connect with Caitlyn on social media!