Tony Bonacci shoots rock stars; Friedman and Roeder, Sleepercar, Javelins tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 4:52 pm June 19, 2008

Photographer/rocker Tony Bonacci and I recently chatted about his photo show hanging down at the Nomad ultra-lounge. The interview was for a story for The Reader. Here’s the outcome:

Natural Light
Photographer Tony Bonacci captures sound with a lens.

If you follow Omaha’s celebrated indie music scene, chances are you’ve seen photographer Tony Bonacci’s work before.

Bonacci quietly is becoming a go-to guy for some of the scene’s most important musicians, including Saddle Creek Records acts Mayday, Criteria and the long, lost duo Azure Ray.

A collection of 30 of Bonacci’s portraits (15 rock subjects, 15 non-rock) is currently on display at trendy Nomad Lounge in the Old Market. Among the show’s images are Mayday’s Ted Stevens working an exer-cycle, Orenda Fink in tribal face paint, Tilly and the Wall pounding out a tune on piano, and Baby Walrus hidden in a field of cattails.

One of the most striking photos is a black-and-white portrait of Tomato a Day’s Brian Poloncic sitting on the front stoop of his South Omaha home while his faithful German Shepherd looks on. The photo was used as the inner-sleeve artwork for Tomato a Day’s most recent album, The Moon Is Green.

Among the non-rock portraits (though you’ll recognize a few local musicians among them) is a quirky photograph of Bonacci’s neighbor smoking a cigarette with lipstick smeared across his lips.

Bonacci, 24, has been taking portraits since he was 18. Largely self-taught (He took one photography class which he never completed), his influences include indie film directors Harmony Korine (Gummo, Mr. Lonely) and Larry Clark (Kids) and fringe portrait photographer Diane Arbus. While obviously constructed, Bonacci’s images capture subjects in settings both natural and oddly juxtaposed, rarely altering the surroundings. Using a Minolta XG-M 35 mm SLR, Bonacci depends on minimal fill lighting and performs only the most benign Photoshop post production on his images.

The simple hand’s off method is key to his matter-of-fact approach. “I think natural photos are interesting,” said the soft-spoken artist. “I’m not interested in altering them after the shoot, and that’s something you don’t see very often anymore.”

Bonacci’s role as rhythm guitarist for indie band Hyannis provided a convenient entry into Omaha’s music world, though “My photography is the main thing,” he said. “The music provides instant gratification. I like the idea of doing both, and wouldn’t give either one up.”

Still, his goal is to broaden his photography portfolio with national magazine assignments as well as more consignment work for bands. He’s also considering commercial photography, “If I can do it in my own style,” he said.

The show, titled Mach Shau! The Photography of Tony Bonacci, closes June 26 with a special event from 6 to 10 p.m. featuring a live music performance by one of Bonacci’s portrait subjects. Nomad Lounge is located at 1013 Jones St.

You can see an example of Tony’s work online at

A slew of shows are slated for tonight:

At O’Leaver’s, Reagan Roeder and Mike Friedman open for touring band Little Pieces. $5, 9:30 p.m. Over at The Waiting Room, At the Drive-in co-founder and Sparta frontman Jim Ward’s side project, Sleepercar, plays. Sleepercar has been described as “alt country, similar to Wilco.” Opening is Flight Metaphor and Civicminded. $8, 9 p.m. Down at Slowdown Jr. it’s Javelins with Pomegranates and Honeybee. $7, 9 p.m.

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