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Amanda Palmer, by Gabrielle Motola

1 April 2021

In 2019 I was commissioned to photograph the American independent author/singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer on the UK and European leg of her world tour of “There Will Be No Intermission”. She infamously ran the first million-dollar Kickstarter and is the co-founder of “The Dresden Dolls”. She authored the biography “The Art of Asking” and gave a TED Talk by the same name, which has been viewed more than 11 million times.

Benefit gig for “Open Pianos for Refugees” Karlsplatz, Vienna

My job was to document her, the shows, the crew, the fans and produce four long-form articles published on Medium. I worked alongside the Australian writer Jack Nicholls whom Amanda hired to write the words. We had access to all areas and carte blanche to create whatever we wanted.

The show (just over three hours long) was a theatrical blend of songs and oration, illustrating how Amanda uses songwriting to process life’s more challenging events. Essentially: this is the story of what happened, and this is the song I wrote. The album traverses relationships, pregnancy, abortion, miscarriages, and trauma to highlight a few light examples. The experience could be best described as “group therapy with music and access to alcohol.”

Ulster Hall, Belfast

We travelled to more than a dozen cities beginning in Amsterdam and ending in London at the Union Chapel. We spent time on planes, trains, in cafes, walking the towns when we had time, at one point in a hospital, and on the tour bus. I photographed anything from Amanda on stage, backstage, meetups with hundreds of patrons, Shintado sessions, spontaneous street gigs, podcasts, protests, interviews and bedding down for the night on the bus.

On the “Beat the Streets” tour bus after the show

I struck a balance between being a visible participant while directing group portraits and documenting her playing from stage, to being a ghost in the background. Luckily for me, Amanda is a grounded person who advocates radical compassion, so the atmosphere though intense at times was rarely charged with anything but positivity.

Amanda in her dressing room backstage at Graz Congress, Vienna

Since leaving her record label in 2008, Amanda funds most of her projects and pays her staff with the money she receives from her 15,000 patrons (fans) on Patreon. Patreon is a subscription model platform where patrons pay a fee each month to support work, gain insight into an artist’s process, access content and special events.

Aftershow in the Union Chapel, London

Amanda would often sign books, posters, albums, listen to and hug her fans for hours after the three-hour show. She also frequently would arrive in a city and announce a last-minute free ‘ninja’ gig in a location she disclosed on Patreon. My day usually began around 10 am and ended at 2 am after eating Thai takeaway at midnight on the back of the bus sending out edits for her Instagram and Patreon feeds.

On stage in at the Congress Graz, Vienna

I worked hard, but it was a dream job. How often is it that one gets carte blanch to photograph someone open to being looked at? Scrutinised even.