Although Cambria Harkey has made a name for herself photographing the biggest names in music each year at ACL, she loves to turn her camera on the crowds for shots likes this one.
For 15 years, Austin City Limits Music Festival photographer Cambria Harkey has not only photographed music’s biggest names, from Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam to this year’s Radiohead, she’s also captured many of the thousands of ecstatic fans who flock to Zilker Park.
Harkey, photo manager for Austin-based festival producer C3 Presents, chose this life after being captivated by a music show while hostessing at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q in the late 1990s. “[The drummer] was out of his mind, and I remember thinking, ‘I want to feel that way about something in my life, and I want to remember how this feels right now.’” She took photo classes, built a darkroom, and persuaded Stubb’s to let her try her hand as venue photographer.
When C3’s Charles Attal, a partner at Stubb’s, co-founded the ACL Fest, Harkey was on board. After 15 years, Harkey looks for ways to keep it fresh. She and her team create themed challenges, such as photographing the best mustaches or T-shirts of the day. The long hours and heat can be grueling, but Harkey loves watching how the music affects the crowd. “It always warms my heart because people are more willing to just let their worries go and have fun,” she says. September 30–October 2 and October 7–9.