Photographer Jason Jamal Nakleh: The Stories Behind Some of His Favorite Photos

Hello, my name is Jason. I'm a half-Palestinian, half-Lebanese photographer and retoucher, born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. Metal was my music of choice since I was 13, and by 17 or 18 I had discovered hardcore. Leeway was my gateway band, crossing over from thrash to hardcore. Ever since then I've considered myself a "hardcore kid," but my musical tastes also include thrash, black metal, prog, and so on.

I've been working in photography since 1999, doing overnight shifts in the scanning room of Magnum Photos. Then, in 2002, I started retouching full time, for editorial, commercial, and advertising images. My photography background is reportage-based, and my professional retouching background is portrait-based, so I guess they both come across in my images. I try to capture the spirit of the performer, where you can see that their face is expressing who they are at that moment in time, a split second of losing yourself in the music. I don't care about the technical aspect of the photographs. I care about the emotion. Does the photo make you feel anything?

To me, there are three most important aspects of photography: emotion, the decisive moment, and light/shadow.

Black Anvil @ Union Pool, Brooklyn, 2009

Black Anvil vocalist/bassist Paul Delaney is an interesting individual. When he gets on the stage, he transforms from a nice, soft-spoken guy into a black metal warrior. Equal parts hardcore, black metal, and violence, he rips at his bass strings until his hands are bloody—playing with his fingers, a rarity today. He's an amazing frontman and I could watch him perform all day. He's one of my favorite subjects that I've ever shot.

Concrete Cross @ ABC No Rio, NYC, 2014

One of the most polarizing people in hardcore, Artie Philie is easily on my list of Top 5 frontmen ever. Formerly of Long Island's Milhouse, and followed by a stint fronting Indecision until their untimely implosion in Texas, Concrete Cross maintains strong roots in misanthropy, mania, and self-sabotage. There is always a sense of "What the fuck is this guy gonna do?" when you watch him perform. You never know what he's going to say next, but it's always entertaining.

SEE ALSO: Backpatches of the 2014 Maryland Deathfest

Converge @ Le Poisson Rouge, NYC, 2012

I hadn't seen Converge in years. In that span of time they had become one of the biggest, most influential bands in hardcore. I had the opportunity to set up some strobes behind the stage, facing the crowd, and used those in conjunction with double exposures to emphasize the insanity of that show. Jacob, Kurt, Nate, and Ben are so talented. I feel like they could write anything they want and it would work. I was a reborn fan after this show, I saw them in a different light—up close and personal. An unforgettable performance.

A Family Plot @ Public Assembly, NYC, 2009

I love using light as an element in my photographs, and this was another show where I had the opportunity to do that. I love the ethereal glow flooding guitarist/vocalist Michael MacIvor [also from Candiria/Dead Air]. A Family Plot's career was a short-lived one, but I was happy to see this performance. Michael is definitely one of the most talented guys playing in the scene today.

Indecision @ Le Poisson Rouge, NYC, 2012

I basically grew up with the members of Indecision. We've been friends for 20 years. I used to screenprint all of their t-shirts back in the '90s [see a gallery of them at this link], and then started photographing them after their reunion in 2007. I must have thousands of images of them, most of them bodies piled on top of one another, singing along with vocalist Tom Sheehan. This one is different. This photograph of drummer Pat Flynn has always been one of my favorites. It was taken during the final moments of their set closer, "Hallowed be Thy Name," which was a final moment of passion, followed by a sense of relief.

SEE ALSO: 2014 interview with Tom Sheehan (Indecision, Most Precious Blood).

Jesuit @ Santo's Party House, NYC, 2011

To celebrate the 2011 release of their discography on Magic Bullet Records, Virginia Beach's Jesuit played their first show in over a decade, alongside Unbroken and Indecision. They sounded incredible, passionate, heavy, and really hard-hitting. I didn't personally know guitarist Kelly Posadas before that night, where I captured this intense image of him. But since then we've become friends, and he's one of the most sincere guys in the scene. Jesuit was a foundation for many other bands to follow, true pioneers of the hardcore scene.

Overcast @ Irving Plaza, NYC, 2008

This was a show that had a "photo pit." It's where photographers are allowed beyond the barricade for three songs to photograph each band, and then out. I had limited time, and was angling for space amongst a bunch of other photographers. Somewhere near the middle of the stage, I planted myself and started shooting, and Overcast (and Shadows Fall) vocalist Brian Fair planted himself right in front of me. His dreads were whipping everywhere, the stage lights were bouncing all around. The stage flooded with red and I fired off these two shots within seconds of each other. I shot a bunch of other images that day, but these two stuck with me. When I got back to my studio to download the images, I realized that almost all of them were of Brian. This was further confirmed after I sent the images to the band and received a response something along the lines of, "You know, there are other guys in the band, too". Sorry, guys!

Rorschach @ Le Poisson Rouge, NYC, 2012

I'll admit it, I'm a Keith Huckins fanboy. How could you not be? Rorschach, Deadguy, and Kiss it Goodbye are three of the most influential bands in the history of hardcore. I got to see one of a small handful of Rorschach reunion shows, and it was insane. This is another double exposure that I feel captured the intensity of that night so well. I shot as much as I could while simultaneously watching for flying bodies and screaming my lungs out. These guys are legends.

SEE ALSO: 2014 interview with Keith Huckins (Rorschach, Deadguy, Kiss It Goodbye)

Skeletonwitch @ Union Pool, Brooklyn, 2009

Skeletonwitch's perfect blend of blackened, thrashy hardcore instantly makes the listener start banging their head. This image of guitarist Scott Hendrick and bassist Evan Linger exemplifies exactly that. It's got all the makings of a classic thrash image: the whipping hair, the crouched stances, Scott's Gibson Explorer, and Evan's Rickenbacker. It's all there. Skeletonwitch tore it up that night, and people left bloody.

Tombs @ Webster Hall, NYC, 2009

As soon as I first heard them, I thought that Brooklyn's Tombs were going to be big. I had known singer/guitarist Mike Hill through his old band, Anodyne, but Tombs was something beyond—next level stuff. Their no-nonsense mix of black metal, hardcore, and doom has set the bar quite high for other bands in the metal scene. This photograph was taken shortly after their debut album came out, at a show where they didn't really "fit in" with the other bands playing—but they captured the crowd's attention that night for sure.

SEE ALSO: 5 Best Horror/Sci-Fi Hybrid Movies, by Mike Hill (Tombs, Anodyne)

CBGB's, NYC, 2005

I spent half of the late '90s and early '00s in CBGB's. Almost every Sunday, no matter who was playing, it was like a second home. I was working in a photo studio two blocks away from CBGB's when I heard that they were closing for good. I walked over during my lunch break, camera in hand, to find the club open but completely empty other than someone who was doing some paperwork. I asked if I could go inside to take some photos. This stage, empty of musicians but full of gear, seemed to be a fitting tribute to the club I loved more than any other. I've played there, I've seen hundreds of shows there, and I felt at home there. NYC will never see another club like it. It's sorely missed.