Capturing the Irish music scene with Y Control

Sarah Ward (control Y)

The name is inspired by the New York indie-rock trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The track Y Control is taken from the band’s debut album, Fever to Tell, released in 2003.

“I’ve been shooting since I was about 15 years old. I had a small point and shoot camera; a Kodak,” Sarah said.

“I work with local bands in Derry and Belfast, and all over Northern Ireland in fact. I film live music, promotional studio shoots and location shoots too; so it’s a good all-rounder. I started doing moving image art at Thornhill which later moved into photography. After that I went to university and started studying film at Queen’s in Belfast.

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Reevah. Control photo Y

“The keynote speaker really explained what it’s like to look at a photograph. I found that quite interesting. I bought myself a film camera when I was 19 and I haven’t stopped filming since.

Studying film and photography, Sarah found herself immersed in the music scene years later after graduating. Before capturing bands and artists, Sarah worked as a photographer for weddings and events.

“I’ve always wanted to photograph musicians and work with bands,” Sarah said.

“I think, like any creative person, I had a meltdown and was like, ‘you know what, I just need to get out.’ I contacted music magazine Chordblossom and started doing live gigs for them in Derry. The bands I was shooting liked my live photos, so they contacted me and said they needed some promo photos if I was interested, and the rest is really history.

Sarah recently worked at a Music Capital gig held at the Nerve Center in Derry. Bands performing on the night were local indie-rock band Switch, punk rockers Wood Burning Savages and Belfast metal band Paper Tigers. Sarah says she is finally happy with where Y Control is now.

“The name Y Control comes from my absolute favorite band Yeah Yeah Yeahs,” she said.

“The song is full of so much energy and punch! I wanted it to match my photography if that makes sense. Now I feel more satisfied because I work with groups and I work with more creatives instead of just doing wedding photos, i.e. every man for himself is fine, but it’s not it’s just not really my style.

“I worked with Cherym, I love them. They are so fun to photograph and full of energy. I love working with artists like Reevah, because they’re a different genre, and you have to take a step back because it’s stripped down. There’s Rachel Craig who’s doing really well right now, her voice is so angelic and she’s also a great guitar player.

Sarah Ward (control Y)

The art of photography has faced the challenges of the smartphone era. Phone camera lenses have the ability to capture pro-style photography and sharp results at affordable prices.

Despite this convenience, many purists would argue that the principles of photography have been challenged by cell phone saturation and addiction. Sarah thinks social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are changing the way we take pictures.

“The fun thing about photography is that the medium is constantly changing,” she said.

“I went from a little point and shoot camera, the one you take to the nightclub with you, and then I moved on to film cameras, like SLRs (Single Lens Reflex), and I even now have my -even a mirrorless camera, which has overtaken smartphone photography.

“The new iPhones, you could make a movie out of it, crazy quality. But yeah, photography is always changing. There’s always a new gadget and there’s always something to move on to.

“Smartphones are great, but I don’t see the future of photography on an iPhone. Really, really not, because anyone could be a photographer then. It’s more about having an eye, composition and an eye for color and lighting; that’s what makes a photographer I think.

Sarah is influenced by classic photographers such as Mick Rock who photographed Lou Reed’s Transformers album cover in 1972.

He also captured music icons John Lennon, Blondie, the Ramones and David Bowie.

She is also inspired by Annie Leibovitz and the Scottish black and white photographer John Rankin. Sarah says that using different lenses “changes the tone” of an image.

“Sometimes the hardest thing for me is figuring out which lens to use, focal length matters a lot; I’m still debating what length to use. With an 85mm you can get really good cinematic shots, it changes the tone of the picture a lot.

“Cropping images is sometimes helpful, but I refuse to remove part of the image, just because Instagram isn’t formatted that way. It changes the way we film.

If you would like to see more of Sarah’s photography, please visit her website at or on Instagram @ycontrolphotography.


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