Austin City Limits photographer captures show’s energy

Cat Cardenas

After spotting an empty spot in the front row of a Rolling Stones concert, UT alumnus and ACL photographer Scott Newton snagged the seat, took out his camera and 30 shots later began his career photographing musicians. 

“When I got back to Austin with these shots, people were throwing $50 a picture at me,” Newton said. “I’d never heard of anyone doing [photography] for a living, but right then the light bulb went off.”

He briefly worked at the University in the photojournalism department but left just a year and a half later to pursue his photography full-time. A few years later, when a friend introduced him to ACL producer Terry Lickona, Newton applied to become the show’s photographer.  

Without any formal training, he turned to his education on the Ancient Greeks for inspiration. Instead of photographing the musicians themselves, Newton said he tries to photograph the muse he sees within them. 

“You’re shooting the essence of things,” Newton said. “Photons can’t bounce off of energy and spirit, but that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to pass on the experience. I’m trying to show you what muse I felt, the message that was there.”

In the 37 years Newton worked for the show, he said the constantly rotating door of acts kept his photography fresh, and he lets himself dance to the music if he ever gets stuck. 

“If you throw yourself into the music, it’ll take you to new and interesting places,” Newton said. “The spirit that flows through musicians is always interesting. It takes me to new angles.”

At the end of the day, Newton said it’s his love of photography that keeps him going. 

“I’m getting recognition, and I’m making money, but all of that is just secondary,” Newton said. “Once I get a camera in my hand and someone’s performing — it’s just heaven.”