In Basements and Bars: My Life as a Photographer

For the past year and some months, I have been documenting the New Paltz music scene through photography. What started as me bringing my camera along to cover an event for The Oracle became my biggest passion. 

My first time shooting was for my first article on staff covering the Battle of the Bands at Snug Harbor in January 2023. I owned a camera so I figured I might as well bring it along to get some good quality photos to put into my article. I barely knew how to use it, so I had it set to auto for everything. Looking back there’s of course so much I would do differently, but that night something in me clicked. 

I wanted the bands and everyone who attended to be able to see themselves and their friends doing what they love, so I created an Instagram account to share them: @picsby.alyss

Since then, I rarely go to a show without my camera. I’ve posted around 1,200 photos and I’ve taken thousands more. 

I view my account as a public photo album that I am constantly adding to. It makes me so happy to know that some people look forward to my posts. It has even become a silly nickname among my friends that call me “pics by Alyss.” 

At first, I didn’t think anyone really noticed. It was a fun hobby and the bands could have some pictures to post. I enjoyed learning about how to use my camera, the editing process and generally playing around with it all. However, as time went on my work has become an extension of myself and brought me a community. 

It took me a long time to refer to myself as a photographer and not just as someone who takes pictures. If you don’t see the difference between those two, think about the difference between someone who is a musician versus someone who just knows how to play guitar. It wasn’t until someone else introduced me as a photographer that I felt like I had earned that title. 

Being completely self-taught up until this semester and figuring things out as I went along, I didn’t take myself very seriously to begin with. My friends would make jokes any time I referred to going to take photos as me “working” because I wasn’t getting paid, and I still don’t – for the most part. Despite all the effort I was putting in, I was still just a girl with a camera for a while. 

One of the many things photography has taught me is that I deserve to take up space. As a female photographer in a male dominated music scene it isn’t always easy to be taken seriously, especially when visiting bands that I don’t know personally. Advocating for fair compensation, being given the space to move around and get close to the performers or even simply being acknowledged can be a struggle. 

Some people are not aware of the amount of work that can go into photography and that it is an art form. The hours spent on shooting, sorting and editing the photos. The manual labor — that may just look like me crawling around on the ground — is me doing so with a heavy, delicate piece of equipment while the occasional person falls on top of me as they mosh. 

On top of that, camera gear and editing software can be so incredibly expensive. At this time, I would dream of just making enough to reinvest back into my work. 

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I wouldn’t trade what I do for the world, but it just isn’t easy. Nothing worth doing is easy.

The relationships I’ve built, the opportunities that have begun to open up for me and the moments I’ve captured make every single second worth it. I’ve had my craziest nights and became friends with such great people because I am a photographer. I even met my boyfriend in part because I am a photographer and he used to host the house shows I was shooting at last year. 

I am now part of a scene that I so badly wanted to be involved in as a freshman going to my first house show. I always wanted to be a musician, but I’ve never had the opportunity to learn. Being involved in a bigger way than just attending the shows has been so fulfilling.

 In a semi-recent conversation I had with a friend and incredibly talented musician in the scene, I explained for the first time, out loud, what I had been doing and it was the first time it clicked for me. This scene is real, we all exist here together for such a short time in the grand scheme of things and it deserves to be remembered. 

By documenting these shows I feel as though I’m doing my part to freeze time for a second and have memories that we can all one day look back on. I never plan on deleting my account on Instagram, so for as long as the app is around and relevant, it will always be there as a sort of digital archive of the 2023-2025 music scene in this town. 

So, next time you’re at a house show or Snug Harbor, and you see me crawling around on the floor — come say hi. And please, appreciate your local photographers. 

About Alyssa Sciarrone 28 Articles
Alyssa Sciarrone is the Sports Editor of The Oracle. She is a third-year journalism major and audio engineering minor from Brooklyn, New York. You can contact her at