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Remembering Music Photographer Soren McCarty

Photographer Soren McCarty died on April 11.EXPAND
Photographer Soren McCarty died on April 11.
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Soren McCarty, a renowned and longtime staff photographer for Red Rocks Amphitheatre and AEG Presents Rocky Mountains, died on Sunday, April 11, at age 49, after a year-long battle with colon cancer.

“Soren was at an untold amount of amazing shows that we produced at Red Rocks,” says Don Strasburg, co-president and senior talent buyer of AEG Rocky Mountain Presents. “Soren was always right at the side of the stage and always part of memorializing some backstage interactions with the artists. He was part of a small crew of people that we spent quite a bit of time with day in and day out for many years at Red Rocks. He was an absolute pleasure to be around, and professional, and his work was always amazing.”

McCarty's tenure as staff photographer lasted from 2008 through 2012. “No one ever felt at all weird when he was just taking pictures and doing what he needed to do," recalls Strasburg. "It sounds easy, but you have to be a super-cool person to be able to exist in that environment day in and day out, and he was that person.”

To this day, many of the photos McCarty took hang backstage at Red Rocks.

More than two decades ago, photographer Lisa Siciliano first met McCarty and Jay Ruybal, who was the marketing director for Red Rocks, at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. From that meeting, Siciliano got a gig as house photographer, a post she’s also held at the Boulder Theater, the Colorado Sound, Chautauqua Auditorium, the Bellco Theater and Marquee magazine.

“He was a very unique person and very gregarious,” Siciliano says of McCarty. “He was one of the first people that embraced me in the rock world when I was shooting. When I first started back in the late ’90s, there weren’t any girls doing rock photography,” she says. “So it was a little bit rough, and he always treated me like an equal and a peer, which a lot of guys didn't do.”

While Siciliano says the world of rock photography is very competitive, McCarty “was a cheerleader for everyone, and that's very, very rare.”

Siciliano, a longtime user of film cameras, says McCarty was one of the first photographers in the area to shoot digital.

“He was just an intuitive and really good photographer,” she says. “He didn't stress it like a lot of people. He just wasn't like that. He really just loved it.”

Soren McCarty photographed on April 1.
Soren McCarty photographed on April 1.
Lisa Siciliano

In addition to being staff photographer at Red Rocks and AEG Presents, McCarty was chief photographer for Marquis magazine, a contributing photographer for Westword and the house photographer for the Fox Theatre. Since 2010, he had also been staff photographer and a contributing writer for Mountain Weekly News.

McCarty, who earned a bachelor's degree in photographic and film/video technology at Fort Lewis College in 1995, had photos appear in Time, Elle, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Billboard, Playboy and other publications.

“It is funny how his career began,” McCarty’s bio states. “Soren attended his first concert in the sixth grade. It was Mötley Crüe opening for Ozzy Osbourne in 1984. At that time, many people believed that heavy metal was Satan’s creation and through this kind of music, [Osbourne] was sending secret messages that could be heard if you had played the record backwards. That’s why Soren’s teacher told him that the concert would be full of scary elements. In fact, it wasn’t true and was disappointing for young Soren. Osbourne turned out to be just a tattooed fat singer.”

Siciliano says that although McCarty hadn’t done a lot of music photography over the past decade or so since he began photographing winter sports, his love of hard rock made him want to shoot and review Metallica at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in 2017. Siciliano says it was the last show she shot with McCarty.

Over the past two weeks, Jacki Brown, McCarty’s partner of six years, took him to visit friends in Durango and Boulder, where Siciliano photographed him in early April.

"I did a shoot with him on black and white film a week ago," Siciliano says. "And he showed me everything. He said, 'I really want people to see what this is actually like.' So we did a really beautiful shoot on film, and he was really adamant about people seeing those pictures."

Siciliano says she also asked how McCarty was feeling and if he was scared to die.

“He said he was sad that he had to leave,” Siciliano says. “I’ve dealt with a lot of people with death because I shoot people in hospice care, but he just had such a really present attitude, and I think a lot of that's just his girlfriend, Jacki. She's a Kundalini yoga teacher and really spiritual. So I think that was really helpful. She really helped them through the process.”

With Brown’s help, Siciliano says McCarty “really fully experienced everything in that last couple of weeks.”

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