I’ve always been a music enthusiast, and shooting bands is the ultimate music enthusiast’s gig. I started shooting them four years ago simply because I wanted to do something different with my photography. It was a welcome challenge to work with the constantly changing light and the rush of the action on stage. There’ve been unforgettable moments for me in the photo pit shooting some of my all-time favourite bands (international and local). When you’re out there, you never really know what’s going to happen and when you nail a shot of the lead singer looking right down the barrel of your lens, singing your favourite song, you know this is the good life.
MPAs Monthly Winner – February
How long have you been shooting for?
I’ve been shooting for about 5 years
Originally, I was just doing all these different types of photography and I just thought, “You know what, I’m just going to go out on a limb and try shooting some bands because, you know, it just makes sense cause I’m a huge music fan.”
And that’s just the way it happened, I figured I’d try something new.
My first shoot was at the Annandale Hotel. I just loved it. From the very first go, I just fell in love.
Initially I only shot for a publication that doesn’t exist anymore. They were called Low Tone Media (sic). They sent me to a bunch of shows.
Then, once they closed down I started looking shooting for other publications. It was really my love for music that drove me cause I’m a huge music nerd.
Talk us through the moments leading up to the incredible photo you took of Darren ( Harts )…
The photo was taken during his the last song of the main set before the encore.
I was shooting official for the artist so I was able to stay beyond the first three songs of the set.
I had AAA so I was shooting backstage and side of stage but being Harts you just never know which side to be on and right in front – because he’s so animated. Just before that moment I had gone to the front of stage because I’d been waiting for him do play his guitar behind his head. Instead, he dropped to his knees. It was a unique situation, because usually there are other photographers to consider – photo pit etiquette to observe. You know, you need to be mindful of the group around you in the pit.
But there was no one else. I was like, “Ok Leila, I can take my time… to a degree. I felt like I had to get this right because there’s no excuse – you know what I mean, like I’ve got great lighting, I have all of the space I need and I’m centre of the stage…
So I was like, “If I’m not getting a good shot out of this, then I’m not doing music photography again!”
Which is a lie, but you know what I mean.
So you’re saying there was a pressure in the freedom?
Well in a way, for me that was like my test.
The specific moment where I got those few frames of goodness – that was my personal test, to be like, “OK Leila, how far have you come, what can you do, how good are you and how quick are you?” Because he was not going to be posed like he was for long, but I was given that little space of time to do what I do and even I was kinda interested to see what I’d captured!
You never, well very rarely at least, get that sort of opportunity – to be so free.
When I did finally see my shots – I was happy. I felt like I’d come a long way since Low Tone back in the days. It was a bit of a milestone moment for me.
What’s your thoughts on the MPAs?
Geez Louise, I think it’s the best thing for music photographers.
I think music photography in this country needs more projects like this. Not just projects – they also need support. I’m the MPAs biggest fan. I love seeing all the shots every week.
What I love about it is the comradery, like the community it’s created – it’s so inspiring.
It’s even more inspiring when other people congratulate you as well. We need more support like this and I think only music photographers will understand this – it’s such a competitive and hard industry – because, like many creative industries, no one wants to pay and everyone wants in for free.
Everyone underestimates your work. Not because you might be bad or anything, they just don’t see it as valuable, because so many are will to do it for free. But there’s a legitimate value to the hard work it takes to develop one’s abilities and skillsets ( as well as gear!! ).
I think the MPAs helps to highlight that fact. It shows that there is so much talent in this country. They need more recognition. From artists to media publications, from management to promoters and from the venues as well. The music industry really needs to look at the lack of value placed there.
For me the MPAs is the beginning of a cultural shift within the music industry – it could be one of the foundations in the coming years that inspires some change.
What’s your favourite band to shoot?
Well, I have to put Harts in there because he really is fun to shoot.
Totally Unicorn… for obvious reasons.
At The Drive In… for chaos.
What’s your favourite venue to shoot in?
The Metro Theatre in Sydney. I like the height of the stage and consistency of the lighting. Also the photo pit is easy to access.
Who’s the main band left on your photography bucket list?
I’ve already shot my all-time dream band to photograph.
The band that I said, “Once I shoot them – I’m happy to walk away.” The Strokes.
Who’s left on the list…? Hmm…
Radiohead. Childish Gambino. The Growlers.
If you could go on tour with any band in the world for six months, who would it be…?
The Strokes. I’ve been listening to them since they formed. There was a lot of times in my life that they shaped me into the person I am. I’ve watched them grow as a band and as individuals over the years. Without them, I literally wouldn’t be the person I am today.
The connection I have with that band would certainly come through the photographs.
I know that they have an album coming out… and they’ll tour it… so, it’s possible… right?