A student at Duquesne University, Nick Seyler is a photographer who is doing a killer job of covering the Pittsburgh hardcore, metal, and punk scenes. He's the kind of person that inspired me to start doing the Photographer Spotlight series for. The bands deservingly get most of the shine, but photographers help capture and chronicle them in a way that will last just as long as the music will.
Get to know Nick and his work in this new Photographer Spotlight.
Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?
I was born about 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, but moved to the city when I turned 18 and started attending college. I actually go to school for Music Technology, and play classical music (tuba) for most of my schooling. My parents specifically were never into arts. My father did marching band in high school, and I think that was what first got me into playing music at an early age. My Grandfather, however, always had cameras around and took a lot of photos when he traveled for the FAA. Some of my first experiences with cameras was stealing his polaroid camera and wasting all of the film on it.
What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?
My first love was for music. I played trumpet through elementary school and my first couple years of middle school, and then moved to tuba for the rest of middle school and high school. I started playing in bands towards the end of high school. I’m still playing in bands here and there around Pittsburgh, along with still playing tuba for school.
What was your first musical love?
I remember for Christmas when I was nine or ten parents got me a shitty SanDisk MP3 player and I abused the family computer with LimeWire. I would just download whatever I could find. The first band that I guess stuck out was Panic! At the Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. I actually still listen to this record a decent amount. After this, all of my friends were doing the metalcore thing, and this was the first time I got exposed to self-booking shows and community in music, and that’s where it stuck.
Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years?
I honestly was lucky enough that when I started one of my best friends, Jake Doerr, was starting to shoot, so we both just kind of fucked up a lot until we figured it out. We still shoot a lot together, he does a lot of street work, along with making his living doing wedding photography. When I got past having no idea what I was doing, I started looking at a lot of Magnum’s work and Ryan Muirhead. The thing that caught me most about these artists was they captured emotion in their work, and that’s been one of the things that have stuck with me the most.
What is your camera and post set up?
I actually just finished shooting mirrorless for the last two years. I was shooting on a Fuji XT-1 with a 18mm f/2. The portrait work I was doing on it was awesome, and it was super fluent, but the autofocus couldn’t track well in low light. I just moved back to Canon, and am currently working on a 5dii, with a 28mm f/1.8 and a 50mm f/1.8. I usually use an on-body flash when I’m not shooting at big venues, which is a Canon 430exii.
My post set up is pretty simple. I do all of my work in Lightroom. If I have the time, I usually try to do all of my post work on my iMac. I have really bad eyesight, so that helps a lot. If I’m on the go, I work off of my laptop.
In terms of your non-musical photo work, what kind of stuff do you do, and what moves you to capture it?
If I’m not shooting live shows, I’m usually doing portrait sessions or street work. I don’t necessarily prefer to do portrait work for people that I’m not comfortable with. Some of my favorite portrait work I’ve done is when I’m having meaningful conversations with people that I’m close with. I think that removes the “I’m really uncomfortable in front of a camera” mentality.
Street work, I believe, goes hand in hand with live music work. You have one chance to get the image that you see, and to me it’s great practice that translates well to live work. I think it’s also fun to see how random people react to getting their photo taken. It keeps things lively.
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
Code Orange, Jesus Piece, Comeback Kid, Turnstile, Drug Church, Incendiary, Eternal Sleep, and Planning for Burial are some of my favorite touring bands that I’ve shot.
CHOIR, Unfurl, Mere Phantoms, and Embrace the Hostility are some of my favorite locals to shoot.
Pittsburgh’s local scene has some really cool bands, and some cool spots to shoot at. House venues house most of the DIY scene here, which can make shooting more difficult because of super low ceilings and tightness of the spot.
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
I was just talking about this the other day with a friend of mine. I think my number one would be The Chariot. Those dudes were absolutely insane. They were one of the first bands that I started following that meant a lot to me. I still watch the video of them playing Perth, and the amount of energy that they brought to the stage was absolutely unmatched.
What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?
To me, one of the toughest aspect of shooting live shows (especially at bigger venues) is finding the best spot to work from, while still not being in the way. To say I haven’t gotten yelled at by security would be a lie (haha), but I’ve always been happier with the work that I get when I can move to wherever I want.
DIY spots are easier for me to shoot in because there aren’t any lights that I have to fight against color wise, but the crowd isn’t always the most interested in bands that are playing, so it’s a give and take. Another thing that I think is tough is not getting swept up in background details. I get distracted by the way people are standing or how they are holding things, and it’ll make me disregard certain images.
Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
Concealed Blade is on the come up right now, and are absolutely crushing it. Lawn Care just put out a record on AF records this year, and have a ton of energy when they play live. Embrace The Hostility just tracked a record a few months ago. Bring Her is a darkwave band from Pittsburgh that’s been doing really cool visuals with the music that they’ve released.
Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?
There’s so many people that have been killing it recently, and have pushed me to work so much harder in what I’m doing. In regards to music work, Errick Easterday, Tyler Andrew, and Sam Jameson, who I’ve been lucky enough to consider friends and have pushed me so hard to not suck and only get better. Angela Owens, Catherine Carrozza, and Octavio Orduno are people that I’ve been following that are absolutely amazing.
If we aren’t talking about live music, Jake Doerr (who I talked about earlier) has been crushing with his film street work. Tom Souzer (who ended up being my neighbor) is the person who got me into street work, and continues to do more crazy level work every time he goes out.
Chase Hart has been doing some of my favorite portrait work, the emotion he captures and intimacy that’s shown is jaw dropping.
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists, which one would it by and why?
There’s a photo of a band called CHOIR playing in a basement in a borough of Pittsburgh. They put on a wild show and have a really interesting sound. In this photo the vocalist is crawling around on the ground around a pole. I like photos that make you ask questions, and there’s a lot happening in this photo. All of their shows are high energy, which makes me really enjoy taking photos of the shows that they play.
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