I’ve never met Steve Levy in-person, but I’ve followed his photography on social media for some time now. His photos give life to just how energetic and interactive underground music is. Steve manages to capture both chaotic and intimate moments on his photos in a very subtle and unintrusive way.
He just got back from a short tour with Angel Du$t, chronicling a bunch of their shows around the east coast. Steve sat down to offer his ideas on photography, music, and Long Island hardcore.
What got you into photography?
A photojournalism course I took while at SUNY Plattsburgh was the reason I bought my first digital camera which was like the original Canon Rebel. I was terrible at first
and had no photography experience before that. My professor made us shoot a little bit of everything and eventually I started shooting nature and landscapes in my free
time to get better.
What is your usual camera and setup?
I always shoot with my Sony a7iii and my primary lens is a Sony 24-70mm f/2.8. I also bring along my 14mm f/1.8 and switch between those two lenses during sets. That combination helps ensure I get solid portraits of individual band members as well as photos that include the band and the crowd. For bigger venues I have a 70- 200 f/4. For smaller venues which allow flash, I have a little Godox speedlite.
What was the first show you shot, and how do you feel you’ve improved since?
The first show I shot was Gamblers and Tom Moran at the Amityville Music Hall in September 2021. My childhood friend, Ryan Shea, asked me if I wanted to go see our
mutual friend play. At this point I had a few years of photography experience under my belt, particularly with portraits. COVID really limited my ability to plan shoots with people and shows were just starting up again so it was an awesome opportunity for me to try shooting something not only new, but something I love more than anything—music.
While I had a lot of fun with this show, I was still shy about going to shows if I had no one to go with so I would only shoot a couple more until I overcame that fear in April 2022 by going to AMH despite not knowing anyone or even the artists performing. I shot local long island band Ronin one week and then Angel Du$t the following week. That AD show was when everything clicked.
Since starting, I’ve been tirelessly trying to get my style right. Photo editing is where your taste comes into play and there’s a million directions you can take a photo. I was extremely self-conscious about my color editing for months and couldn’t really figure out a way to make photos work better in color. Shooting such a high volume of shows over a short period of time naturally made me much better at capturing sharp, well exposed photos.
When you’re starting with strong RAWs, editing becomes much easier. Aside from that, I like to think my show etiquette is better having watched the best LI/NY photographers do it for the past year or so. The most important part about shooting a show is that you don’t disrupt it. Stay out of everyone’s way and I promise you’ll get better photos because people are having a better time.
What’s your favorite show you’ve photographed?
Angel Du$t, Spiritual Cramp, and Webbed Wing at Amityville Music Hall. This is the show that put me onto the scene and made me obsessed with shooting live music. All the other incredible shows that would follow, I owe to this one. I left this show and had a new favorite band in AD and would listen to them every day for months on end.
What kinds of shows do you find it most difficult to shoot?
Shooting at venues with photo pits means no flash which can be pretty difficult when it comes to bands that keep the lighting really dark for their set. The lights look awesome for show goers but can be a photographer’s nightmare forsure. Shooting Turnover at Brooklyn Steel last year was like shooting in a cave.
I’m very glad I got the chance to shoot them again at the TLA recently and redeem myself with better photos.
Which types of show do you enjoy shooting the most?
Shows I enjoy shooting the most are when bands play their hometown. That love is like no other. Seeing someone like Stand Still, Koyo or Innerlove play Long Island is incomparable and is by far my favorite type of show to be a part of.
Are there any specific bands or events that you want to photograph in the future? A dream project?
Would love to photo Sound & Fury, but who wouldn’t? At the top of my bucket list of current bands I wanna check off are the Story So Far and Turnstile. Getting to photo blink-182 would be end-game for me. Brand New is another big one.
What is your favorite photo you’ve taken so far?
It’s gotta be this pic of No Pressure at The Meadows where Pat’s in the foreground, Harry’s drumming and Parker’s flying through the air. Really cool framing and does a pretty good job showing what they’re about. Definitely one of the funnest shows I’ve been to.
What bands first got you into punk and hardcore?
I was really young when I got into the Ramones. “Blitzkrieg Bop” was in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 so that was probably the first punk I got exposed to and I’ve loved them ever since. I tell people all the time that I didn’t grow up on hardcore. I found it through shooting shows so I’m really playing catch-up now.
What first put me on was finding Trapped Under Ice through Angel Du$t. Early on, I got to photograph some really strong current artists like Kublai Khan TX, Knocked Loose, One Step Closer, and Pain of Truth as well as legends like Madball and Cruel Hand.
Even though hardcore isn’t my favorite genre, the artists doing it right now are undeniable and have fully made a fan out of me.
How is the Angel Du$t tour going? How did that collaboration come about?
Coolest experience of my life. I get to watch my favorite current band rip shows every night. Non-stop laughs and good times no matter where we’re at. They’re all masters at their craft and what I’ve learned in just a week from being around them is invaluable. It’s probably worth mentioning, this was my first touring experience. I
couldn’t have asked for a better crew to show me the ropes.
How this all came to be is when that Turnover, Fiddlehead, Angel Du$t, Glitterer show got announced last minute in Philly I hit them up to try and get photo access and they hooked it up. That night they played an after show at Bonks and following their set Justice asked if I’d be down to ride with them for a few shows later that month. I said, “I’m there.”
What recent releases do you think everyone should listen to?
Moments of Clarity by Narrow Head is album of the year unless someone can dethrone it. Koyo’s latest single is not only crazy but really has the best music video I’ve seen in a while. Shoutout 48. Those Militarie Gun singles are wild and that album is gonna make waves when it drops. Extremely cool to see Illusion putting out new music and equally cool to be getting an Incendiary record in a few days.
Lastly, one of LI’s finest, Innerlove, has an album dropping soon that’s going to stay on repeat.
Give us your pick for Long Island’s most underrated band, from any era.
I’m gonna go with Straylight Run. They embody that Long Island emo sound perfectly and do so in a unique way. John and Michelle’s vocals work beautifully together. They’re as lyrically vulnerable as you can get and that vulnerability is amplified by their instrumentation choices.
Straylight has an effect on me that few artists do where I can’t help but be drawn to tears by certain songs. Very lucky to have caught them play. Hopefully they’ll do some more shows.
Hit up Steve's Linktree to find all of his social media and website info.
Tagged: photographer spotlight