Up Close and Personal with Underground Rock Shows in Pittsburgh

All images by Nick Seyler. Used with permission.

My name is Nick Seyler, and I’m a 21 year old music and portrait photographer from Pittsburgh PA. I focus predominantly on the energy that live music has, but mostly in the underground (literally underground basement shows) DIY music scene here in Pittsburgh. My first introduction to photography was my grandfather’s polaroid camera that I would play with until I eventually ran out of film. I then bought my first camera when I was 15. That’s roughly the age when most of my friends were playing in metal and hardcore bands in the tristate area, and I would go along with them to photograph their sets.

When I take photos, I focus on the energy that not only the band is displaying but the kids in the crowd are giving back to them. This is a scene of music where screaming the lyrics back in the vocalist’s face is a norm, and it tends to drive the energy through the roof.

My biggest influence of photographers are people that I consider to be very close friends. Tom Souzer (who was recently featured and interviewed and actually lives around the corner from me), Jacob Doerr (who was the first person I knew with a camera and pushes me to included aspects of other photography in my work), and Errick Easterday (who is a large hardcore photographer in the country).

Music photography has always been something that is incredibly important to me, and seems to be severly overlooked. How many records do we see with the cover being someone playing a show, and we just move past it? How much joy does it give you to see a photo of your favorite artist playing, and you essentially play “Where’s Waldo?” in looking for yourself in the crowd?

I’ve recently moved from working with a mirrorless system (Fujifilm XT1) with a 18mm prime lens. I found that the low light performance wasn’t where I wanted it to be, especially in venues that didn’t have amazing light rigs, or any lights at all. I have just moved to an old, but reliable workhorse, the Canon 5D Mk II, with a 24mm f2.8 and a 50mm f1.8 . This has been really helpful in terms of low light, noise, and AF speed.

My motivation to do this work is 100% not in terms of money, because I could probably count on my hands and feet the amount of times bands actually paid for me shooting their set, but because of the energy and joy that I receive from doing these, and the look on young kids faces when they can see themselves in the crowd screaming the words to their favorite band.

I would really love to just talk about what I do, and the rewards that come from either side. This is something that’s extremely important to me, and I want to get people involved in this niche market and build a community.