1 – Tell us about yourself
My name is Marc Leach and I hale from Northern Ireland. From studying photography to working as a professional photographer, as well as teaching it, photography has been my life for a good number of years.
2 – Where did your journey with gig photography start?
I guess my journey started when I was about 15/16 years old. I had always been in to art and music but it was around this age where I started to pick up cameras and go to gigs. I always made sure I was at the barrier with little my Fujifilm bridge camera, dreaming of the day I could go beyond the barrier.
3 – In a world of ever changing technology, do you think it is important that gig photographers still shoot gigs?
Oh very much so. I don’t buy in to the “too many people are staring at their phone screens at gigs” hatred because I am one of them. I love the saying “if I can’t bring my camera, I am not going.” I love documenting a gig whether it be on a camera or on my phone. Phones especially are getting better everyday which helps when at a gig. Even now, things like GoPros are being used more and more to help capture things that might not have been captured before.
4 – How long have you been shooting gigs and what has it been like?
Professionally I am close to my 10 year anniversary. It has been one hell of a ride that has been full of of ups and plenty of downs. But despite the downs, I do at times feel proud of the fact that I have got the chance to photograph bands I have admired for a very long time, even if it’s a band I have shot countless of times before, I always try to treat each shoot like it was my first one.
5 – What photographers do you look up to?
My main inspiration has always been an American photographer called Richard E. Aaron, who sadly passed away back in 2016. Anytime I go and look at his work I just fall in love, even if it’s an image I have seen so many times. To me this man was a master of combining gig photography and monochrome.
Outside of Richard, my Dad is one. He is the reason why I love music and concerts and while he may not be here to be proud of all I have done, I am blessed that he helped me to where I am today.
Finally I’ve always been inspired by the wide variety of photographers I have shared photo pits or have had countless amount of conversations with online. While that list could be endless, if you are reading this and are one of those people, I am forever thankful that we can share a journey together.
6 – What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting gig photographer?You will be bombarded with what gear to get and what settings you should be using, all the typical mumbo jumbo. For me the biggest advice is, support your local bands. I myself chased the dream of “I need to be shooting in arenas with the biggest names in the universe;” fact I still do to be honest. And while it’s great to have that dream, there are bands that have the same dream. Queen, Led Zeppelin, Metallica all started off somewhere, as a wee local act playing in some pub. That’s where your dream should begin because you and the local acts within your area are chasing the same thing. The rest will fall into place.
7 – What has been the biggest challenge in your gig photography journey?
I guess for me the biggest challenge is keeping the passion alive. Music photography isn’t the same as taking photos of brides or babies or whatever. From tough venue conditions (light, shooting from in the crowd etc) to not getting a pass, or not getting confirmation until the doors open when it’s way too short notice for you. Deep down, there are many of times where I have hated music photography but despite all these challenges I am still here and going to keep going on until I can’t anymore.
8 – What do you enjoy about gig photography?
I’ve always enjoyed going to gigs but when I get a chance to photograph a gig, especially a band I have admired for a long time; that’s what keeps me buzzing. Bands like Thin Lizzy, Trivium, Steel Panther, if you’d have said to younger me “you are going to photograph these bands professionally” he would have told you where to go.
9 – Is there anything you dislike about gig photography?
My god, where do I begin? I guess my number one hatred about music photography is lights. Lighting can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Most of the time for me it’s the latter. I’ve had many of times where I have had to chat with a light engineer or I just haven’t sent over photos because the lighting was that bad. I try not to let it get me down a number of times but there is always that voice saying “what are the lights going to be like” within my head.
10 – Tell us your opinion on shooting gigs for free
You know, I have done this long enough to know that I am not always going to get paid work. The way I look at things is this, since becoming a music photographer, I have had the chance to not only photograph but watch countless amount of acts which if I’d have just bought tickets to attend, I would be in debt. Of course this isn’t something I milk but I am truly honoured and thankful for the opportunities I have had when someone gets me a photo pass to a gig I want to shoot. Plus, doing so has helped open the door to get paid work from bands who need a photo shoot done or even just wanted to buy my photos from the gig itself. It’s a grey area but that is where I have always stood on the subject.