Gimme Noise has selected 20 finalists in our Twin Cities music photographers 2014 showcase. Read all of the profiles here.
Local music fans can find Leslie Plesser's regular music photo work in the pages of Vita.mn and the Star Tribune. In addition to experience in photo pits, her skills as an art director further distinguish her style. Her many artistic ventures can be found under the banner of Shuttersmack.
Name: Leslie Plesser
How and when did you get involved with taking music photography?
I started a "photo-each-day" blog in Jan. 2009 to force myself to learn to use the digital camera as well as my film one. It happens that I go to a ton of concerts, so I was shooting a ton. I started bringing my camera to shows where no photo pass was needed. Then I was lucky enough to be in a position where I could start getting passes for the shows where I needed them as I went. It just ballooned from there. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to combine my two greatest passions like this. I am very fortunate.
What are some highlight moments of your professional photography experience?
I got to shoot Metallica in 2009 and I was just dying. I was so excited. Looking back, the photos aren't very good, but man that was exciting -- I had been such a huge fan of theirs for so long. And I was stunned at how LOUD it was when you are that close to their speakers. I could feel the glass in my lens vibrating!
Another huge highlight was getting to shoot a bit of a tour with Deer Tick and Dawes (and Matt from Delta Spirit) for Middle Brother a few years back. I worried that seeing the same show every night for a week would make it stale, but it was so exciting and fun -- especially to follow them down to SXSW and see the reaction there. Also? I was a bit naive about how hard touring is before this stint. The energy that these bands bring to the stage is even more stunning to me now that I know what the grueling hours of a tour are actually like.
Where can people find your work (exhibits, album covers, publications, etc.)?
I shoot a lot for Vita.mn and the Star Tribune and I post on my own blog constantly. I had an exhibit last year at Republic to help raise money for a local artist, and that was a blast. I haven't done any album covers yet, although secretly I've had a dream since I was about ten years old to be thanked inside someone's album liner notes. Ha! I was really hoping it would be Cyndi Lauper, but that's looking less likely now. Sigh.
What is your favorite part of doing music photography?
Seeing the work after the show. When I get home from the club, I cannot get the images into the computer fast enough to see if I got anything good. Choosing the best images and working with crops to make the set tell a story is almost as much fun for me as taking the actual photos.
It is also pretty dang awesome when the musicians like your work and tell you that. As someone who detests having my own photo taken, having someone tell me they love the photos I took of them is the highest compliment.
Also? The community. We have such a great group of music photographers, writers, club workers and musicians in this town. I am so lucky to always be surrounded by people I adore while doing work that I love. Wow... that got cheesy. Sorry.
What dos/don'ts do you have for young photographers who would like to pursue this type of work?
Do: Be friendly to club staff, be kind to others working around you, be aware of your space and those around you (in other words, stop holding your camera up in other's faces), be polite while moving through crowds, be a very tough editor -- you're only as good as the worst photo you post. But have fun! This is the greatest job/hobby in the world!
Don't: Use a flash, stay in one spot all night, push fans around to get the best angle, climb on stage (unless invited), or feel entitled to shoot the show.
Oh, who would I love to photograph more than anyone in the history of ever? PRINCE. Think we can make that happen, people? (But I would also settle for a game of ping pong.)
Kasey Jean Noll