Leighton Hoey is personally one of my favorite photographers documenting the music scene currently. Her photos always seem to be taken at the exact perfect moment, the energy of the night forever captured on film. If you’ve ever been in the belly of a mosh pit trying to get a good shot, you know it’s pretty much mission impossible. We talked with Leighton about how she first got into photography, touring with Faze Wave, and her tips for concert photography + a gallery of her favorite shots she’s taken!
My name is Leighton Hoey, I’m 20, from Jacksonville Florida. I first got into photography when I was 15. I was going on vacation with my friend and I️ didn’t have a phone, my mom didn’t trust me to take her nice digital camera so she gave me a quick lesson on film and then handed me two rolls and her N70.
I️t was pretty funny, honestly. I had no clue what I was doing.
Oh my goodness did any of those photos turn out? Yes they did actually! They were pretty grainy but they’re some of my favorite photos I’ve taken to be honest. One roll was color and one was black and white.
How did you discover concert photography? And what tips would you have for someone trying to break into that? Especially with film, it’s fairly difficult.
About a year after that trip I got really into music. I started going to a lot of shows and I never had any trouble bringing in my camera because the lens wasn’t detachable.
I think that the practice of not being in a photo pit, and having to really pick and choose what I wanted to shoot (only having 24 or 36 photos) was beneficial. Making connections can obviously lead to more opportunities and an easier spot to shoot from, but as long as you can get into the show with your camera, you can take amazing photos— even if you are so far away that it’s just of a room full of people staring at their favorite band. I guess don’t get discouraged is the short way of saying all of that.
That’s so amazing what! Okay, so have you only been on tour with Faze Wave? How did that whole adventure come about? What was that experience like?
Yes, they are the only band I’ve toured with. I️ honestly don’t know how I️t came about, I’ve always gone and shot their shows since they’re local, and we all went to school together. Eventually, it was just kinda like “oh that’s Leighton that’s our photographer” and if you’re gonna go on tour you’re gonna bring a photographer right? Haha, it was absolutely incredible though. They’re some of my favorite people and tour has been something I’ve always wanted to do, so I️t was cool to do it with other people who hadn’t done I️t either. We were all just so hyped the whole time that even when crazy things happened, like missing a show because our van broke down, it didn’t even phase us.
That’s SO insanely amazing. Was it expensive to go on tour with them? What’s some of your best memories from that time? And what was your favorite place that you visited?
I️t wasn’t too expensive, yes I spent money, but I don’t think it was any worse than going on a trip or vacation somewhere else, if not less. My favorite place we visited was probably Philly, I️ had never been there before. We went to a cool music store and there was a wall full of Polaroids that I spent a lot of time looking at. Driving back 14 hours all night to Florida though was unforgettable. I remember at one point Jacob [member of Faze Wave] and I were just laughing because we were so delirious. Seeing Faze Wave play in different venues than our home venues was really probably the most surreal to me though. They played outside on a pier in New Jersey under a roller coaster, like WHAT! It was so cool.
What was the craziest thing that happened on tour? Do you plan on hitting the road again anytime soon?
The craziest thing that happened was probably the first day having the van break down. We had to get a new radiator and we tried everything to get it fixed that day but we ended up missing our first show because of it. Hopefully hitting the road soon is in my future! Faze Wave is trying to get something going early next year, and hopefully there’s enough room for me to tag along.
Is photography something you want to do for a living or is it more of just a hobby ?
At first photography was solely for a hobby, but nowadays it’s all I wanna do. I would love to just go on tour with different bands, and go to shows every night. I think the goal is to just take it however far I can take it— even just going to local shows every week and improving my skills would be a good spot to be in.
Can you describe local shows for me? (In your opinion) what makes them so appealing? What’s the energy like?
I absolutely love going to local shows. The energy is so much different, the community is there supporting their friends, or seeing a friend of a friend. It’s just such a different vibe, seeing people you know sharing something they’ve created and really care about. Recently, a friend of mine started opening up his house to bands; it’s incredible seeing the everyone come together in a small living room to jam to each other’s music. Shoutout to The Bughouse.
Why do you think local music can bring so many people together? And talk to me a little bit more about your film photos! How do you capture the energy so perfectly like they’re amazing!
I️ try and stay inspired by everything and keep a camera on me constantly. I also only shoot bands that I listen to, which might be part of it. At first it wasn’t intentional, but one time this girl asked me to take photos of her and to be honest I just wasn’t into it at all, and I couldn’t take a good photo because I wasn’t invested in what she had created. It’s not that it was bad, she put on a good show, it just wasn’t me or something I believed in. Does that make sense?
That makes perfect sense, I get that, you have to really care about what you’re putting out there.
What plans do you have for the future? Right now my plans for the future are to just take it one day at a time. I don’t really have an ultimate goal, I just want to always love what I’m creating and the people I’m creating with. I guess right now my plan would be to spend as much time taking photos and going to shows as I can!
Amen sister, thank’s so much to Leighton for taking the time to talk to me, and for being an overall amazing human being. This girl is one of the most talented people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet, over text, but still. Even through a screen I can feel her potential and energy radiating off each message. Make sure to check out her Instagram account, linked here, and support all her amazing work.