Did you see that photographer in the overhead crane at last summer’s Vampire Weekend show at the Outer Harbor? Or the guy running all over the stage taking endless photos at various shows at Waiting Room over the last six months? That’s Andy DeLuca, a former local musician who has truly found his calling behind the camera at rock shows.
Over the past year and change, DeLuca has been building an impressive resume of shooting local and touring acts in his hometown of Buffalo and beyond, which, like most people involved in music, all started at that first show.
“I was 13 when I attended my first show; it was as punk rock as it gets,” begins DeLuca. “The fans were crowd surfing and beating the living hell out of each other, and the band was feeding off the crowd. It was amazing; I loved everything about it. I brushed the dust off of my drums and started a band probably that same week, and I’ve been playing shows ever since.”
DeLuca has been a drummer the majority of his career, mostly in "short-lived" local pop-punk bands such as It’s A Firefight, I Can See Mountains and All Blondes Go to Heaven.
"The first time I played guitar on stage was in front of 3,000 to 4,000 people every night for a month on a national tour with Cute is What We Aim For," he said. "I didn’t know what to do with my feet, broke a string every single night. I played like crap, but it was an interesting experience. So yeah, that was the last time I played on stage at this point in time.”
With the life of a musician behind him, DeLuca turned his sights toward shooting bands rather than playing in them. Take a quick look at some of DeLuca’s growing collection of galleries, and you might think he was born with a camera in his hand. But it was only recently that he stepped from behind the drum kit to behind the lens.
“I’ve only been shooting for about a year and a half so far," DeLuca said. "But it's been a wild ride. I went from working in a pizzeria and hating my life to shooting music videos for major label records in New York City and traveling to 40-plus states including the UK. I never went to school for photography, I’ve just had a lot of supportive friends that have helped me gain experience.
"I was stuck in the food industry when one of my best friends, Brett Mikoll (@thevictorygardens), pulled me out and took me under his wing to work at the creative department in Tony Walker,” DeLuca continues. “He’s been my biggest inspiration throughout the years and I owe it all to him for essentially changing my life. I spent some time at Tony Walker before deciding that I wanted to pursue some kind of career in the music industry; it was one of those ‘follow your heart’ moments. I lived off of unemployment for a year and decided music videos could be my thing because nobody was really doing music videos in Buffalo at the time.
“Jay Zubricky, a buddy of mine at GCR Audio, referred me to my first band for a music video. This started a chain reaction of local bands wanting a music video and me doing them for free just to get the experience. Not too long after, I teamed up with Paul Besch of Quiet Country Audio where we would bring in touring bands and shoot live music video sessions. I was just starting out my camera career when he was starting his audio engineering career, so we both grew and improved together. Together we built an empire.”
He was hired to shoot shows at Waiting Room and Edgefest, which gave him "great live show experience." In January of 2014, he went out of town with the local boys in Columbia Records-signed band, Made Violent. "I’ve been following them around with a camera ever since. I now live with the Joe [White] of MV and we have a cat that looks like an alien.”
This new-found opportunity has been taking DeLuca in and out of Buffalo, and even overseas, for the better part of a year now. Given the amount of time he has spent with his camera, a few venues have stuck out to him as some of his favorites to shoot.
“I’ve actually been spending more time on the road and in New York City as of late, but Studio @ Waiting Room is my favorite venue to shoot in Buffalo,” DeLuca said. “When it’s packed, the vibes there are great, the crowd’s always energetic and every band I shoot there ends up looking like a Charles Peterson Nirvana photograph. Outside of Buffalo, my favorite venue might have to be Main Street Armory in Rochester. It’s not hard to take an amazing photo at the Armory, and it’s always a party there. It’s great.”
I most recently saw DeLuca and his camera at Made Violent’s big homecoming show at Studio @ Waiting Room in March [see Buffalo.com photos from that show], jumping all over the stage with the band, shooting everything in sight. At one moment, I even thought he was going to start crowd surfing to grab a couple of photos. If you were at the show, you may have almost mistaken him as a band member, exhibiting nearly just as much energy shooting the band and crowd as the trio was giving to the audience on stage. Seeing DeLuca, or any photographer for that matter, shooting shows in-person has always made me wonder how a certain photo makes the cut. Dozens upon dozens of shots are taken for each act, so how does a photographer know when he/she has a great rock photo on hand? At least for DeLuca, knowing your subject is key.
“I don’t really consider myself a photographer as much as I do a ‘musician with a camera,’ " DeLuca explains. “I think a good rock photo is knowing the band, knowing what it’s like to be on stage, knowing the music. My goal is to match my photos with how the band is live. For example, if they’re beating the crap out of their instruments, I want my photos to have this ridiculous energy to them. I like to be a part of the show, I could care less about sitting back waiting for the perfect shot."
Along with some of Buffalo’s best up-and-coming acts, over the better part of a year now, DeLuca has also been shooting major touring acts like Weezer, City and Colour and Vampire Weekend. But when asked of his favorite band to shoot, he chose to stay local with a group whose rise he has been along with since the beginning: Made Violent.
With slinging pizzas long behind him, the success that has found DeLuca, almost overnight, has led to some great career opportunities that appear to be leading him out of Buffalo in the near future, a pretty great testament to tireless hard work paying off. He recently landed a freelance gig at Island Records in New York City.
“There’s not much I can say about it at this point in time since I’m still trying to process it in my head, but it’s a cool feeling knowing that I’ve made it this far,” DeLuca said. “My goal is to just keep growing and to see how far I can take it in the music industry. I want to make a huge difference and I want MTV to play music videos nonstop again. We’ll see what happens.”
Continue to follow the DeLuca’s journey behind the camera via Instagram @shmandeluca.
Mac McGuire is the editor of buffaBLOG