Interviews

Photographer Spotlight: Kyle Smutzki

Part of the reason I do No Echo is to shine the light on some of the people in the underground music scene who might not always get their props. Photographers are such a vital part of the hardcore movement, but outside of some key players, many of them get overlooked.

Kyle Smutzki is a young photographer who is shooting hardcore shows in his homebase of Detroit, MI. His stuff rules and I'm thrilled to include him in the site's Photographer Spotlight series. He's the exact kind of artist that deserves more attention for his work.

Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?

I grew up in a pretty small rural town in Michigan called New Boston, which is about 30 minutes out of Detroit. Growing up they weren’t too much into the creative arts aside from my mom putting together scrapbooks every now and then and my dad painting cars and stuff but they used to shoot film before they had kids and like last year I organized probably like 300 of their prints of just various landscapes and stuff like that from all over US that were taken in their traveling days that were scattered in our family photo bin into a binder and I love those to photos to death.

True Love at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2016. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?

My love for music came way before my love of photography. I was the youngest of three and music was something I was always around. I was fortunate enough to have older brothers who were into tight bands varying anywhere from like Deftones to Shai Hulud, and growing up and their interests definitely influenced what music i’d listen to at the time. I still had my own taste in music but I’d sometimes want something different and they always had mixed CDs laying around so I’d take them and check them out and thats kind of how I got into heavier music.

Desolated at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutski)

I saw Jimmy Eat World in the summer of 2013 and I was one of those people taking photos at the barricade with my iPhone. When I got home I was so stoked that I had photos of my favorite band that I could look at and remember little things like how I felt during that show and that pretty much started the fire for me to getting more into photography. I didn’t get my hands on an actual DSLR until winter of 2015 but ever since I haven’t had any desire to stop shooting.

Backtrack at The Ritz, Warren, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

How did you discover hardcore/punk?

In high school I spent a lot of time with a friend who lived a few blocks away from a small thrift store/venue in the Metro Detroit area and they’d have so many shows coming through there, it was crazy. I am pretty sure A Day to Remember came through there right after they put out that For Those Who Have Heart album, like before they got huge. If I saw a flyer for a show on MySpace I’d do everything in my ability to make it and with that I came across bands like American Me, Close Your Eyes, It Prevails, and Hundredth. Those bands kind of lead me into finding my roots into the hardcore scene with discovering bands like Trapped Under Ice, Terror, Have Heart, and Verse.

Code Orange at Frankies-Inner City, Toledo, OH, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years? 

Definitely Errick Easterday. I feel like Errick is an actual genius with his work and I personally think he has become a well deserved staple within photographers in the Midwest hardcore scene. I still get stoked when I see his work pop up.

Short Leash at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

What is your current photo setup?

Right now I am shooting with a Canon 7D and more often than not I have my Canon 10-22mm USM lens mounted on it. For editing I just stick with Lightroom and on certain edits I open Photoshop and thats usually it.

Vein at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?

Sooo many bands I could put here but I'll mention a few. Breaking Wheel would hands down be my favorite band to shoot. I’ve seen things in the crowd during their sets that I can’t describe and they are absolutely chaotic live. I’ve been able to catch Code Orange a few times now and if you’ve ever seen them live you’d probably understand why they might be favorite on this list. Ante Up have been nothing but genuine and supportive since day one and their shows are always a great time.

Breaking Wheel at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2017. (PhotoL Kyle Smutzki)

Some of my favorite people are in Backswing and being able to catch them is something I’ll always enjoy. Knocked Loose is another band that rules. They always bring a good crowd and they all run off endless energy on stage, to me they are an absolute perfect band to photograph. True Love is one of my favorite bands going right now. Freedom are another recent favorite hardcore band of mine. These guys sound perfect live and they always have a crowd that knows the words to their songs.

Backswing at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?

I have thought about this question so many times and it’s always changing but in this moment i’d say definitely shooting Sabbath or Ramones would’ve been one of the coolest. Dio, Have Heart, Carpathian, Verse, and My Chemical Romance would also all be sick.

Nailed Through at a house show, Toledo, OH, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

What are the toughest aspects to shooting hardcore/punk shows?

The toughest part for me with shooting these types of shows is I guess just trying not to interfere with the bands performance. I tend to stick to my wide-angle lens and I like getting close shots but I also kind of try my best to not take away anyones experience from the show that they’ve paid to see. I’m already being annoying with firing my flash so I don’t want to any more of an distraction and sometimes thats hard. Another thing to think about would probably be that obvious risk of getting my stuff knocked but thats sort of another factor to why I enjoy shooting at these shows; That risk absolutely adds character to the photos for me and thats why I prefer these kinds of shows over shooting like bigger shows and all that.

Freedom at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?

My God, I could probably write a book: Rick BeaulieuSam JamesonKyle BergforsMike MoynihanBill BellottieDamienCameron TruppaEthan BielikKinkade RupertEthan Martin. I know theres a ton of people on that list, but I don’t want that to wash out the meaning, I love all of these guys.

Turnstile at Refuge Skateshop, Dearborn, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.

LAW (MI), Bitter Peace AD (MI), Nailed Through (OH), Backslide (GA) and I am not how sure how new they are, but I just saw this band called Black Nail from Illinois and those guys were real sick.

Knocked Loose at The Ritz, Warren, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting hardcore bands, which one would it by and why?

Expire had always been a band that was important to me; this wasn’t the first time I saw these guys but this would be the last time. This was taken at their sold out final Detroit show on their farewell tour. I never seen so many people on stage in my life and this was probably the first time I had more of other peoples sweat on my body than my own.

Expire at The Sanctuary, Detroit, MI, 2017. (Photo: Kyle Smutzki)

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See more of Kyle's work on his Instagram and Flickr pages.

Tagged: photographer spotlight

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