A couple weeks ago I caught up with photographer and all-around good guy Kurt Cuffy. Currently based in the Toronto area, Cuffy has spent the last three years traveling across Canada and the United States photographing bands like Abandon All Ships, Like Pacific, Movement and Ritual.
He’s preparing to head out on a Canadian tour with Intervals, Northlane and Invent, Animate later this month, but I was able to jump on the phone with him for a few minutes to talk about how his love for music turned into a career photographing bands all over North America.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Where were you born? How old are you? And where are you currently residing?
I was born in Montreal, Quebec and am currently 26 years old. Right now I am living in Ajax, which is a suburb just outside Toronto. Also, fun fact, the pop-punk band Sum 41 was formed in Ajax.
What sparked your photography career?
I actually fell into photography. I was at a spot in my life where I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I was working at a computer store, which I didn’t mind too much because I’m a huge nerd, but I was still left wanting more. So when my tax return showed up in the spring of 2014, I bought my first camera, a Canon MK2.
When did you decide to become a “photographer?”
I was fortunate to have been involved in the music scene here for a few years prior. I played in various bands with the most notable being Longshot, a melodic hardcore band based out of southern Ontario. What that meant is that I had already met so many friends in growing bands that I could work with from the beginning. During a basement show where This World is a Beautiful Place and Dad’s were playing, I decided I wanted to try to make [photography] work.
Do you have any major influences in your life?
Honestly, I don’t really have many influences. I kind of do my own thing! I watch a ton of movies and TV shows that I’m constantly picking apart in my head, which I think helps keep my mind sharp. As for mentors, I owe a lot to Carly Hoskins. She was Dad’s touring photographer at the time. Now she tour manages and takes photographs for bands like Thursday and Touché Amoré. Carly took the brunt of my “dumb” questions when I started out. She is always a huge inspiration to what I do and to I’m sure plenty of women in the music scene. She rules!
So what keeps you motivated?
My motivation is seeing other friends post dope ass pictures and opportunities that they all get.
How did music photography come about? Is there one band (or bands) that started it all?
I owe a lot to a few bands that gave me a chance to document their travels, even for a few days at a time. In no particular order, I’m thankful for Abandon All Ships, Liferuiner, Counterparts, Ritual, Gatherers, Like Pacific and Movements.
Other than music, what is your favorite thing to photograph?
I love taking photographs of scenery. A lot.
What is it about photographing music, musicians and tours that you find appealing?
Since the beginning it’s always been about showing fans the other side of touring and creating a band’s aesthetic through images and videos.
Are there any projects you have done in the past you are most proud of?
There’s a ton of stuff I’m proud of in my past, but honestly I’m more excited for my new musical project called Nightwell. Nightwell will be a force to be reckoned with, I promise you.
Do you remember the first tour you went on?
My first real tour was with Abandon All Ships. It was crazy to be in America doing what I loved! Except I didn’t really get to [laughs]. Their merch guy had bailed at the beginning of the tour, so I was actually forced to not only take photographs but also do merch for the band. Which if you don’t already know, it’s very hard to juggle because you’re constantly at the merch table. It was tough, but ultimately I got through it and made some lifelong friendships in return.
Any current tour plans?
I’m actually gearing up to head out with an old friend, Aaron Marshall, and his incredible band Intervals. I’ll also be covering Northlane and getting to watch some newer Texan friends in the band Invent, Animate. I’m really excited to tour Canada with great company.
Follow Kurt Cuffy on Instagram.