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By Stefanie Phillips
Standing on stage at the Opera House with his camera in hand, André Varty’s lens flickers open and shut as he captures his friends performing in front of a sold out audience. In the midst of a crowded mosh pit, the 21-year-old elbows his way through the people, clicking away as the footman screams into his mic while beads of sweat roll down his forehead.
Varty was 17 when he started taking photos. He used his first camera, a Canon T3i, to shoot all-ages shows where the bands were people he knew or other high school students from the Toronto area.
At one particular show an older, more professional photographer was taking photos, too. Varty noticed him getting close to the band and really capturing the energy of the artists.
“I loved the stuff that he did and that really influenced me a lot and how I do my photography now. I have my flash and I have my camera and I just get in there,” he said.
Growing up in Toronto’s east end, Varty always appreciated music. He stayed involved in the scene through friends and his own piano classes. But as he got older, laziness took over and he lost motivation to keep playing. Even though he wasn’t playing music he still wanted to be a part of the niche, so he picked up photography as a way to stay connected to the industry.
“I couldn’t be in the band but I could still be a part of the band by taking photos,” he said.
Now, Varty is at Ryerson finishing his fourth year in the journalism program. He still takes photos of the artists he used to shoot at the Opera House, as well as new people he’s met along the way—like rappers Kirk Knight and K. Forest.
Even with his experience, Varty still thinks his style is somewhat undefined.
“As a photographer, I want to be as creative as possible,” he said. “My style is different every time I shoot.”
For Varty, that means always shooting with the goal of getting a unique photo that’s different from what anyone else is shooting. Whether he’s experimenting with a harsh flash or playing around with stage lighting, he’s always trying to show the artist in their most energetic moment to capture them as “who they really are.”
His desire to be different from other photographers developed after he became fed-up with trying to please an array of opinionated people on Instagram. He realized that putting hashtags under his photos to get likes from strangers wasn’t as rewarding as garnering a following of people who would stick around and truly pay attention to his work.
“I just focus on the people who really like my stuff and it’s great … That’s way more rewarding,” he said.
Varty’s Instagram page is a reflection of his, “I shoot what I want” attitude. Photos of different compositions are dispersed throughout his profile, making it different from the aesthetic-based pages that look more like mood boards than photo galleries.
“If I really think my photo is good and I post it but it doesn’t get a lot of likes, whatever,” he said. “I don’t care because that’s a photo that I really like. That’s my artistry.”
Even though he has garnered attention from bands, he still doesn’t consider himself a professional photographer. His primary focus is to take photos of people and capture moments they can be proud of when they look back on them.
“This isn’t my career, I’m not handing out business cards that say I’m a professional photographer, pay me. I’m a photographer. If you want me to take photos of you I’ll do it because I like doing it.”
Being able to take gigs on a whim and continue shooting bands means he can keep doing what he loves. The success, according to Varty, will come later with more experience and experimentation.