Capturing Culture: Local photographer’s exhibit showcases hip-hop, music celebrities

Leon Laing

Visitors to Harrisburg’s city hall may see a few famous faces they recognize.

For the next two months, photographs of hip-hop artists and other celebrities by local photographer Leon Laing will be displayed in the MLK City Government Center atrium.

Laing, a Harrisburg resident, has worked since the early 2000s to capture cultural moments, photographing everyone from rappers J. Cole, Drake and Kendrick Lamar to local artists as well. Before he started his blog, Vigoronline.com, no one else locally was providing this type of coverage, he said.

“There was no one covering urban music, Black music, hip hop, R&B. No one was writing about it or taking photos,” he said. “So I said, let me fill this void.”

Laing has photographed local artists at Harrisburg events, festivals and concerts, but also regularly travels to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York City and other larger metros to snap pictures of celebs.

His exhibit at city hall showcases a range of photos from his earlier years, using his father’s film camera, to more recent shots. The exhibit is part of the Art Association of Harrisburg’s Community Exhibition Program.

Photo of J. Cole by Leon Laing.

Laing said that he has always been artistic and grew an interest in photography while an art student at HACC. He also took art classes at the Art Association of Harrisburg and eventually zoomed in on celebrity and music culture as his focus. He made connections in the music industry and studied all things music, specifically hip-hop news, and began to find himself behind the camera at concerts and even meeting and interviewing artists backstage.

“I’ve been blessed to do this and to get access to people that other people don’t,” he said.

Laing has also photographed several famous actors and rappers who have connections to Harrisburg, such as the late actor Michael K. Williams.

“I like to show that we are a small city, but we’re hip,” he said. “I’m always trying to bring some of the experience from these larger cities to Harrisburg.”

The photo exhibit will be on display in city hall through March, and Laing hopes that visitors will find joy in spotting a celeb they love and enjoy reflecting on cultural moments spanning decades.

“I like to see the smile on people’s faces,” he said. “I’d like to give Harrisburg residents a sense of pride. We are a small city, but we have some cool things going on.”

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