DV Digital

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The Pandemic of Nightlife Photographers...

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Note: The following post was copied almost verbatim from a post I made over on Talk Nightlife. But it’s important enough to post here.

Today, a short film called No Credentials, hit the internet and social media airwaves in earnest. Done by an LA duo calling themselves Cruz + Jacob, the piece analyzes the ‘phenomenal intersection of photography and electronic music’. Of course, such a piece was thrown across my desk, probably in sincere hopes a rant will ensue. As I loath to disappoint my audience, I indulged…

Again, this was posted over on TNL, but carried over here for stylistic and audience reasons. Before you read what I have to say, take a moment to watch the piece. I made it easy, it’s right here. On a technical level it’s actually well put-together. But beyond that, the questions begin. Anyways, I’m rambling. Go watch it!

No Credentials from CRUZ + JACOB on Vimeo.

Here are my thoughts on this piece. Please note that these are my opinions, and I definitely welcome claims to bolster or demolish my concerns. I actually really do hope I’m wrong on some of these.

This seems staged. Swagger and “looking the part” go a long way of course, but at the end of the day, music festivals, especially Ultra, are generally a high-security affair and there’s usually several layers of access as well as multiple forms of credentialing. The last time I shot Ultra was 2010, and at that point it was a cloth wristband specific to the day I was covering it, as well as a lanyard/laminate. Sure, you could fake the lanyard/laminate, but unless you had a sewing machine handy, you couldn’t fake the wristband easily. So, yeah, this seems staged and maybe primed to go viral. The shit thing is that now you’ll get imitators trying to pull the stunt off and hitting a huge brick wall.

Along the same lines, I don’t see Rukes lending his name to something that’s as “underground” as this video pretends to be. Rukes, if you’re reading, feel free to to tell me to shut up if I’m wrong.

Also, nightlife photography didn’t start with that guy in New York in 2000. It didn’t even start with me. Seth (Red Eye) was doing it as early as 1997, and was partially an inspiration of mine even. I started in earnest in 1998. And before that, you had people like Patrick McMullan doing it in the 1970s and 1980s, in that “style” of being part of the party rather than fly-on-the-wall documentarian. Tina Paul chronicled the glory days of the Paradise Garage in the early-to-mid 1980s. And I’m sure there’s innumerable others I’m missing. So no, it didn’t magically start in 2000 with some hipster in New York. Not even close. Do you research kids.

The writer for the Daily Swarm actually kind of got it right when he reviewed this piece, in that the producers seem to be the very camera-toting famewhores they criticize. Which actually plays into this being a setup.

Disregarding the strong possibility this is a setup, the one takeaway of the piece is that the whole role of “nightlife photographer” or “EDM photographer” has definitely gone from a rarified part in the party pantheon to one of ubiquity. Rukes stated that it just used to be him at a party, now it isn’t. The clubs I frequent seem to be a little insulated from it, since, for example, at Space it is usually just me, someone from At-Night, and someone from Red Eye, and the same idea carries over to other venues, but I’ve been in some nightclubs in this country where when it is a big event, the venue is awash with guys and girls with cameras.

Listen, everyone has to get their start somewhere, but it does really seem a lot of people have gotten into it for the wrong reason, which seems to be wherein they treat their camera and their access as a VIP pass for an event. That being said, there’s plenty of other more cost-effective ways to party for free.

Now, as it stands, I’ve cut way back on my club shooting schedule for a few reasons. First of all, very few people can meet my price, even when I cut a deal with them. Secondly, it’s a tough gig to do all the time. You’re in a smoky, noisy environment for hours on end, and then you have to deliver the material on time, regardless of how hungover you are. But every night I go out to shoot, I still nail some images I’m absolutely thrilled about. If I didn’t, to be honest, I wouldn’t bother. If the thrill is gone, so am I.

Should I have been interviewed for this piece? Yeah totally. I’m enough of a narcissistic prick to know I could have definitely filled in the blanks in their little tale. However, since I’ve taken the unique path of not making Herculean efforts to market myself, my name factors little in the crowded ranks of nightlife photography. I accept that, that’s fine. I have people that appreciate what I do, and pay for it. I put gas in the car and pay the rent.

I’m the guy in the corner the real veterans know and speak to, whereas the kids are clueless. It’s like having a DJ convention with all these new-jack Swedes, and then there’s a corner off to the side where, for some weird reason, DJ Harvey and a few people that look vaguely familiar are hanging out and ignoring everyone else.

The one thing I’m seeing though is that a lot of these guys’ careers are tied to the EDM bubble itself. Unfortunately when there’s a crash, they will have problems since they haven’t diversified their photo skill set, or their media skill set in general. Shit, it’s why I take the time to shoot landscapes and am dusting off the old architectural photography skills as well. And, I haven’t anchored myself to “EDM”. EDM might very well be gone next year. But there’s always gonna be nightclubs. And barring that, there’s always gonna be pretty sunrises and buildings.

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