Drew Ressler, a.k.a Rukes, is headed back to Australian Shores for Ultra Australia next week, and although he doesn’t have the name of a Martin Garix or Will Sparks, he sure has a cult following of his own, and he may just have the coolest job of them all.
Rukes has been dubbed the #1 DJ Photographer in the world, shooting hundreds of the biggest festivals and acts in the world, which have included the names like Tiesto, Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Avicii to name a few.
His next job is flying down under to capture the Ultra Australia festival in Melbourne and Sydney, which is sure to leave an impression on the Aussie music landscape with names like The Chainsmokers, Marshmello, Martin Garrix, Will Sparks and more.
Being that DJ photography is quite a niche area of work, Rukes explained that he basically fell into the industry by chance.
“In 2003, I had a friend who worked with BT, and she invited me to a gig at Avalon, NY, and I took my point and shoot along,” he said.
Later in 2004, I got a basic DSLR setup to experiment with photography, and shortly after, Avalon in LA hired me to be their in-house photographer.”
Fast forward fifteen years and Rukes has cornered the market and is now spending most of his time on the road applying his trade.
And although he’s away from home a lot of the time, the chance to travel to his most loved places like Tokyo and take photos is a dream come true.
It’s great; it’s like getting paid to take a vacation,” he said.
I just go crazy taking phone pics of food and fantastic locations.”
Another part of the job is networking and mingling with some of the biggest names in the world, but Rukes says that he rarely gets start-struck and always values keeping it professional.
“They are all just co-workers in the same industry as me, I only get star-struck slightly when it’s more pop/rock artists,” he said.
I’m friends with most people equally, although getting too close to someone is not good for business.”
Although that proximity definitely comes with some interesting stories and insight, Rukes shared some insight into the personalities of some big names.
He describes Zedd as “funny and wacky” and Martin Garrix as “super hyper”, but from his point of view, Dillon Francis is something else!
Francis is, of course, the greatest character there is,” he said.
“If he quit dj-ing to do stand up, he would probably be one of the most successful comedians out there; it’s always fun hanging out with him.”
And of course, Rukes has been a part of some of music’s greatest moments, One that stands out for him was at the Holy Ship! Festival in Miami.
Tiёsto was on the ship as a hidden guest, and the only thing festival-goers were told was to be at a particular stage at a certain time.
“… all of a sudden Tiёsto comes out, and everyone was like ‘oh my god’, it was the last person they expected and then from there it was crazy because all the DJs knew about it, so everyone piled in the booth, and it was just crazy, crazy fun,” he said.
Spending weeks on the road in airports, clubs and far away festival locations, it can certainly take its toll on you. But Rukes knows how to kick back and relax when he has some downtime.
After an overly excessive trip, he tries to keep his camera pretty far away from himself, preferring to focus on the job rather than overdo excessive preparation.
“It’s mostly chill time when I get home, so watching TV/movies and going out with friends, etc.,” he said.
Having a career and list of experiences that would envy most, Rukes isn’t settling just yet; The #1 DJ photographer is looking to expand on his current work, along with a vision of branching out into other genres of music.
“I do eventually want to make a coffee table book, I think that would be great, or as the genre expands, maybe galleries would take a larger interest in the history of dance music, in terms of having photos.”
“I also hope to branch out into more genres as the years go on, like rock, pop, country, etc.”