Perhaps the most well-connected person you’ve never heard of, American music photographer Rukes routinely attends the hottest festivals and events all across the globe. His list of clients boasts an impressive number of popular music acts, venues and media outlets that he has worked for over his decade long career. If you’ve heard of a DJ, chances are Rukes has shot them in action. From Calvin Harris, to Dillon Francis, to Tiesto and Armin van Buuren, Rukes has been there to capture every moment.
This man clearly has something special, but admits that he fell into the industry by accident. He says that he has always been a fan of the music, but growing up in New York appearances by popular DJs were few and far between. That all changed when he moved to Los Angeles.
“On the weekends I’d go to Avalon Hollywood in LA and I’d get to see all the DJs that I’d always wanted to see. It was a pretty cool experience. I just started taking pictures for fun and then eventually Avalon starting liking the pictures and they’re like ‘we should hire you to come every weekend’.”
This is the break which allowed Rukes to begin his meteoric rise to becoming one of the world’s best music photographers.
Rukes has one of the most enviable seats in the house while he is working, up on stage with the DJ, taking photos of them and the crowd. He says that the feeling is tough to describe.
“It’s a huge mass of people and it just seems super super grandiose. After the first couple of times I did it, I was like, ‘oh my God this is amazing!’ But after a while it becomes almost a same old kind of thing, and the audience just seems like another prop in the photo. But I mean the part that always gets me is when everyone does a sing-a-long or they do something unusual… that never gets old.”
Through his line of work, Rukes has been exposed to some of the most exciting moments on the music scene. One that stands out for him was at last year’s Holy Ship! festival in Miami, USA. Tiёsto was on the ship as a hidden guest, and the only thing festival-goers were told was to be at a certain 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.”
Rukes also has many great stories to tell about the people he has met on tour. Zedd is “funny and wacky,” while Martin Garrix is “super hyper.”
“Dillon Francis is of course the greatest character there is. 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.”
Next up for Rukes is Stereosonic. He says he always loves coming back to Australia, and calls Stereosonic a “family kind of tour,” in the sense that he gets to hang out with all of his friends over here. Out of this year’s line-up, Rukes is most looking forward to seeing Calvin Harris.
“Calvin keeps to himself a lot, and he always makes great music and the crowd loves him. I’m one of the few people he trusts, so whenever I see him on the line-up I know he’ll want me there to take good pictures. So it’s always a good feeling.”