The Sherp was lucky enough to have a chat with the world’s #1 DJ photographer Rukes, who was in India this December as an official photographer for Sunburn Goa 2013.


For those of you who don’t know (seriously, what rock have you been living under?) Drew Ressler aka Rukes is what most people including polls and magazines would call, the #1 DJ photographer in the world. Over the years of what he calls ‘lots of practice and hard work’ this self taught and incredibly talented lens man has racked up an impressive client list that includes the bigwigs of the industry like Deadmau5, Above and Beyond, Bassnectar, Zedd, Skrillex, Paul Oakenfold, Porter Robinson, Steve Angello and many more. Adding to that his photos have been published by some of the best mags in the scene – Rolling Stone, Spine, MTV, FORBES, DJ Mag – you name it.

Being the best isn’t easy, with Rukes always on the road or travelling with DJs for festivals and concerts he is also probably ( and unofficially) the busiest photographer in the world. A title he manages effortlessly.

Hi Drew! How are you? Has this been your first trip to India?
Good! No, actually my second. My first was with Swedish House Mafia earlier in 2013

Could you tell us a bit about your experience of Sunburn?  What was your favorite part about it? (Good enough for you to come back?)
The crowd! Just seeing how crazy everyone went for the headliners is a bit different than the usual US crowds who see the same DJs regularly and don’t have the same enthusiasm.

Axwell - sunburn india

We’re curious, how did you start calling yourself Rukes?
In an AOL chatroom in the early 90’s, someone made a typo, instead of saying “this game rules” they said “this game rukes!” It stuck with my friends as some internet slang we would use. One day I decided to create a new AOL screen name that wasn’t my actual name, and decided to start it with Rukes for fun. So people just started calling me Rukes since that was the beginning of my screen name!

How did you go from being in the gaming Industry to landing your first job as Deadmau5’s photographer? Could you take us through the story of how you got into photography?
I got a basic DSLR when I moved to California in 2004. I decided to use it to just go to some clubs and take pics for fun on the weekends when I wasn’t working. It ended up the work I was doing in the video game industry was very bad (I came to Cali with more experience than most managers, but they wanted to start me at the bottom where I was severely underutilized), and the photos I was taking slowly started to improve, that when I got offered a job to be the photographer at Avalon Hollywood, I realized it was slightly less money for a LOT less work, so I decided to risk it and completely switch over to photography.

Why EDM photography?
At that time, that was the genre of music I liked the best. Plus it was, and still is, a bit tougher to get into rock/pop photography. EDM was pretty niche and just starting out, so it wasn’t as tough back then to do any photography.

Your work got really popular particularly because of capturing images of Djs and crowds through a fish-eye lens. Did you always intend on taking pictures like that or did you stumble upon the style accidentally?
It was a mix of both. I always wanted to showcase a more epic view of an event from the DJ’s perspective. I got a wide angle shot of Christopher Lawrence in 2006 for New Years that was the basis for what I wanted to do. Symmetrical and epic. Once I got a fish-eye lens to go a little wider, I knew it was pretty tough to get it looking “cool” and not looking gimmicky, so I always have just used it as a wide angle lens, so my goal has always been to make it look wide rather than look fish-eye at first glance.


What is that one thing you look for when you’re taking a picture?
If the picture is properly in focus. Even if the picture looks like the best photo ever taken, if the focus is wrong, I delete it.

What’s the first camera you ever owned?
A Canon PowerShot G3

As one of the first ‘EDM’ photographers, do you also enjoy the music as well? Have you thought about branching out – like say, Rock or pop music?
Yes I do very much. I am very open with music, as people should be, so I love a huge variety of different types of music.I would love to branch out into rock and pop, the problem is I keep on getting more and more popular/busy in the EDM industry that it’s getting pretty tough to branch out with my current workload.

Apart from musicians, what’s your favourite thing to photograph?
Good food on Instagram!

Out of all the DJ’s you’ve photographed, Zedd seems to be a favourite. Can you tell us something about him none of his fans know?
He has an alias that he used to use a little for more pop-oriented producing (i.e. making base tracks/remixes for artists). He hasn’t used the alias in quite a while though, but still pretty much nobody knows his alias.

If you had to give an amateur photographer a piece of advice when it comes to DJ photography, what would you say?
Wear stage black and duck down when you are not taking photos. If you start to dance on stage or pretend you are part of the production, I might accidentally push you off the stage.

Lastly, a message for your fans in India?
Always great to see you guys and I will hopefully be back sometime in 2014!

Thanks for talking to us, Drew. We’re big fans. Hope to see you again in India!
(Images courtesy : Rukes )