Back during Sunburn 2015, the EDM world’s most renowned photographer Rudgr was on snapping duties, so we caught him for a few questions on photography and life!
The Sherp caught him snapping away at Sunburn 2015, and it was super nice of him to sit down with us for a few questions. Over to the interview! Born as Rutger Geerling, Rudgr is from the Netherlands and has covered the biggest EDM festivals and club gigs in the world. His massive portfolio is only a testament to his photography skills, and photographers look up to him as a father figure in the world of EDM photography.
1. How was your experience in India?
I was kinda blown away by it, the people are so intensely partying, apparently they all know me for some reasons. It’s very flattering, very fun, and I just like the vibe here.
2. How did you like the entire place (Sunburn 2015)?
It’s so beautiful; the hill side is really nice, you get these beautiful sunsets.
They went crazy! I try to gift them personally. Tiesto went completely nuts. Same with Hardwell and DVLM.
4. 2 years ago you took some great pictures of DVLM at Sunburn 2014.
Dimi (Dimitri Vegas) jumping is one of their favourite photos. Actually, I was talking to Dimi about it. That was almost the perfect shot, so soon already I have been shooting them for really long, I have been shooting them from the beginning, I only got them to know them really well in the last couple of years. It’s cool when they keep these kinds of moments on their minds.
5. Tell us about your childhood. How did you grow up?
I always had a fascination for photography. I come from a family where you finish school, you do university & get a regular job. So I never thought about what I really want to do later on in my life. I don’t consider myself very creative but when you get me a camera it comes naturally. I enjoy shooting so at one point during my studies I decided to save money to get a camera.
6. Which was your first camera ?
It was a Canon. Back in the day there was no digital & I really fell in love with photography. I kinda knew I would, when I started shooting during my studies. I was doing, like, public administrations, Govt economics and I hated it. It was so boring. I finished it but I was doing a lot of photography. I bought my 1st camera in 1990. I very quickly started liking skateboarding photography and snowboard photography, and I started working for university magazines & doing like B/w printing in my bathroom I made a little dark room there. Around 1995 – 1996, a friend of mine had a publishing house with a music magazine. From him, that’s how I started with dance music in December.
When house music started in the late 80s-90s, I was already listening to it. I started working for a music magazine it was weird you know I was not into that kind of electronic music at that at that time but you go into it, and just love doing it. Back then there weren’t many people doing it professionally (this kind of photography). In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
I was lucky to be living in a country where ID&T was born. Basically I got picked up by ID&T (Sensation) and then it just spun out of control. In 2012 I got picked by ultra music festival, and that weekend in Miami was perfect, man. I guess that’s when I started rolling internationally.
7. How long do you wait for pictures ?
Not even 10 minutes! Like in Tomorrowland it’s a long festival that usually runs from 4 pm to 7 am and you have a lot of time. I’m usually a busy bee so for me it’s good to sit down and just see what works. I found these two people online somewhere on FB who contacted me to have their photo so I sent it to them and they loved it! When you’re in a hectic & louder environment, you find small intimate details and that’s what I love taking photos
8. Do you visualise pictures before you take them?
I often do, that the reason I am good at photography. I am very good, I think, at telling stories. As you said if I would be talking to you while at a festival, I would be looking over your shoulder all the time. It may be very annoying but I would be looking everywhere because even when talking to people, I see people moving different ways. I see surroundings and I try to combine both. I do have a feeling for it because I get to take many kinds of photos.
I think artistic work on stage is not rewarding; a lot of it very technical; it just holding a camera at the right moment and right settings, but with people you can play around a lot more so I really envisioned things often. When that situation & person come together, you got to be ready to take that photo. So my camera should always be ready to do that; you got to be very quick and that’s something I learned from extreme sports photography like skate boarding and snowboarding because if the skate board is here and the object is there, they will come together for that photo. That’s why I think I am so directional, I don’t know.
9. What do you do after shooting ?
Usually we still go on with photos. We have to edit some photos, you know, basically picking 5 or 10 photos we were talking about yesterday, who gets the final photo for Facebook etc. I’ll be busy for an hour and then it’s going to hotel to crash and burn. Last night I went for dinner with Dimi and Mike because I know them very well; we speak the same language of course, and we see other quite often.
The good thing about this festival (Sunburn) is that it ends at 10:00 pm so it changes the whole vibe of what we do, so yeah. It will be a few hours if something is wrong with the transport, few hours before you’re in bed, and then you have to get up early the next day. That’s it.
10. How do you spent your free time? What do you do ?
I try putting as much time with my kids especially since they are very young. I am super happy to be home on my couch watching a movie because that doesn’t happen too often. Both me and my wife are busy in this period of my life and it’s going to be same for us for the next 10 years I guess. I do enjoy travelling a lot; we don’t get as much (free time) as we want. When I am home I am in a very laid back mood. I am not very active at home.
Also, you get to empty your mind a bit and just relax, so that is that. I love scuba diving but this year it’s been hectic. I hardly do anything at all. It (scuba diving) relaxes me. The thing with scuba diving is that you have to control your breathing over after dives. Once you’re in the water it totally relaxes you, so people especially in Goa they go for that relaxing technique. Just give me a scuba set and I am relaxed; that’s one thing I love to do.
11. What you like to tell young photographers who take their career in music photography ?
I would say, be patient. I am very approachable so I get this question a lot. But sometimes people expect amazing things to happen within a year or two. It’s very hard and I know this myself, like, you love your own photos and even though you are a low level photographer, you still think you’ve made the greatest photos. Other people might think differently, but for you its greatest photo. You did something new for instance but it’s still a raw photo.
It’s very hard for yourself to look at your photos in neutral way and it’s almost impossible that you think you might think you are super good but you’re still learning, so it’s cool
The only way you will be able to keep going, I tell people, is to give yourself some time. You’ve got to built you network. people tell me it was much easier for you back in the day when there weren’t many photographers. That might be right but there are quite a few photographers. I always shot with slide film and not digital which is a big difference so the learning curve for most people was much steeper.
I think there are so many opportunities to get into the business if you are persistent & good enough & really put your heart into photography. I mean you’re not going to be on the Main Stage on big festivals in a year; it’s not going to happen. It might happen if you’re lucky. I would say start with club photography, hook up with local DJs and build your network. Go up to the tour manager/artist and give your card, send them a few photos; be persistent if you heart is into photography. You got to be driven to take a lot of photos, I don’t understand why people take 5 photos of a girl dancing; take 100 photos until you get it right. If you can get a good photo in 5, you can get a perfect photo in a 100. I have two tips: 1. Give in time, and 2. Shoot lot of photos. Don’t just blindly take photos of everything. If you see a good situation just don’t stop until you got it.
12. Everyone has a camera now, so what makes a photographer?
It’s good and bad; you can see professional photography is degraded because there are so many amateur photographers. It really has killed professional photography. It’s basically what’s happening now, I mean, photography is a dying skill but on the other hand, people are more aware of photography, they appreciate good photography. I think because people are more into it, it’s hard to make a living out of photography but once you do, it’s easier. I always have answers for photographers who want to talk via Facebook, Twitter, E-Mail or whatever.
13. What real challenges have you come across during festivals ?
Physical challenges are there. The distances, for instance, for a festival like Tomorrowland, it’s too big to handle by yourself. I would say that’s the number 1 challenge, the physical aspect of carrying cameras and everything. I travel very light; I have as little equipment as possible while going through crowds.
I love Tomorrowland; it’s not focusing on one and half hour sets for the main artist so it’s much better. It’s bliss when you have time to do stuff properly instead of getting rushed.
14. Damage to sensors by laser beams is really bad! What are the precautions to be taken ?
It’s really bad. It has never happened to me but I know so many people it has happened to. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened to me; I really don’t know. Sheer luck? I have no idea. I try to avoid getting lasers straight to the camera.
15. A lot of people know you as the photographer! How does that feel ?
That’s insane! Especially yesterday, everybody on the 1st line of the crowd knew who I was. It’s worthwhile when people want to take a selfie with you and it is very cool. I really appreciate it. If people enjoy my photos it means the most to me. I am the people’s photographer if people enjoy my photos.
India has been my biggest fanbase by far. That’s incredible. That what I love. When people get in contact to you it’s very rewarding.
I really appreciate and it sometimes I have to kill my messages on Facebook because too many messages come and it’s not possible any more to answer them all properly by myself. I tried to answer everybody and I really hate it when I am not able to. I am only one person so it’s hard.
16. What kind of photography you wanted to do later anything specific?
I am busy with this new project with National Geography which I can’t tell you about. It would be a dream writing an article on dance music for National Geography Worldwide. I’m still working on that.
After that I’ll pick up travel photography a little bit. Again, I am also a writer. I know how to write my travel articles. Maybe a little more scuba stuff, I don’t know, the future will hopefully be more fun.
Thank you so much for your time!
Follow Rudgr on https://www.facebook.com/Rudgrcom/
(As told to Jeethendra Saran – https://www.facebook.com/Jeethendrasaranphotography/)