The art of capturing moments is one that develops over time. For some photographers, however, attaining a coveted, distinct action shot at a showcase comes naturally – comparative to the blink of an eye or reflex of the knee. Renowned Netherlands-based EDM photographer, Rutger Geerling (RUDGR), travels the world photographing behind-the-scenes of a combination of underground and popular festivals within the EDM realm.
Early on, his keen eye for details moved him to snap a standout shot of Carl Cox at the I Love Techno Festival in 1997. Now, he’s the photographer of choice for ID&T – the imprint behind TomorrowWorld, Tomorrowland, Sensation, and Mysteryland – along with Ultra Music Festival. The UMF coordinators enlisted he and fellow EDM photog, Rukes, as the two senior photographers of their world-class festivals.
Here, we go behind-the-decks, into the festival crowds, and in a helicopter with the elite photographer through a series of his most memorable pictures in dance music culture.
2014 Ultra Buenos Aires
“I’ve been doing ‘empty decks’ photos for a short while now since I got so many reactions on them. I guess people like the feeling of being in that magical place themselves, even only through a photo. So Damian, the voice of Ultra, and I came up with the plan to stage a crazy photo with everybody’s hands up just seconds after Hardwell closed the event. Plain madness resulted and it has now become our own little gig after every Ultra event.”
Carl Cox, I Love Techno Festival – 1997
“This is still one of my all-time favorite photos and I gave Carl a signed copy a few years after. It was taken during the very early years of my career. Out of a bunch of photographers I was the only one to realize the lights were perfect for a head-on shot. So, I jumped to the opportunity to shoot a few clicks, out of which this beauty resulted. Remember, this is very much pre-digital age – all shot on slide film!”
Yellow Claw, Chuckie Dirty Dutch, Amsterdam
“People who know my photography know that I’m a fool for dark and subtle photos. I just love shooting silhouettes during live shows. It’s kind of really hard and only once in a while [a] show comes a long where the light is just right to do these kind of shots. Some may remember a similar shot I took of Carl Cox at Ultra in 2013. It’s 100 percent playing with light, just the way I like it!”
“I had a difficult time at last year’s Defqon.1. I always feel very watched by my peers and after the first day I didn’t have a single photo that could be labeled as a “hammershot.” Sometimes you’re just walking around in circles and there’s too many photogs on a single event, something I find very stressful; but then it all came together during the Endshow in the final 20 minutes of the event. I had the perfect spot, the show was mind-blowing and it all just came together. I was so super concentrated that the whole show just seemed to last seconds. When I found this beauty in between my shots, a load fell of my back – job well done!”
Sensation Brazil, 2012
“For National Geographic magazine I did a 12-page feature on EDM and one of the events we visited was Sensation in Brazil – actually the largest Sensation event worldwide (41,000 people). Sensation shows are notoriously hard to photograph because of their dark light shows (which makes the stage and people come out better). This is one of my absolute favorite EDM photos ever and was definitely the editor’s favorite.”
“One huge perk of being the senior photographer for Tomorrowland and TomorrowWorld is being able to request an insane amount of heli-time. I love flying these and shooting from them. Last year I managed to collect more than five hours in total over during various events. My specialty is night shots during these big events and the law is very accommodating in Belgium for this kind of thing. This one’s not even my favorite one, but the real money shots have not been released by the organization. So, keep your eyes open on their Facebook!”
TomorrowWorld, Atlanta 2013
“The USA is the magic kingdom for EDM photography. The people are just so much into it and really are rarely put off by cameras. One of my favorite people to work together with Kevin Gansemans – without a doubt one of the best filmers in the industry. We often go out together and “hunt” for cool shots, setting them up and while he films, I photograph. Amazing photos have come out of that collaboration and it’s always huge fun!”
TomorrowWorld, Atlanta 2013
“What can I say? I just love heli’s!”
TomorrowWorld, Atlanta 2013
“One thing I’ve always underestimated is the power of a backstage photo. I guess Drew (Rukes) really taught me that important lesson. So, I’ve really started to put a lot more attention to the artist thing and I found I really liked it a lot more that I thought I would. It’s really awarding to work closely together and to get to know them. Drew and I both work together quite often nowadays (as the two senior photogs for Ultra) and the mutual respect between us makes it hugely rewarding to this work. In general, I must say that the comradery and respect between most of the photogs is one of the best parts of this work.”
Trance Energy, Netherlands 2009
“I’m always very intense when I’m working and keeping my eyes open to react within moments when something’s happening. When I saw this light popping up behind Armin [van Buuren] I knew there was an insane photo to be made. It’s one of my best viewed photos on Flickr and once I got it, I was just ecstatic. You don’t get pictures like these very often.”
Words: Gabrielle Pharms
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