Jul 01

“A Laser-Guided Immortal Eye Can See Eternity”



Point and shoot. Run and gun. Steady hands. Keen eye. A meticulous approach applied methodically should have but one desired outcome: that moment where it all comes together. For any photographer trying to capture an isolated aspect of an experience or an environment, so it can be perpetually revisited, that immortal moment is what makes all of their hard work worthwhile. A simple, yet profound, joy must exist within the individual to seek out those moments and they must be able to translate those into the vivid imagery that evokes emotion capable of transporting the viewer right into the delightful madness. Whether you catch him riding an ostrich in South Africa or flying above the masses at Ultra Music Festival events around the globe, this one gentleman operates with laser precision, no pun intended. His signature behind-the-dj shots are assuredly the screensavers of EDM fans everywhere. His birth certificate may say Drew, but the world knows him simply as “Rukes.”


When did you first get interested in photography?

When I got my first point-and-shoot.


What aspects interested you the most?

It’s a great way to capture moments for other people to experience something unique.


What type of gear did you use when you started shooting? How does it compare to what you use now?

My first DSLR was a 20D and a 28-135mm lens. Super basic, I didn’t know much about aperture back then. So I had an 8 megapixel camera that was useable up to 800 ISO in low light and now I have a 1DX which is useable up to 3200 ISO in low light with limited noise reduction.


When did you break into nightclub/event/festival photography?

Late 2004.




What types of shots have you found get the biggest reaction? What are your personal favorites to take?

The usual “Rukes” shots behind the DJ of the crowd. That always gets a good reaction, which is why I continue to do shots like that. My personal favorites are wide aperture perfect focus and colorful photos. A bit hard to get.


Did you ever attend events as press or media before you started building your client roster?

Not really. I started working with promoters/artists directly first.


Who was your first “major” client and how did you that opportunity come to life?

Probably Deadmau5. I worked with Pioneer a bit and they had me come down to an interview with Tommy Lee for a DJ gig he was doing and we were introduced to each other. He mentioned his friend Joel was coming to LA to do his first ever DJ gig and wanted to know if I would like to come along. I did and took some decent pics, and talked to Joel after the gig.


Did things kind of take off after that?

A bit. I started tagging along to a lot of shows like Coachella and Ultra which eventually led to a full tour.




You’ve been noted for your sobriety and professionalism in and out of the workplace. Without sounding trite, what do you feel are the most significant benefits of being sober in these massive party environments?

Being quick on my feet and attentive. Not to mention probably being a bit more stable/able to use longer shutter speeds.


Your work has become synonymous with several top tier artists. How do you find the balance between friendship and professionalism? Does it make it easier to work with artists that you hang out with in a social capacity?

Yeah it’s a bit easier to work with artists I hang out with regularly. We end up being super comfortable around each other. Of course I have to keep the line drawn regardless, I can’t get to the point where I’m doing free work for an artist as a “friend” so I have to keep my work as a business still.


When you’re by yourself, what is your music of choice?

Just about anything really, I love a variety of music from pop, to 90’s alternative to breakbeat and house.


Where do you stand on leaving photos unedited versus utilizing post-production methods? What personal stipulations do you put on yourself so that the “purity” of the photo isn’t compromised if filters and such are used?

I personally like to just make my photos look as natural as possible. If I can use a unique filter to bring out a certain aspect of it, I let reality slide a bit and use that. I never crop unless extremely needed, and I never ever photoshop/severely edit a photo.


Is it true that you never use a tripod?





What’s been your favorite domestic festival to shoot? International? What elements of each made them stand out for you?

Holy Ship for domestic since it’s on a boat with all my friends for a few days. Always super fun. International probably Stereosonic, they are super organized and great people to work with.


Your schedule always seems pretty full but if you could add another massive to it, what would it be?

I don’t think there are any others I would want to do. Right now just doing all the international Ultra Music Festivals is a good addition, especially when I do the Japan one.


Do you bring a camera everywhere that you go?

Mostly it’s just the one on my iPhone. If I’m on a tour then sometimes I bring my Sony RX-100 type point-and-shoot for some candid/out to lunch stuff. I save my DSLR for when I’m actually working, since it is a bit heavy to casually just carry around.


What’s been your most difficult experience since you entered the industry? Most rewarding?

Most difficult is dealing with security and access. I have had problems where an artist wants me to shoot for them but then their manager has no clue who I am and attempts to ban me from shooting, regardless of what the artist says. Or having 10 wristbands and security always wanting another made-up wristband. The most rewarding of course is getting a perfect shot, where I look at it and just know that I found THE shot of the day.




Philosophies vary, as there is no specific template for success, but do you have any words for aspiring photographers?

Just figure out your own photographic eye and photograph what you like and not what you think someone else would like.


It is widely accepted that Rukes is in the upper echelon of EDM photographers and with good cause. His shots speak for themselves. His work ethic, professionalism, and positive demeanor help distinguish him from the masses. His hard work has opened doors that most aspiring event photographers dream of only peeking behind. Just like on an infomercial, these results are not typical, but that shouldn’t discourage you. You have your own path to carve out, as it should be. Even though he’s in the middle of some of the biggest parties on the planet, he recognizes that the bottom line is to get the work done. The memorable experience that accompanies carefully executing his craft is more often than not a pleasant bi-product of the atmosphere. The only limitation on what you can capture is where you point the camera, so get in the mix if that’s where you want to be. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll cross paths in the photo pit with one of the people that inspired you to pick up your first camera.

Website: www.rukes.com

Facebook: Rukes