Rukes: Behind the lens
Trading his 9-5 gig as a game tester for a full time job as a DJ and nightlife photographer is likely the smartest decision Drew Ressler has ever made – that is if you don’t count picking up a camera in the first place. Now Ressler’s killing it under his nickname moniker of Rukes, regularly shooting the biggest names in the business at the best clubs not only in his current base of Los Angeles but around the world, in particular regularly travelling with Canadian fire-starter Deadmau5 as his touring photographer.
The images captured by Rukes’ lens are nothing short of incredible, grabbing the epic scale of the productions that Deadmau5 and other international DJs put into their shows, not to mention the fevered adoration of the fans in attendance.
With 2010 being a particularly busy year for the US photographer, we asked Rukes to put together a little retrospective package of his favourite shots of the year which you can check out below (part two will come after his big New Year’s galleries). We also got some Q&A action from the man himself, giving some meaty insight into his side of the dance industry, touring shenanigans with Deadmau5 and what it takes to get where he is.
As a general intro to the man that is Rukes, tell us how you got started. What made you want to pick up a camera and start shooting DJs?
When I first came to LA, I got a SLR to try out, as more of a social/weekend thing when I wasn’t working my standard 9 to 5 job. I wasn’t really looking at the club scene, but more of the “go to a bar/club and take pics of hot girls” type thing. Avalon in Hollywood was booking a bunch of the DJs that I loved, and I was pretty much the only person with a SLR camera there, so I always came by whenever a DJ I liked was playing. Since it was the “old days” of digital photography (for me, 2005/2006) that wasn’t crowded by tons of people with cameras, DJs were more open to just hanging around. I remember one of my first Sasha gigs in LA, Bunny from Rabbit In The Moon came by and also Junkie XL. So just going to one gig meant networking with other big DJs who weren’t playing.
The light bulb above my head switched on when taking pics of my favourite DJs, Hybrid. Mike Truman is an amazing photographer, and he knew, even with my crappy pics, that I had an eye for what I was doing, so he pushed me to continue doing what I was doing.
What was the first gig you shot?
The very first gallery I have on my site is BT at Avalon in NY. It was also the first time I ever went to a club! Turns out one of my best friends, Lainie, who I owe for starting my career, she was BT’s booking agent. Since I lived in NY, she invited me out to meet him and take pics with my dinky little Canon PowerShot G3 point-and-shoot. Then she kept inviting me out to more gigs she was doing, so I was able to go by Crobar in NY to take pics of Paul van Dyk, DJ Rap, Sasha and Hybrid.
When did you make the decision to turn your passion into a full time job?
After I got hired at Avalon in 2006 to be the in-house photographer, and having other side gigs lined up, I decided I was making about the same as I was on my 9-5 job as a game tester, with much less work. So I decided to risk it and quit my day job and switch over to photography full-time. Luckily it worked out, as then I started working as the house photographer for both Insomniac and Giant, Pioneer as well as individual DJs.
You’ve got a big spot in the LA party scene photographing for companies like Insomniac who run Electric Daisy Carnival. What’s your take on dance culture in LA?
LA is definitely the main spot in the country for dance music. We have the largest festivals, and most of them too (big cities like NY might get one or two a year, while LA can have one every other month, not counting weekly “raves”). Every major DJ always makes a stop in LA; which can’t be said for any other major city in the USA. Every week you will always have many big DJs playing multiple gigs at different spots each week. Now most of them even call it home, and are in LA making music.
Hell, the day I am writing this, Chris Lake and Funkagenda decided to look at a condo in my building (Chris looking for a place with his wife, and Funkagenda just “around” since he had a gig last night), and commented how they saw my car in the garage and decided not to do something evil to it.