Here’s a setting we’re all too familiar with. You should be working, but instead you find yourself travelling down the endless Internet rabbit hole of memes, social media sites, YouTube videos, news sites, blogs etc. While in the midst of this infinite guilty pleasure, I find I am always drawn towards memories of fun times. There’s something magical about looking through photo albums, and transporting back to that moment. Capturing the moment is a unique talent, and is one talent this month’s feature artist exhibits constantly. If you’ve been anywhere near the Calgary bass scene, follow some of the artists on Circle Management, or have been to Shambhala Music Festival, you are likely already familiar with his work. I’m talking about Stoked on Photos.
Stoked is a pillar in our community, always present during fun times, and quick to share them with us all. All You Need is Bass met with Stoked for a Q&A about what he’s been up to, his Supreme Hustle photo gig and his favourite shots of all time.
So, let’s start at the beginning with you. How did you get bit by the shutterbug and know that you wanted to get into photography?
S: It’s actually a weird story. I was seeing a girl for a couple years, and we booked a cruise for our 21st birthdays. At the time, I just had a really shitty point and shoot. I wasn’t really thinking long term with it. I had just bought a Wii, and wasn’t really playing it much. I decided a wanted a really nice camera for my cruise, so I sold my Wii and went out and bought an entry level digital SLR thinking this is bad ass, I’m going to get some really good pictures. Went down there, and had NO idea how to use it at all. I was trying to read the manual to figure out what do to. Came home … was very disappointed. Photos were shit. I probably could have gotten better ones with my point and shoot. Then I was like no, I dropped a grand on this shit, I’m going to figure out how to work it. What am I gonna do, sell it? No. I really enjoy taking pictures, I’m gonna learn how to do it. So from there I just kinda taught myself. I messed around with settings as much as I could, shot a couple hundred pictures a day, and kinda went from there.
How long ago was that now?
S: That was five years ago. Since then it’s just been kind of a constant upgrading. My cousin was a wedding photographer and had two kids, and didn’t have the time to do it anymore. She offered me a really, really good deal on my 5D Mark II. It was perfect. So, yeah, I was super stoked.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Event photography is what really spurred everything for me.[/quote] Once you had that interest, did you start thinking right away that you wanted to do this as a job?
S: Yeah, you know, I had a few friends that were photographers at the time, and I knew a lot of artsy people, and I saw them making a living off of it. At first I just felt it was more of a hobby for me, until I got into event photography. Event photography is what really spurred everything for me. At that point I was like ok, this might be feasible. Especially when I started seeing money come in. But it’s a tough, tough world out there to make a living off art. I’ve seen it multiple times where there’s been a lot of buzz around my work, and then it just tapers off, and then it comes back. You just keep at it and keep going hard. In the next year I want to really hone my craft and work on some bigger and better stuff.
Did you go to school to learn or is it all self taught?
S: All self taught. I read a lot of stuff on forums. Photography on the Net is huge; it’s an all Canon specific forum. There’s a thread on there that’s been going for three years all about nightclub photography. So you get all these people from all around the world that shoot event photography. They post their stuff up, and it gets critiqued.
In the very beginning what were you shooting with?
S: A Rebel Xti with the stock 18-55mm lens. When I got it I think the ISO went up to 1600 max. My 5D Mark II can go up to 6400 and I can even push it further if I wanted to. I had a 50mm 1.8 which is a really, really cool lens, and a friend broke it so I have to buy it again. It’s cheap but it’s a killer lens. So yeah, that’s how I started.
Once you got started did you go straight into event photography? What sort of things did you like to shoot in the beginning?
S: People. People have always been a really big thing for me. I love portraits. I think you can capture a lot of stuff in a picture.
AYNIB: It’s cheesy to say, but a picture can be worth 1000 words.
S: 100 percent, definitely. It’s really cool, I’ve always loved portraiture. I think that’s kinda how I got into event photography. Well, that was Mark [Instinct] more than anything.
Was Mark Instinct the first DJ you ever shot?
S: Probably. Because I was in the rave scene from 15- 19, and then I just kind of took a break because the city was dead. There were a couple years where it was kind of just… But yeah, Mark just hit me up and was like “hey, we’re starting this new promotion group, you should come out.” So I was like “Ok, sure.” This was the time that Sheena (aka Donna Dada, Freq Magazine Editor) was doing the photos, so I met Sheena through it, so yeah that’s how I got into it.
Would you say that event photography is your favourite thing to shoot now, or is it something like portraits?
S: I love shooting event photography, it’s something that I’ll always have a passion for. But I’m realistic in thinking that it’s not a lifetime type of photography I can do. No one’s going to appreciate a 45 year old dude in a club with 18 year olds and taking their picture.
AYNIB: Well I guess that just depends on how things evolve in general.
S: Yeah this is true. But I’ve been doing it for three years and I think it might have an expiry rate. I don’t know if it’s soon, or if it’s a few years from now …
AYNIB: or if it’s 15 years from now.
S: Yeah exactly. Things are evolving very quickly, and with the loss of venues it’s hard to say exactly. It’s a very unpredictable time in the music scene.
AYNIB: Volatile even.
S: Completely. Even for the punk and metal with Distillery closing. I think in the long run you’re going to see a lot of promotional companies and people that have a lot of influence in the scene buying up venues.
When you started your Supreme Hustle gig, that was Mark Instinct that got you into that?
S: Yeah, that was Mark. We’ve been friends for … Oh God, let’s see … almost 12 years now.
And in the beginning it was you and Sheena shooting? Did you kind of shoot together?
S: Yeah, we shot together. I think she was doing it for the love of it, I think she just kinda showed up to take pictures. I’m thinking back, and I think my first show I shot for Supreme Hustle was at What About Bobs. I honestly don’t even know who I shot. It was either Caspa or Rusko, but I was so far attached from the electronic music scene when I came back into it that I had no idea who was even current. I remembered AK 1200 and Dieselboy, and all the people I grew up listening to, but at the time I didn’t really know.
AYNIB: I was going to ask you if you remembered the first artist you shot.
S: Yeah, I can’t really remember. I know it was at What About Bobs, I know Mark was playing, I know Slim played, and I think Naveen (Melonade) played. Other than that I don’t really remember. I think my first position title was Bassface 1 at Dickens with Doorly, Noah D and Nero. Pretty epic to see Nero in such a small venue. It was packed, and I go back to the picture sometimes and I see a lot of people that I didn’t know at the time, but they actually became really good friends of mine in the scene. It’s pretty cool to see the evolution of it.
Well, you’ve done A LOT of shows now, countless really. Are there any that stand out in your mind as a favourite?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Probably my favourite show photography wise was Nero at Flames Central. [/quote]
S: There’s so many. I guess photography wise mine have always been Flames Central shows. It’s a good venue, it has good architecture. I love Ten, Ten is fantastic. It’s really fun to work with the LED wall. You can get some bleed on the artists, and the lighting they have on the crowd… I shot Seven Lions and that night I felt really inspired. Something just clicked and the photos turned out really well. I’m in the middle of working on them and I’m really happy with them. Probably my favourite show photography wise was Nero at Flames Central. I got this one picture, black and white, his hand goes up in the air, and just the way his hand went up, he had a leather jacket that opened up just a bit…
AYNIB: You just captured the moment.
S: Yeah totally. Another one was Chase and Status at Flames Central with MC Rage. Absolutely nuts. A lot of those ones have been career shots for me. EDC as well. I shot EDC in 2011, that was pretty nuts. Hard to capture photography wise.
Were you at Electric Daisy Carnival as an official photographer?
S: Yeah, Smash Gordon was in town, and he hit me up. He had known my work because a lot of the Circle Artists had used my work before and had posted my stuff on their Facebook, plus Mark was part of Circle. So Steve hit me up, he was going on tour with Skism across Western Canada, so he asked me if I wanted to join him on tour, so I hit up his three or four dates in Canada and got my first little taste of touring – brutal. I don’t know how some people do it. I mean, I love seeing new places, but there isn’t a lot of time to see. You finish the show, you party, and you get two hours of sleep and pack your shit and get to the airport and do it all over again. If you’re doing short flights, like an hour each way, there’s not much time for sleep because you’re spending more time in the airport than on the plane.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Music wise I prefer electronic now. I’ll still listen to punk and metal when the mood occurs, but I find the environment is more welcoming.[/quote] As far as event photography, are electronic shows actually your favourite to shoot? Because you’ve done some punk and metal as well.
S: Well, in terms of punk and metal I have a really strong foundation in those scenes from my teenage years. The first concerts I ever went to were punk and metal shows at the Multicultural Center. Belvedere, Downway, Satanic Surfers … a lot of really awesome local stuff. So I grew up listening to that and then I evolved into the electronic scene. Music wise I prefer electronic now. I’ll still listen to punk and metal when the mood occurs, but I find the environment is more welcoming. Everyone’s really chill, they’re just there to have a good time, where punk and metal shows can get really rowdy. Gear wise, that’s scary shit. Mosh pit photos are great photos, and I don’t mind risking my body for those kinds of shots …
But when you have to risk a piece of gear that’s worth $10,000, it’s just not worth it?
S: Exactly. I have insurance on my gear, which is something I did right off the bat, and it’s paid off because I’ve had to use it. But it’s scary to put yourself in that kind of situation, because you never know how long it’s going to take an insurance claim to go through.
Do you have a series of favourite shots in general that go together?
S: Well I guess a lot of them have the same theme, of people having fun. Anything from Shamabhala always goes really well together.
S: I actually went to New York a few years ago and literally fell in love with that place. I took a lot of pictures in Coney Island. Coney Island was probably one of my favourite places I checked out. One of my main inspirations was the movie the Warriors. It’s a 1970s cult film about these street gangs. One of the most iconic shots in that film for me is at the beginning there’s this really cryptic, dark music, and they show the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island, and it’s all lit up purple. It’s just stuck with me forever, so when I went to New York I was like, ok I’m going to Coney Island and I’m taking a picture of this Wonder Wheel. I was able to do that, and I actually have it blown up on a canvas in my living room above my couch. Anything New York goes really, really well together. At the time I was still rocking my Xti and I had just gotten a fish eye, and I probably abused the fish eye a little too much because I had just gotten it and it was a novelty. I kind of wish I had a wider not fishy lens, but all my New York photos go together really well, especially Times Square.
Is there someone that you look up to in the photography world?
S: Yeah there’s actually quite a few. Rukes is one of my favourite event photographers. He’s kind of set the standard.
Have you met Rukes? Didn’t he shoot EDC?
S: Yes, I met him at EDC when I went there. He’s number one in the field, and has toured with everybody in electronic music. There’s actually a few friends that are local too, my buddy Ty Carson. He shoots for Fast Forward, he was the photographer for the Calgary Stampede, he shoots for the CORE, like TD Square… he’s a really influential guy, and he’s making a living at it. He’s always been there for me, he kills it and does a really, really good job, He’s helped me with a lot of shoots, a few weddings. He’s helped me shoot a few promo photos and stuff, and he has great lighting skills. Another person is Kenneth Locke. His portraits are fantastic, he does a really good job. His lighting is also fantastic. And another person is Chris Roberge from Clear Images out in Kelowna.
You and Chris Roberge collabed to start Clearly Stoked at Shambhala together, right?
S: Yeah it turned out really well.
Are you guys going to do that again?
S: I’m not sure what we’re going to team up on again.
So, there are plans to team up, you’re just not sure on what?
S: Yeah, we came up with this idea, I’m not sure if it was this Sham or the year before. We’ve always gotten along, and I’m not even sure how we met. I think I may have met him on Facebook, I knew he was shooting out in Kelowna for Sapphire and a few other clubs out there, and I really liked his work. We got to talking, and him and I have gotten really close. He may be moving out this way, and if that’s the case we’ll be doing a lot more collabs. He does a lot of video. I think if he ends up moving here it’ll probably be photography on my side and video on his.
Any plans for you to start video?
S: I get asked that so much. I’d love to. I’ve tried in the past. The taking of the video isn’t the hard part, it’s the editing after I failed at.
AYNIB: It’s cruise photos all over again?
S: Exactly! I don’t know if my mind is just wired in the way where it’s better frozen in time, or that I’ve been doing it so long that it’s hard for me to get out of that. I’ve never been good at writing either, and I think that’s part of video, telling a story. I want to learn, I don’t have the free time right now. I think if Chris and I had time together to sit down we’d be able to teach each other some stuff. If anything I wanna collab more on actual photo shoots with him. He does a lot of weddings, and a lot of model stuff out in Kelowna. I would do more of that, but the landscape here doesn’t really facilitate a lot of that. I’m getting really, really sick of using the eighth ave and 12 ave alleys downtown. I’ve used those spots a lot and they’re getting a little played out for me. Even the bank, I’ve done two or three promo shoots there and a wedding formal, so that venue right now is cut off.
AYNIB: I guess that’s why you would benefit from having a studio space.
S: Well that’s it right? There is lots of studio space around. There is another possible collab I’ve been discussing with Andreas Tiedemann. Not sure how that’s going to work out, painter and photographer, but we’ve been talking about it. We both want to do something outside of our norms.
AYNIB: That sounds interesting!
Any more collabs on the go?
S: Not at the moment, but I’m always open to any type of collab.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]I would love to go over to Europe to shoot, something like Innovation in the Sun would be amazing[/quote] Do you think you and Chris will hit any other sort of festivals this summer?
S: I don’t know really. I haven’t taken a vacation in a really long time that didn’t involve a working vacation. This summer I might take a break, but it’s hard to say. I would love to go over to Europe to shoot, something like Innovation in the Sun would be amazing; I’m a huge drum and bass head, so even to attend as a spectator would be amazing. The states always have really cool stuff too. The one venue I really want to shoot in North America is Red Rocks. I talked to Samples when he was here, and he was telling me how cool it is. I remember when I was younger and I was watching MTV or Much Music, and back then they played electronic music documentaries, and I actually watched one that had the Chemical Brothers live at Red Rocks. Not only did I love the Chemical Brothers at that time but it also opened my mind to what else is out there, and what you can do with electronic music. I’ve seen photos of Bassnectar and Excision, and it’s the one spot I really want to hit.
AYNIB: There’s some pretty crazy festivals at the Gorge too, like Sasquatch. It’s a good mix of Djs and bands.
S: Yeah, for sure, that’s something else I would really love to get into, concert photography. The thing is there are so many artists out there now that are doing rights grabs. I’m part of a page on Facebook called Music Photographers, and what they’ll do is someone will toss them what the release is for a tour. The rules are crazy, like you can’t use it on your portfolio, you can’t use it for anything other than what’s approved by management, and you can only shoot the first three songs.
AYNIB: It’s getting really competitive too. It’s a really hard environment to learn in.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]If it wasn’t for the people that attended these events, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. [/quote] S: For sure. I sometimes get that too. I’m lucky that people know who I am when I go out. For the most part people are pretty awesome to me. I usually get a high five or a handshake and I’ll ask someone if they want their picture taken. If it wasn’t for the people that attended these events, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I think sometimes a lot of artists forget that. Also, that it’s not just the fans that got them where they are, it’s everyone. It’s writers, it’s photographers, it’s promoters, it’s everyone. What I’ve found with a lot of artists too, and I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but even a couple years ago it seemed to be really about community and people learning from each other. Now it seems like it’s about one-upping and who can brag the most about something. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be successful.
AYNIB: But you don’t need to be a dick.
S: Exactly. That’s the big thing. People just need to remember where they came from.
AYNIB: Yeah, at one point we were all learning.
S: Completely. We’re a community. There are some artists that do a really good job with that though. Bare is a prime example. He keeps in contact with his fans; he’s got an Instagram going. Terravita are awesome guys, the Killabits. Sam and Biz are really nice guys. Zed’s Dead keeps it real too. It’s always nice when an artist comes back and recognizes you and says hi. That’s always a great feeling when you have those type of people. I was doing Production Manager for Supreme Hustle as well, which is something that piqued my interest.
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that too. I know you were doing some stuff on the back end as well for Supreme Hustle.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]I love the nightlife industry. I will always try and be involved in it. [/quote] S: Yeah, I was doing Stage Manager and keeping the team in check, and making sure the shows run smoothly. Slim’s a busy guy, he’s got stuff coming out of the wazoo. Dealing with all the contracts and deposits, and everything that comes with being a promoter takes up so much time. He gave me that responsibility about a year ago, and it’s been really good. Not only do people know my photography but people have gotten to know me a little more now because of that role. Sometimes I have to meet people, or interact with people that you may not as a photographer. I also really like the business side of it. I love the nightlife industry. I will always try and be involved in it. Now that Distillery and Quincy’s are closed and there are less venues that need the Production Manager, I may not be doing it as much. There’s a few things coming down the works I might be doing, but I’d like to get a little bit more involved in the back end stuff. I’ve also done a lot of the Social Media for Supreme Hustle in the past, which was really enjoyable. I really enjoy that sort of stuff.
What else do you have going on? You’re doing a print sale right?
S: Yeah, I’m doing a print sale, Christmas special. It’s going on up until the 20th because after that shipping is no good. I use a printing company called PosterJack. They really like my work, and that’s really cool. I always get little notes and shit from them, which is really nice, like “really nice photo”. Prints are available, there are some restrictions. It’s $20 for an 8×10 or buy three and get it for $50.
How do people get in contact with you for your Christmas Special Print Sale?
S: They can hit me up on Facebook.
I have one last question. Do you have a favourite shot overall?
S: There’s a few. My first favourite career shot ever would have been the make up party for Subculture at Flames Central. It was a shot of Excision and the crowd and everyone up with the X’s with the purples and the yellows. I’ve tried to re-create that a few times and it’s just never worked. Bassnectar’s Honeycomb set was another one. There’s an MC Rage one from the Chase and Status show, and he’s standing up with his arms out, and I’m not religious at all, but it reminds me of that Jesus statue in Brazil.
A big thanks to Stoked for hooking us up with all his most coveted shots to share! Make sure to hit up his print sale before it’s over to bring some of the good times home.
[highlight]CHRISTMAS PRINT SALE UNTIL DECEMBER 20th, 2012!
Stoked is dropping $10 off any of his 8×10 and 8×12 prints! $20 for a print, buy 3 and you’ll get another $10 off. 3 prints for $50!
Hit him up on his facebook page to get yours! [/highlight]
CHECK OUT THE NEXT PAGE TO SEE MORE GREAT SHOTS BY STOKED ON PHOTOS