Digital Photography Meets Digital Music with DJ Eelke Kleijn

Much like my passion for photography, I find music to be essential in life - be it when shooting in the studio, during my daily commute, or even when relaxing at home. Regardless of what mood one might be in or in my case trying to evoke from a talent on set, music's magic just makes things better. Fridrich Nietzsche put it best, "Without music, life would be a mistake" and I couldn't agree more.

Rewind back to summer 2015 when I stumbled upon the awesome Mixmag YouTube channel featuring Eelke Kleijn melodic house set in The Lab LA. I must have replayed the video countless times and still do, quickly making Eelke Kleijn one of my favourite producers and DJs around. Fast forward to summer's end 2016 and I noticed that Eelke had a gig in Toronto at NEST. I quickly ordered tickets and other than just checking out the show, I wanted to capture him in action. Thanks to his team and the OZMOZIS crew, I was granted the awesome opportunity.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I arrived at the club to take in Eelke's 2am - 5am set. The venue was beautifully lit with hues of blue and pops of warm tones from the Edison bulbs framing the DJ booth or rather nest - hence the name of the club. Although the dark and soothing atmosphere works well for the dancing crowd, it did pose a challenge to photograph Eelke. Thankfully, I was armed with my trusty Canon 1Dx, two essential lenses, and one flash; I was ready to take on the obstacles head-on.

As a fellow artist, I understand the level of Eelke's artistic focus when on set and I didn't want to disturb him while shooting. As such, I refrained from using my flash as much as possible. When I did end up using the Speedlite, it was bounced off the low ceiling and indirectly. Cranking the ISO (film speed) to 3200 and higher at times, I was able to compensate for the pitch-black light situation without any worry.

Typical photography of musical artists tend to be more action-shot based and staged, but with my editorial style of shooting I wanted to capture Eelke Kleijn in a different manner. The perspective that I took is one of a candid photo-journalistic style. The focus was more on Eelke's art in the manipulation of his turntables and mixer, blending each tune seamlessly, and keeping the crowd bumping through the night.

The club's lighting system perfectly complimented the mood that I was going for, framing Eelke in a cast of blue with bursts of red popping around. Very rarely does anyone get to experience what it's like to be in the DJ booth during a show, looking onto the swaying crowd below. From this perspective, Eelke is in a solitary world lost in his music - both beautiful and poetic. This is truly one of my favourite shots of the night.

By mid-show I began to wander around the club and stumbled upon a narrow opening on the side of the stage between the truss and massive speakers. Providing a #behindthescenes look at his performance, I converted the shot to a black and white so as to keep the focus on Eelke.

Itching to get on the dancefloor to get a different angle and take in the show, I noticed a woman popping out her smartphone for a photo-op. I got behind her and was able to capture this "photo inception" frame - yes, a picture of a picture. As much as the focus of this photoshoot was to capture Eelke Kleijn, it's also crucial to remember the fans who support the artist and see things through their eyes or in this case, their iPhone.

By the wee hours of 4am, my internal clock was fried and I had to get at least one shot of the man himself - DJ Eelke Kleijn. During his short 10-second break to drink some water, I was able to get him to look back and managed to snap this frame. Although there's a better portrait of him in the gallery below, I found this shot to be most intriguing. You'd think that a person like Eelke with a slammed tour schedule travelling from city to city every night would wear him out, however, he's still smiling and more lively than ever. Steve Jobs put it best by saying, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

I believe that this final image encapsulates my experience in photographing Dutch producer and DJ Eelke Kleijn in Toronto. His focus and dedication to his art of music are a contagious source of inspiration for me. A big shout-out of gratitude to his manager Jeroen, his North American agent Paul (SPIN Artist Agency), and Oz (OZMOZIS) for making this opportunity possible. Thank you to Eelke Kleijn for not only an awesome set to dance to, but also for your hospitality and letting me watch what you do best!