An interview with photographer Jake West (#1)

Posted by Drew Nilon on

After months of anticipation, festival weekend comes and goes in a blur. Thankfully we live in 2015 and have a slew of digital options to remember the unforgettable time we had. The dance music industry does a particularly good job with post production photography, which allows festival goers the best possible opportunity to relive the experience. It is the people behind these photos that we will choose to focus on. They allow us to relive those precious moments while helping us to imagine being at the ones we may have missed. Each photographer interviewed will be sharing the top festivals they've shot at, the best photo they've ever taken, and what the fans, culture, and industry mean to them.

First up, we have Jacob Lifschultz (Jake West), a sandwich destroyer and event photographer from Boston living in LA. During the day you can find him working at an art agency in Hollywood. By night, he is traveling the country taking photos of/at.... Coachella, Ultra, TomorrowWorld, Electric Zoo, Made In America, Identity Festival, CRSSD, Nero, Audien, Hook N Sling, Milo & Otis, Dubs/Doppler Labs, 7UP, and many more. Jake is a core member of the Insomniac Photo Team and Head of Photography at Dancing Astronaut.

1. What got you interested in photography and when did you start in the dance music industry? Give us a little overview of how and when you started to where you are now...

At some point when I was a teenager, I realized that live music is awesome. We all know this to be true, but being in the middle of it all was a feeling I pursued right from the start. That chase began when my family gave me a Canon t1i as a graduation present from high school, and I went about shooting as many concerts as I could. Started shooting for Dancing Astronaut in 2012 (thanks to my friend Skyler Greene), which was my first exposure to more electronic music events. Kept working as hard as I could, and last summer, I got a call from Insomniac. The next thing I knew, I was photographing EDC Las Vegas alongside some of the best men and women in the business. It’s been an incredible ride so far, and I’m looking forward to what’s next.

2. What inspires and motivates you to continue pushing the limits in photography and life?

There are a few things that keep me moving forward, like my family, friends, and peers, but the most important thing all has to be the internal desire to better yourself. It really has to come from within. You can absolutely have moments where you’re happy with your performance at a show (or in life), but if you settle, you plateau. Staying stationary is a great way to go nowhere fast. Also: remembering to eat is key. You guys got any sandwiches? I’m hungry.

3. Describe your favorite festival/event shooting experience? How hectic, exciting, stressful, does it get? Any stories to share...

Some of my favorite festivals are the Electric Daisy Carnivals. There’s so much happening everywhere all at once. It’s amazing. At least, now it is. My first EDC was Las Vegas in 2014, and I had no idea what was going on...but being surrounded with such a remarkably talented and supportive photo team at Insomniac has been one of the major keys to my improvements as a photographer over the past year. Also, photographing at Coachella for Nero was definitely one of my favorite gigs so far this year. Been a fan of theirs since 2009. Then we went and watched AC/DC play the main stage together. That was radical.

4. Tell us a little about a photograph you took that gives you chills every time you look at it? Describe the feeling and did you know it when you took the photo?

One of my favorite shots came from the Above & Beyond show at The Forum in Los Angeles earlier this year. Right at the end of the show, they lit up a giant disco ball in the ceiling, and there were people everywhere cheering, kissing, crying, and hugging. There was so much emotion in the room. I sprinted to the back of the crowd to get the shot, and I remember audibly exclaiming, “YES” with a fist pump. Everything just came together. I’ll never forget that show.

5. What makes a great live music/festival photo?

Energy. Emotion. An image can be technically outstanding with all the proper stuff... sharpness, composition, color, lighting, and so on, but it should make you feel something. It has to be visceral. Looking at the photo should move you in some way. If you can show someone a picture and get an audible or physical reaction from them, you’ve done something right. Searching for those micro-moments and shock-and-awe shots is a big part of what drives me at shows. I want to make the viewer of the photo feel what it was like to be there with just a still image.

6. What does electronic dance culture and music mean to you? Give us your insight into the industry and the fans you shoot on a daily basis.

I think it’s important to keep an open mind and keep exploring what’s out there, in terms of the music. I remember hearing Armin Van Buuren say a few years ago: “don’t be a prisoner of your own style.” I think that’s really important, but so is not becoming a slave of anyone else’s style. With respect to the culture, it is what you make it. Find what moves you. Music is the universal language and it’s one of the best ways to connect with other human beings. If it makes you dance, it’s dance music. Simple as that. I’m a drummer and anything with a solid groovy beat will get my head bobbing. I’m really excited to hear what new ways producers are going to try to make us move next. The fans are amazing, there’s so much positivity that comes with loving this music. I’m always stoked when someone recognizes me and says hello at a show.

To follow Jake West and scroll through more of his pictures, please visit....

Instagram - @jakewestphoto

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