Our interview series continues with Anastasia Velicescu, a Los Angeles native, born and raised in Highland Park. Currently a junior in college at USC studying communications and the music industry. She claims to not be able to hold a job for more than 6 months because of boredom. Photography is her passion and the one thing that holds her attention. Her goal is to one day produce her own festival in addition to pursuing a career in photography. You will find Anastasia taking photos at Space Yacht, Lightning in a Bottle, Outside Lands and for multiple artists like DJ Snake, Tchami, and many more.
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…
My parents gifted me my first camera when I was 15. I struggled a lot in the beginning and eventually decided to join the high school newspaper to further develop my skills. Once I finished high school, I stopped photography for a bit because I was feeling sort of uninspired with the pictures I was taking. I let myself settle in to college and took a break while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Within my first year at USC, I discovered my passion for festivals and the live music experience. I attended various festivals and I was really inspired by people’s reaction and connection to live music. The atmosphere of a festival awed me. It wasn’t just about music, but also about art, friendship, culture, and much more. It was such an intimate experience. I loved being a part of it, but I wanted to be more involved. I started taking music industry classes at USC and applied to various agencies, management companies, and record labels for internships. Unfortunately, I wasn’t receiving many responses and the few that did respond, declined me. I slowly began to realize that this industry is mainly about who you know. I realized that I had to take a different approach. At the beginning of this year I met the photo editor for The Daily Trojan, the newspaper distributed daily on the USC campus. She talked to me about her passion for travel and photography and I told her about my passion for electronic music and music festival production (we bonded instantly). After learning about my previous photography experience she insisted that I come photograph for The Daily Trojan to shoot concerts and festivals for the lifestyle section of the paper.
Since joining the Daily Trojan, I have been able to attend and photograph festivals such as Lightning in a Bottle, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Outside Lands. These were festivals that I could previously only dream about attending. After attending Lightning in a bottle, I fell in love with photography again. I remember looking at my photos and finally feeling satisfied and accomplished with my work. I realized that photography wasn’t just a way to meet people in the industry anymore, it had once again become a passion.The more festivals and concerts I photographed, the more I realized that I was capturing what inspired me to be in the music industry the first place: the incredible emotions expressed during live music events from both the artists and the audiences. The more I photographed the more I learned what I needed to focus on to capture the passion and inspiration surrounding the music at these events. I don’t just photograph the music, I also capture how it makes people feel. More recently, I’ve been attending this party every Tuesday known as Space Yacht. About two months ago, I emailed the guys who started it inquiring if I could come and photograph because I wanted to try out club photography. It seemed like a nice, small, intimate setting, prefect for the types of photos that I wanted to do. Club photography is not something I want to pursue, but I’ve fallen in love with the Space Yacht community and always seem to find myself there every Tuesday. They know how to throw the wildest parties featuring the best local talent. Taking photos at space yacht has helped me learn how to photograph people at festivals to capture the most genuine moments. I find pleasure in photographing the candid moments of both returning friendly faces and newcomers (JUST PLEASE NO PEACE SIGNS IN MY PICTURES, THANKS!)
2. What inspires and motivates you to continue pushing the limits in photography and life?
There’s many factors in my life that motivate me to really push my limits. There’s so many moments in life that I want to capture and be able to share with the world. I think that live music photography is really just the beginning for me. As much as I love it, I hope to expand. I want my photos to help make a difference in the future. I’m really inspired by the photos I see in National Geographic or blogs like Humans of New York that capture moments, which help create awareness and change.
My friends and family also always inspire me to excel past my goals and limitations. I’d like to highlight my dad for a second. He is an incredible photographer and the photos he has taken in his lifetime are absolutely stunning. From taking photos of his early life in communist Romania to breathtaking landscapes in other countries such as Bolivia or Africa, his art never fails to impress me. I hope that one day the quality of my photos will match those of his.
3. Describe your favorite festival/event shooting experience? How hectic, exciting, stressful, does it get. Any stories to share…
Shooting a festival can be extremely stressful and tiring (Especially when you have to carry a large backpack full of really heavy camera equipment for 10 or 12 hours) but I’ve kind of trained myself on how to stay relaxed, hydrated, and rested.
At EDC Las Vegas this year, I had the most terrifying experience to date. I had just finished photographing Calvin Harris’s set at the Main stage and was rushing finishing to pack up to get to catch Bassnectar. I packed my bag and exited through the center sound board area to leave, which was a terrible idea because it was PACKED. It took me half an hour to actually walk out of the crowd. I started over heating and getting supper claustrophobic about half way through it because I ran out of water. It was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside at midnight, and there was barely any room to breath in the crowd. As I got closer to my destination to change lenses I put down bag only to realize that I hadn’t zipped up the bag entirely and that one of my lenses had fallen out. I felt mortified because lenses aren’t exactly cheap to replace. I panicked and immediately tried to retrace my steps, but eventually realized that was a waste of time. The next morning I emailed Insomniac asking to send a mass email to all their photographers and all of the press who attended to see if anyone picked something up. At this point, I was pretty convinced that this lens was long gone. There’s really no way it would have survived if it had fallen from my bag onto concrete and then trampled by thousands of moving attendants. Approximately a week later I get an email back from Insomniac saying they had found my lens and that it was waiting for me at the Beverly Hills office. I went to pick it up the next week and it was given back to me in perfect condition! To make things even better, the week after at Space Yacht a girl came up to me and introduced herself and told me she was the one who found my lens. MY MIND WAS BLOWN. All I could do was embrace and thank her because I really didn’t need an explanation for this miracle. (I am forever grateful, special shout out to Kelsey from Insomniac!)
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?
This was my first time ever photographing flume, which was a big deal for me because his music really drives my passion for the music industry and photography. Full disclosure here: I actually cried a little watching this set because I just connected so well with it. When I look at this picture, I see everything that I feel when I listen to his music. It has a very dark and hazy ambiance, but one that is also very inviting. Although you can’t see his face, there’s just so much expression in his body language. I remembered looking at this picture and feeling like I had captured the essence of his music (in my opinion), however I didn’t think so at first. I sifted through approximately 600 pictures and somehow managed to narrow it down to this one after staring at it for long enough. My short term goal is to actually move to Australia for a few years and work for Future Classic. Whenever I look at this photo, I am constantly reminded that persistence and passion will get me there.
5. What makes a great live music/festival photo?
A picture from a concert or festival is supposed to create desire in the viewer. It’s important to try to take something that will make people want to be there at all costs. A good photo will capture the atmosphere of the event while also depicting it’s energy and excitement. The photo should be bringing the music and audience to life, even though you can’t physically hear any of it. I also think that some of the best photos are those that bring nostalgia. It’s really important for people too be able to look at the picture and instantly be reminded of that moment and feeling of being there. Nostalgia is what will make people return every year. I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s not just about the music, but also the overall experience.
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.
Electronic Dance culture really means a lot to me because it helped me discover what I really wanted to do with my life. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I don’t think I would’ve discovered my passion for music and it’s impact on people If I hadn’t gone to that one rave (thanks Escape). My taste in music has broadened ever since and I am forever grateful for the introduction! The industry itself has become massive over the past few years, and is still growing. I like to think of it as a giant bubble that’s growing, but will pop at some point. Right now, people like Gary Richards and Pasqualle Rotella stand on what seem to be empires of EDM. It will never die, but will lose popularity at some point. I think it’s reaching it’s peak right now, but as ticket prices become more expensive every year to attend events like these, people will find other and cheaper ways to entertain themselves. I think it’s a great culture though; I love the fire and energy behind it. As for the fans, I don’t like speaking on behalf of others, I’ll let my photos do that for me!
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