Our photographer interview series continues with Los Angeles based Blaise Joseph Castellano, a concert and lifestyle photographer born and raised in Englewood, Florida. While attending school at UCF, he discovered dance music culture and began capturing concerts every week at the local venues, quickly becoming one of the most booked dance music photographers in Florida.
Since starting his own photography business, he has photographed for numerous artists and promotional companies, documenting their shows at various venues throughout the nation. His clients have included Insomniac, Groove Cruise, Eyewax Films, Spring Weekend, Adventure Club, 7UP, Sundown Music Festival, 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?
When I was a kid, I would sketch a lot but I also had two hand-me-down old SLRs that took 35mm rolls that I brought around with me. I grew up in a small town on the Gulf Coast where during my free time, I was skateboarding with friends, on a boat, or at the beach. When I felt the need to go digital, I was able to pick up Fujifilm's FinePix S9100 and began experimenting with Photoshop to process the images. My early images consist of a lot of landscape photography, skateboarding, skimboarding, surfing, and wakeskating. My interest in photography was reinforced after attending photography and Photoshop workshops in 2008 at The Ringling School of Art & Design, as well as studio photography workshops at the Art Institute. Shortly after the workshops, I bought a Canon 30D for it’s high frame rate to shoot skateboarding. When my skater friends formed bands (mostly metal) to play local shows at skateparks and warehouses around that same time, I started experimenting with music photography.
I enjoyed photographing the things happening around me and it was reinforcing how stoked my friends were to have photos of themselves expressing their talents. I broke into dance music photography while attending UCF in Orlando, Florida. Orlando is a fun little metropolitan area that has a really strong college and nightlife scene ranging from country bars to dance music, dive bars, speakeasies, hip-hop nights, and more. A good friend was having a birthday party at her apartment and I brought my camera. At the party I met a new friend, a talented photographer and chef who photographed downtown often. He invited me to join him on assignment capturing party bus groups as they parade in downtown Orlando. This was the first time I started nightlife photography in 2011. I was soon introduced to the Alliance Nightlife crew and I began to photograph “IGNITION at Firestone Live” every Thursday. IGNITION was “Orlando’s Only Indoor Music Festival,” the party featured 5 rooms each with their own genre of dance music and lineup of local producer DJs.
At first, my photos of IGNITION were focused on the people, the normal nightlife stuff. As IGNITION started booking a headliner for each week, I put the flash away to shoot low light and began to focus more on the concert atmosphere. At that point I was hooked. I kept photographing Orlando nightlife and was given the opportunity to photograph EDC Orlando 2012 for insomniac by the help of a local promoter involved with the festival. My work was getting noticed and shortly after, Evolve Group gave me an offer to become their in-house photographer. I accepted the position to create photo and video content from all of their shows in Orlando. I photographed for Evolve Group every week, among other freelance gigs until I graduated from UCF, then made the move to Los Angeles in June of 2015. I love Southern California, it’s my version of Florida with everything I need to stay inspired, explore my boundaries, surf, and keep pushing my business.
2. What inspires and motivates you to continue pushing the limits in photography and life?
An awesome aspect of photography is that there are so many motivators. The beauty of the world and its cultures, for one. I’m also inspired by music, action sports, fashion, among other similar things. However, as much as photography is about the aesthetic, it does take a strong business mind if you choose to pursue it full time. A major motivator for me is working with clients closely, then seeing their reaction towards the image, to the point where they decide to put it out. I jump at the opportunity for someone to trust me with their brand or product, I feel like it’s my job to deliver the best version of what the client envisions. Also, in many ways I am motivated by those around me, especially photographers and friends I collaborate with. I want to continue for those who took the time to help me out or give me feedback. My family has always inspired and supported me with the things they do... shout out to them.
3. Describe your favorite festival/event shooting experience? How hectic, exciting, stressful, does it get. Any stories to share…
I appreciate that each festival has it’s own personality for shooting and experience. They are all equally exciting and full of bright, colorful lighting. Club life in Florida gave me so many exciting, crazy dirty nights, and stressful experiences: I was taking photos in Orlando the night some kid fell through the ceiling trying to sneak in the DJ SNAKE show, I've been booked by artists to shoot their performance on major stages only to have the promoters fail at promoting and hardly a crowd shows up, I've shot in pouring rain at Ultra this year, I've partied with Hulk Hogan at Hogan’s Beach, I’ve been tipped cash to not photograph bros in VIP... it’s exciting all the people you meet. There are so many other nights, I cannot even begin to type. It is all really exciting at the end of the day... as long as no one gets hurt.
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?
A huge part of the dance music lifestyle, to me, is witnessing those nights that are rare. I love super intimate shows, the first touring DJ I photographed was Fedde Le Grande as he played for 120 people in a club that hit capacity at 115 persons. Looking back, Orlando has had a lot of really amazing tours and artists come to perform in the city. In 2012, Zedd and Porter Robinson’s Poseidon Tour made a stop in Orlando. Their performance still goes down as my favorite back-to-back; second is a legendary Clockwork B2B Dillon Francis set. I feel like it was one of those occasions that may not happen again. This portrait of Zedd and Porter gets saved as one of those epic photos where I look back and feel very grateful to have been given the opportunity to photograph so many talented artists while I was only a student in college.
5. What makes a great live music/festival photo?
It often depends on who you are shooting for that will decide what the subject matter will be. But, a great live music photo will always have substance. The image should be well exposed, composed, timed, balanced, have atmosphere, as well as represent the event in the best way possible. The lines should lead your eyes around the photo, or focus towards one special moment.
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.
Without dance music, I would just be another kid with a camera. #Kanye2020
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