There aren't too many people who follow electronic culture that don't know about Rukes. We take that back. Everyone knows who he is, but the actual story that surrounds the ubiquitous moniker behind the lens goes much deeper than you might expect. His name is Drew Ressler, but even that detail is hidden behind the most well-known and revered photographer identity in dance music.
It sits in the corner of each perfectly timed and captured photograph at every major festival, begging some people to question whether this is one man or a whole team. The answer is one man, but yes, he does seem to be everywhere at all times. In a recent interview with Billboard, we get to hear more about how that ascension began.
Before photography, it was always video games for Ressler. He got his start as a video game tester, and attributes his love for pixel art and the ability to form art out of squares to this time of his life. This is where he developed his aesthetic behind the lens, seeking influence from gaming and directors like Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick.
In a bold career move after the video game company he worked for went bankrupt in 2004, he decided to make the journey from New York to LA to try something new. This would be photography, and his roots were what you wold call humble. Hitting up any DJ playing Avalon Nightclub in Hollywood, he would photograph their sets on his recently purchased DSLR camera in a time when everyone wasn't doing this.
He saw an opportunity, and this quickly took off. Next thing you know he would meet Tommy Lee and DJ Aero, and this led to the moment that truly started it all: meeting deadmau5. Next thing you know he was shooting for the masked DJ at WMC, and eventually around the world. After that, everyone wanted those pristine shots that deadmau5 was flaunting.
This was a time long before DJ's had photographers traveling with them and capturing their every move, and it's helped shape the way live music and also the moments off stage are captured. In more recent memory, he has also become the photographer most associated with the rise of Zedd and his album Clarity.
What's next for Rukes? While festival photography will always be his niche, there is room for expansion. He has been practicing more press shots, and is starting to learn how to shoot footage to get more involved with video.
Humble beginnings, and although things have changed for Ressler, he continues to keep that same demeanor. So next time you see the name Rukes on the corner of any festival photograph, remember the story behind the name that stemmed from the word "rules" misspelled in a video game chat room.