Crowdsurfer: Tell us how you got into shooting shows, how long you’ve been doing it and why you started.
Dusty Kessler: I’ve been shooting music since 2010 when my best friend was starting to perform as a local DJ. I would help him book shows by sending emails to promoters then bring my cameras with me to the shows, maybe there would be 25-50 people there. I started venturing out on my own and hitting up local promoters and other friends in the music scene and was just shooting for free for a while. Eventually that developed into some good business relationships that I still have today with some artists. I guess I started just because I loved live action and music. I never knew it could be a potential career path starting out but i’m thankful to still be shooting.
CS: What are some of your favorite shots you’ve taken over the years and why?
DK: One of my first favorite shots in memory was with G-Eazy, who I still collaborate with frequently. We shot it in Kansas City, MO, while I was in college. He was crowd surfing and I had a strobe in the back of the venue for extra light that I popped off while the confetti blast happened. I’ll never forget that one.
Recently I’ve been working with Miguel and a few months ago we shot at a festival in California. The shot of him with pryro going off in the background ended up being used on his tour merch so that was an amazing moment. To know there are people on the other side of the world wearing clothes with my image on it is amazing.
CS: What do you think is the hardest part about live concert and portrait photography?
DK: The hardest part for me is also the most fun part which is conveying to the viewer what it was like to be there in person and show the human aspect of the artist. When I’m working with an artist 1 on 1 it’s always a challenge that I break down the barrier between the camera and the subject.
CS: Your aesthetic includes a lot of film photography. Do you prefer film over digital? How has your style evolved over time to your signature style that you use now?
DK: I love film and digital. Film is the best medium to be creative and challenge yourself to slow down and frame up a shot. Yes I have shot film a few times during live concerts but it’s more often that I’ll shoot digital for the performance and any backstage or BTS stuff I’ll shoot a mix of film and digital. Sometimes with such quick turn around times I have to only shoot digital to deliver fast. I think my style has always been about being honest and not staging my shots.
CS: Who are some of the people you’ve gotten to photograph, and who is your dream artist to get to photograph one day?
DK: It’s a very extensive list. Recently I’ve still been shooting with G-Eazy and Miguel. Others include Jamie XX, Hitboy, Ava Max, 5 Seconds Of Summer, 070 Shake, Dan and Shay, Maroon 5 and many more. I’ve shot a lot of artists but I think a dream artist who I’d really like to be on tour with is someone who’s not even known yet to the public. I really like working with artists who are small and develop their brand image and creative. But a Billie tour would be fire too (shout out Matty Vogel)
CS: What do you love about shooting shows and the whole touring experience?
DK: I just love tour and meeting new people all around the world who care about music and come together for that reason. There’s nothing like a live sold out show or festival or tour.
CS: What would your advice be to young photographers just starting out?
DK: Find new artists and be in A&R. Reach out to people and offer your services for free at first and build with them creatively. The rest will come with time and just keep shooting every day no matter what type of camera you have or subject you shoot.
CS: Love that. What’s next for you, and what are your plans for this year?
DK: Right now is a scary time for those in my industry. With the touring and music industry on hold we have to stay creative and get through this together. Hopefully in the next 6 months things get back to normal.
CS: Definitely. Anything else you want to add?
DK: I love hearing from new people. Send me a message on IG @dkessler.