In an interesting and unconventional approach to capturing dynamics displayed during a DJ set, a new project by photographer Kat (real name Fabrice Caterini) aims to blur the lines and broaden the lens of conventional music photography.
“With this project, I aim to shatter the way we are looking at and represent music photography and specifically DJs. Using the computational possibilities of the high-key mono portrait mode of smartphones, I’m isolating DJs from their background and instrument.” Caterini says speaking to PetaPixel.
See video below:
Caterini, who has a background in photojournalism and cinematography, has spent years utilizing photos as tools for change. A personal compass that has been further energized by the works of photographers such as Eugene Smith or Stanley Greene.
When working on a previous project to capture and document the atmosphere of the electro-music scene, Caterini had mixed feelings about the kinds of images he or others were capturing. Finding many lacking the honesty of the kinds of dynamic moods often displayed in the electro-techno scene — particularly of DJs — Caterini then stumbled upon the idea for “We Own The Night”
“Henri Cartier Bresson was saying, ‘To make a good picture, you have to be available’; well, interestingly enough this project started by accident and I exploited it: one friend of mine was playing in Berlin and I decided to photograph her live on YouTube, with my phone. My finger had slid on the ‘wrong’ mode and the result surprised me a lot. I stuck on and on to the idea,” Caterini continues.
“Using the computational possibilities of the high-key mono portrait mode of smartphones, I’m isolating DJs from their background and instrument. Every chosen DJ set is specific, whether it’s archival footage or live, and has its own inner energy, genre, and singularity encapsulated in sixty-four squares, like a chessboard, to figure its endless possibilities.”
64 images are arranged, edited, and put through an augmented reality software which in turn creates lively animated musical sequences activated by the software.
This ambitious undertaking of the Lyon-based photographer is also an ode to cinematic greats such as Edward Muybridge.
His process, which includes numerous scouting sessions, and vetting of performances, both live or in archival footage, is a lengthy and thoughtful curation of the energetic atmospheres or ‘characters’ he thinks will best translate well, once animated.
“[…] If I’m shooting archival content, I’m scouting dozens of specific DJ sets to find the one that fits the energy I’m looking for […] When I’ve found it, I’m shooting it as if it’s live: focusing on finding expressions and key moments that matter to tell the story. For [actual] live shootings, I’m going to clubs or venues, mainly in Lyon where I live. It’s one of the best cities in Europe for electronic music with a very good curation every weekend and I work in collaboration with clubs and artists.” Caterini shares with PetaPixel.
“Once the 64 pictures are selected, I edit them in Lightroom (mainly crop and minimal adjustments) and then create the video. I finally edit an augmented reality sequence using a desktop app. The ideal conditions are a front angle with sufficient lightning…and a good beat.”
As for the challenges surrounding this project, Caterini spends a lot of time combing the internet to find just the right kinds of high-quality, dimensionally favorable videos to use.
“Obviously for archival content, it’s not an easy task to find the right set for the right DJ, as the recording quality is sometimes quite poor […] you have to find a well-lit HD video if possible […] During live shooting, the high-key mono mode has difficulties triggering in low light environment such as clubs.”
Also, when filming in person —as one would presume—the photographer has to quickly adapt to an extremely active unsteady environment during his shoots,
“[…] sometimes you have to do a 2- or 3-second-long exposure and wait for the results. Three seconds where you have to follow the movements of the DJ, almost like a dance. Another challenge is that people don’t understand why I stick in the front row for 20 or 30 minutes with a smartphone so I get a lot of haters until I show them the results. Plus, it’s a club, so it’s not really a quiet and steady environment!”
Although the photographer has perfected his process, he admits the newness of the technique still provides a fair amount of challenge.
“[…] this photo mode is still in its infancy and is tricky, especially in such lighting conditions,” he says. “But after years of practice, I know the pros and cons and easily get over it.”
As for equipment, Caterini’s love of experimentation has led to an offbeat utilization of his iPhone 13Pro to capture the shots for the current series. But his usual go-to’s remain as a SonyA7s3 and Leica lenses.
“ […] I’m using an iPhone 13Pro. It’s small, inconspicuous, and it’s the only camera that has the technology I need for this particular project […] I’ve got a scientific background and always try to push the boundaries of tools. I love to experiment […]Given my background in photojournalism, there is no way I’m willing to do this rendering in post. Truly I’m using the phone as just a tool, I don’t even use Photoshop in my workflow. A tool is just a tool. I want it straight.”
With each effervescent image and photo in the series that Caterini manifests, he hopes that not only do they raise questions and encourage excitement and surprise, but that the offerings of this series will last the tests of time. It’s a vision that he also wants to share with future collaborators,
“My vision is clear and I’m sticking to it because I know it’s original, unique, and has an impact. I’ve already photographed many DJs using my process and every week my list gets bigger because people suggested new ones to me. Now I feel empowered to continue and I’m looking for collaboration. ”
Feedback on ‘We Own The Night’ has been positive and very encouraging for Caterini.
“After seeing other people’s reactions to my work, especially in the techno scene, it has comforted me in my endeavors. I remember a Spanish DJ, backstage at an event, he was calling me ‘the magician’ and wanted to know everything about the technology […] This [and other comments’] are both uplifting and exciting. If traditionalists see my process from a bad eye or otherwise, well, I think you’d better evolve, or you slowly gonna fade. ”
Currently, Caterini is staying busy and learning new tools and fine tuning techniques to further his ambitions and visions for the photo genre. From platinum/palladium printing to more augmented reality and dabbling into the NFT arena, the photographer is also preparing a book and working on a photo essay titled “The End of Sight”.
Image credits: Fabrice (Kat) Caterini