Dedicated to highlighting the best of music, art, and sustainability - our international editions of DGTL have proven to be a treat for the senses, with an array of sights and sounds for our visitors to get lost in. Within this playground of experimentation and experiences, we have often witnessed a coming together of people from all backgrounds, ages, and cultures, to make memories - over a shared love of music. With a festival of our scale, capturing these collective moments in no easy task. Thankfully, we have been fortunate enough to work with a group of talented and ground-breaking photographers - who embody the visual representation of our brand. We sat down three of our most frequent and well-known photographers of DGTL Jordy Brada, Tim Buiting, and Kirsten van Santen, as we go behind their lens to discuss their DGTL experiences, their growth alongside the festival and a few tips they would like to share with fellow photographers during the Coronavirus crisis. Here’s what they said...
Q. Can you recount your first time shooting DGTL? What was something that really stood out to you from a photography perspective?
Tim: The very first time I was photographing at DGTL festival was also the very first time for me to photograph at any festival at all. Max, who was working at DGTL at the time, gave me a press band and I could immediately get to work. Officially I was not part of the photographing team yet, but this way I was able to practice and see how everything worked behind the scenes. What impressed me most was how special it is to capture the unique moments at a festival in one picture.
By Tim Buiting
Jordy: I remember my very first time at DGTL very well. I was part of the ADE official photographers team and was sent out to help shoot the first couple of hours of a DGTL ADE night (I believe it was the one with Nina Kraviz back in 2017). The marketing director at the time asked me to stick around and shoot some more photos to see if we connected, and basically I never left. DGTL for me means: experimenting and being creative. I always take my most rewarding and out-of-the-box shots during DGTL events.
Kirsten: The first time that I shot DGTL was the second-ever edition of DGTL! For me, the festival was so innovative and cool! The look and feel was something different than all the other festivals I had shot before. No bohemian vibes - but cool, urban dressed people. They were dancing on raw concrete floors next to Graffiti walls, the Amsterdam waters, and a huge Crane overlooking the festival visitors. It was so overwhelming for me in a positive way. The lights were so cool that I couldn’t stop taking overview crowd shots at night. I arrived home after that weekend with more than 8000 photos. It took me 4 hours to decide which photos were gonna make it to the album of 200 pics. I was so proud to be DGTL’s photographer and I still am.
Q. Having photographed many of DGTL’s editions over the years – can you name a few themes in your work that have grown alongside the festival?
Tim: I used to have a specific image in my mind in which all lines and lightings fit together perfectly. Through the years I have been shifting my attention to the visualization of emotions. This can be either the emotion of the artist or the emotion of the visitor, but most important is to capture their passion for music and the smiles on their faces. Of course, in the back of my mind I am still thinking about the lines and the lightnings but it has become less important. I want to express feelings through images. For me this is what makes an image interesting.
Jordy: I have photographed several DGTL events: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, and ADE. Every edition I have seen myself evolve more and more from someone that stuck to the background, amazed by the amazing photographers who shot DGTL for several years, to a photographer proud of his own work - shooting DGTL events alone (like ADE and Madrid) and capturing some meaningful pictures that will stick with me for a lifetime. In the beginning, I would focus more on big overview shots. Nowadays I tend to go more for intimate photos and memorable DJ portraits.
Kirsten: In the first year or two I was so overwhelmed by people’s energy - I took so many photos of people dancing and huge overview stage shots. Over the years, I also developed an eye for architecture, groups enjoying the sun, and other festival moments. I also think that the festival grew into something that was not only limited to dancing and partying, but also enjoying art, food, and views over the NDSM waters. Also, after a few years, I began to better understand what DGTL stood for.
By Kirsten van Santen
Q. In your opinion, is there something that photographers get to experience behind the lens that visitors don’t?
Tim: A photographer recognizes the importance of lights much more than the visitors. Lights and lasers can give tracks extra power if they are well aligned. The person responsible for the lights is again dependant on the production people. DJs depend on the artist handling staff and the artist handling staff is again dependent on one another. I can give many more examples like these but it comes down to the fact that everyone behind the scenes of a festival is dependent on each other and create a type of synergy that people in front of the scenes will hardly notice.
Jordy: Photographs get a completely different experience from a festival than a visitor. We run around between stages and live sets, through roaring crowds and crazy backstage areas. We see, hear, feel all the different aspects of a festival, but only for a short amount of time. We, as photographers, are constantly looking to find that one sweet spot for an ‘epic overview shot’, that intimate moment shared between visitors, crazy antics to capture from artists and a whole lot of snippets of music. Sometimes - when I meet up with my friends and start dancing for a minute or two, I already find myself being locked on a moment that I want to capture. I’m always ‘on’.
Kirsten: As a photographer you always get to experience things other people don’t. You are able to break into moments in a friendly manner and capture them. You can see the festival from so many perspectives; Behind the DJ, from the audience, sometimes even from the sky - after you climbed the Crane for 15 minutes to get the perfect sunset overview shot of the whole festival. But also you are very close to people's emotions as a photographer. That makes every picture more beautiful to me because it’s not just a photo of a person but you see that they are extremely happy, relaxed and in love with the festival and the music. I love how I get to witness all the different perspectives about how people experience the festival; the organization, the guests, the artists, and the brand where I feel part of, of course. By knowing all of this, I am able to create a photo series with great memories for everybody!
Q. When shooting a festival of DGTL’s scale, you are often provided with an array of different sights to choose from – how do you manage to integrate your creative vision while still following briefs?
Tim: By communicating well. After 5 years of photographing at the DGTL events I know what is expected from me. At the same time, they know my way of working, my strengths and my weaknesses. We have always been able to anticipate well on each other during the events because we have always been communicating. Also with the other photographers. Everyone has their own strength. One might be better at overview pictures and the other might be better at capturing people.
Jordy: It can sometimes be very hard to be confined to the set briefing and still find time for your own creative vision. Especially with a festival the size of DGTL - which usually spreads over 2 days or a couple of nights. I mostly struggle a bit on the first day and let myself be freer on day 2. The feeling of ‘I captured so much already yesterday’ usually lets me be more creative on the second day. And to be honest, sometimes I just let go of the brief and be confident that whatever I deliver is good!
Kirsten: To be honest, I don’t use the briefing that often. Of course you take a look and you try to follow timetables and visions. You don’t want to miss your favorite DJ in your series! But what photos you are going to create are only written in the stars. After years of taking photos for DGTL, you know how to use your ‘DGTL-photographer's-eye’ during the festival. During the day, I sometimes take a look at my briefing to see if I already have the things that are asked. At home, I choose which photos are great enough for the DGTL series and whether they match the briefing. The most important thing for me is that the series is great for every purpose and person.
Kirsten van Santen
Q. As a festival photographer, what is something that is challenging to capture? How do you overcome this?
Tim: Some DJ-booths are too high to make proper front view images of the DJ. Also, instead of turning on all the lights at the drop of a track sometimes all the lights get turned down. As a photographer it is almost impossible to capture the sick overview when all the lights are off.
Jordy: For me the most challenging part is to immediately put the camera in people’s faces. I usually want to stick to the background and be unseen. But after a couple of hours, or sometimes the next day, I find my rhythm and try to be one with the crowd in order to capture the more intimate dancing moments. And once you start getting in a flow and the stage is ‘on fire’ then it begins to be a whole lot of fun.
By Jordy Brada
Kirsten: It can be a challenge to take good festival photos outdoors during cloudy dark weather... I also love to capture the beauty of a rainy day. I love seeing people dance in the rain because they love that DJ so much - although they are not very usable for aftersales. My creative heart can’t ignore them. Also I don't use a flash, so for good light, you have to be very patient
Q. What differentiates DGTL from other festivals from a photography perspective?
Tim: DGTL has a very raw, industrial setting. The NDSM as the location strengthens this even more. As a photographer I am therefore searching for raw, urban images to add up to the festival identity. I would never capture soft and dreamy images at DGTL, that would fit better at another festival.
Jordy: As I said earlier, DGTL for me is a free haven to experiment and be artsy with my shots. There is so much to see and to do and as long as I don’t get distracted by all that, I can find the intimate corners and moments that matter the most. DGTL brings forth the perfect mixture between my favorite techno, house, and electronic DJ’s/live-artists.
Kirsten: DGTL is a name that includes many different things. The great artists with amazing music, the locations that are raw and cool, and the super enthusiastic visitors from all over the world who bring the energy to a very high level. The festival has a very international vibe. During the DGTL events you can really experience a great world where everybody lives and loves together. The festival is also very innovative by using recycling, vegetarian food, and the art you get to experience as a visitor. For me, such an innovative and energetic festival during the Easter weekends is the start of the festival season. I am looking forward to it every year.
Q. As with many creative industries right now, the photography industry has been hit hard by the Coronavirus. What would be a key piece of advice you would like to share with festival/event photographers impacted by the crisis?
Tim: Many festival- or event photographers do not see themselves photographing at festivals their entire lives. Now is the perfect time to think about what other types of photographing would be interesting for you. Or maybe something else in the creative industry! Currently I am making portraits, working together with cool brands and I am busy with movies and directing. Doing nothing is either way a waste of time.
Jordy: Go and shoot. Even though there currently aren’t any events and festivals going on. It doesn’t mean you have to stop honing your skills, learning more about light, and the impact of light during different situations on a day. But also, try to invest in a good clear website, get your portfolio in order. So when the time comes, you are ready!
Kirsten: I would advise to take a look at all your photos from previous years. Think about which ones made you super proud and happy and why? Try to find something that gives you that similar feeling now that the events are not happening. For me being an (event) photographer it’s all about capturing the different energy of people. I love to capture a side of them that they haven't seen in themselves yet. During events and festivals people are so relaxed and happy - the only place where they are this relaxed and happy is mostly at home. I started to take portraits of people in or around their homes. Also for the ‘DIGITAL DGTL’ festival I made a ‘home’ series. It showcased how the visitors experience the festival in a different way now. I think we all just have to find new ways to express ourselves as photographers, so think about what makes you proud and happy. Creativity does not just stop.
Learn more about what our photographers are staying busy with right now and support their projects:
Together with 3 fellow photographers, Tim recently started a project called 'Portrait For Good'. When donating any desired amount of money to the Erasmus MC Foundation, you will get a portrait photo of yourself in return.
Please note: Photoshoot is only available in The Netherlands.
Buy a DGTL picture for you well and support both the photographer and a charity. Every piece has a minimum price of €45! - €10 for charity, €15 for the photographer, and €20 for printing and shipping.
Please note: shipping only applies to the Netherlands and/or Belgium
Kirsten van Santen:
In need of a new headshot? You can now book a portrait photoshoot with Kirsten.
Please note: Photoshoot is only available in The Netherlands.