Drew "Rukes" Ressler has become one of the most well-known, prominent nightlife photographers to grace the dance music scene in the last decade. He's taken photos for nearly every major DJ around the world, as well as for many of the world's largest festivals. Known for his fisheye shots directly behind DJs and his ability to capture the emotion and feel of the events, Ressler took a few minutes from his busy Miami Music Week schedule to talk to Billboard about his rise to the top, the origins of his name, and exactly what he considers to be the best and worst parts of his very unique job.
How did you establish yourself as the go-to DJ photographer?
I guess it [was for] two reasons. First, I just took the pictures that DJs and production wanted to showcase their event, rather than just pictures of people that anyone could get. I got the pictures that production could put on their website and say 'look what we created' and that DJs could put on their website and say 'look what I performed,' and just show the event as a whole. It was also a lot of word of mouth... I started taking pictures for Deadmau5, and then another DJ wanted to hire me, and it just kept spreading.
How have you been able to build such a strong brand?
Consistency and high-quality pictures. But also just professionalism -- which, sadly, a lot of photographers lack. A lot of photographers take a really bad picture, where the DJ looks really bad, and put it up and not think about it.
Also, being respectful; I'm the type of guy that respects the boundaries that I have, and tries to be a friend of the DJ more than just a coworker -- then they become ten times more comfortable and love having you around. Calvin Harris, for example, doesn't like anyone behind him and I'm literally the only person he will have behind him taking pictures because he trusts me that much and feels comfortable and knows I won't bug him or get in his way.
Where does the name 'Rukes' come from?
It comes from back in the AOL days when I was in random chat rooms. In a videogame chat room in 1995 somebody said 'This videogame rules,' but they misspelled it 'rukes' by accident. Little typos were the cool thing to do back then, so I just saw that and everybody started calling me Rukes. [Then] I started calling myself that as a joke when I worked with Paul Van Dyk, and he was the number-one DJ in DJ Mag, so I just put it in my Twitter profile back then, and I forgot to take it down. It eventually grew to be reality.
You've seen the scene grow, both literally and figuratively, from your perch behind the world's biggest DJs. Where do you see things going from here?
It's all on an upward trajectory. It's pretty cool that Billboard is doing more dance charts, and recognizing how big dance music is getting. I guess the whole amalgamation of pop music and dance music -- it just seems like two genres that go hand-in-hand.
What's the coolest part of your job?
Most people would probably just say all the traveling, and the cool stuff like going on private jets and being on stage in front of 50,000 people in a huge arena. But for me, the coolest part of my job is if I take that one picture in the night and to me right out of the camera it just looks perfect. I look at it and I say "that's a portfolio picture, I love that," and for the rest of the night I'm the happiest person in the world.
What's the worst part of your job?
Dealing with security. Even if you have every single wristband in the world, usually they'll still find a way to try to prevent you from doing your job.