Photo Spotlight

Photographer Spotlight: Daniel Rodriguez

Daniel Rodriguez is a San Diego-based photographer whose work I recently discovered and have really enjoyed. With two young children at home, I can't make it to nearly as many shows I'd like to, so show photography is something I truly cherish. In other words, Daniel is doing god's work, folks.

Please welcome Daniel to the Photographer Spotlight series.

Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?

I was born and raised in San Marcos, CA. I feel really lucky to have grown up in north San Diego county since I was only a 30 minute drive south to the Che Cafe and an hour and a half drive north to places like the Showcase Theater or Chain Reaction. My parents aren't exactly in to the arts in a traditional sense, but they are big music lovers. They met at a dance at an Elks Lodge, so '70s pop music and disco was always a part of the household. Besides that kinda stuff, everything from CCR, Selena, and Zapp and Roger would be on rotation.

Bane at Che Cafe, San Diego, CA, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?

Music definitely came first. My dad would bring my sister, brother and I cassette tapes from the swap meet every Sunday so I was always listening to something new. My music taste was pretty broad even as a kid thanks to my older sister and my older brother. My sister and I would listen to No Doubt, Nirvana, and Green Day and my older brother brother and I would listen to Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Notorious BIG. 

Dinosaur Jr at The Belly Up, San Diego, CA, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

What was your first musical love? 

Back when I was in middle school one of my friends let me listen to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" on our bus ride home and it turned my entire world upside down. I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved with music in some fashion. Then my cousin played the Sex Pistols, Misfits, Dead Kennedys, and Minor Threat for me and that’s really when everything changed. From that moment on I kept looking for different types of punk and hardcore music. 

Torso at Che Cafe, San Diego, CA, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years? 

The first photographer that left an impression on me is probably the most obvious. By the time I found my way to the local punk/hardcore scene I was already taking photos at shows with disposable cameras but I started to take things more seriously after I read a copy of Thrasher and saw Glen E. Friedman’s work. The guy is a legend and his body of work is undeniably incredible. Besides Glen, Charles Peterson was also a huge influence on me and band photography. Once I got older and more educated in photography Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark, and Bruce Davidson pushed me more in to the realm street photography.

Jesse, San Diego, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

What is your camera and post set up?

My choice of gear depends on where i'm shooting. If the venue doesn't allow "professional cameras" then i'll bring my Fuji Klasse S loaded with Tri X pushed to 3200. If its a DIY show or a place that doesn't mind SLRs, i'll shoot with my Nikon N80 with Tri X pushed to 3200 or i'll shoot with my Nikon D750 if im going digital. And even though I push my rolls that far, I always shoot with at least one flash unit for better lighting. You never really know what to expect in some venues so I always come prepared with a flash cord so I can shoot off cam flash or use radio triggers and gorilla pods so I can put the flash units in high places for better coverage. As far as posting stuff goes, it all ends up on my Instagram account, so check out I usually post photos there every other day. I've also got a series of street photography I shot in Mexico on my website.

Converge at Brick by Brick, San Diego, CA, 2018. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

In terms of your non-musical photo work, what kind of stuff do you do?

I guess you can say my style sorta fits somewhere in the category of street photography. I didn't really know what kinda stuff I wanted to shoot when I wasn't shooting bands, so I just shot everything me and my friends did together until I found what worked and what didn't work. And I didn't really learn the mechanical ins and outs of everything till I took photo classes at community college. I think that was really beneficial to me since I got to try different film stocks and develop my style without having to worry too much about the technical side of things. I like to catch people when they've got their guard down, but not in a dramatic or vulnerable sort of way. I like to catch people in their natural and comfortable element. I feel like that's where the beauty of moments are and that's what makes them so special.

Rachael and Johnny, Chicago, 2013. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?

Ceremony is a definite favorite. Their performances are always so intense and the crowd reaction is a show in itself. And even though I’ve only shot them twice, Baptists is another favorite band to shoot. I was so amazed and captivated by them the first time I saw them that I completely forgot I had a camera in my hand and didn’t start shooting till they halfway done with their set. 

Ceremony at Che Cafe, San Diego, CA, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?

Theres a lot of shows I wish I could go back and shoot. I used to leave my camera at home because I was afraid the crowd would get too wild and i'd break my camera. HOAX played a show at this indoor skate park called Unit B back in 2012 and it was one of the craziest things I'd ever experienced. This place had huge half pipe/bowl inside it and the stage was on the ground so you could either take the stairs up one story and watch the show from the halfpipe/bowl platform above or watch from the ground. The place was WAY over capacity and kids started stage diving off the upper platform as soon as they started playing. I really wish I had decided to shoot that show. I probably woulda ended up with broken gear, but it woulda definitely been worth it. You can see some footage of the show here

Lock at Top Space, Los Angeles, CA, 2018. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?

Broken gear is something that every photographer is afraid of. A couple of years ago I had gone up to see The Flex and Red Death at Alladin Jr. I got knocked over by a stage diver and my lens broke off my camera when I hit the ground. And just last year I had a flash sync cable crap out on me in the middle of shooting The Impalers. But the craziest shooting situation i've dealt with was when G.L.O.S.S. played a backyard show in LA in October of 2012. There was a ton of people there and I couldn't get a good place to shoot from so i climbed on top of a car and shot from its roof. Check out this photo of the show shot by Pablo Moreto.

G.L.O.S.S. at a backyard show, Los Angeles, CA, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.

San Diego has got a lot of locals putting out a lot of good music right now. HEAT just released another seven inch on Deranged Records. Therapy just put out a self released tape. Meth Breath and PSO just put out a split seven inch on Safe Inside Records. Other than those local bands people should definitely check out Regional Justice Center, Concealed Blade, Spiritual Cramp, and Torso. 

Meth Breath at Che Cafe, San Diego, CA, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?

As far as music photography goes... Reid Haithcock is one of my biggest influences. I would go as far to say that he's the closest thing this generation has to a Glen E Friedman. I would also say the same for Angela Owens. Ed Templeton and Deanna Templeton are also huge influences on me.

True Widow at Soda Bar, San Diego, CA, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)

If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists, which one would it by and why?

Last January some friends and I went up to see Violent Reaction and Arms Race in LA. To me, this photo of Arms Race perfectly captures everything about punk and hardcore. The anger, the energy, and the spontaneity... Its all here in one shot. 

Arms Race at The Echo, Los Angeles, CA, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Rodriguez)


See more of Daniel's work on his website, and he's also on Instagram.

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