Recently I attended a Tengger Cavalry show at St. Vitus. In writing the review I realized my pictures were garbage. In seeking out better photography from that show I was introduced to Derek Soto. After perusing his site I realized that this guy takes excellent photographs. He’s a photographer that understands the music and the message that the band is trying to convey. Rather than just taking beautiful pictures from afar, Derek gets down and dirty jumping deep into the pit to get the shot that conveys the aura of the live show. Thus, I wanted to get to know him better in the only way I know how: a Nine Circles Profile. You can find Derek’s work over at Sinestra Studios (who you can follow on Twitter).
How did you first get into photography and everything else amazing you do and have you achieved all your wildest dreams? And, as a follow up, what are those dreams and how have they changed as you got older?
(Derek): Starting up freelance was never part of my dream actually. After college, I preceded to apply to various Universities for graduate school. Due to a lack of diversity in talents and traits, I was uickly denied by NYU, The New School, The Art Institute and Hunter College. You name it and I was turned down. I had nowhere to turn. I started “Sinestra Studios” because nobody gave me the experience I needed for a “better” life. I took my responsibilities into my own hands and have followed this path ever since. I never thought I would be able to be a cameraman for so many distinguished talents. Most of the musicians I work for now I was blasting in my teenage and my college years. Music has always been in my blood and to add to the irony, I am very nosey when it comes to history. I just love to learn and create. When everyone is following the stream down, why take the same path?
What’s the most you have ever debased/embarrassed yourself to get the perfect shot?
Honestly, I never really embarrassed myself to capture a photo. Photographers come in all levels and from different backgrounds. As a “Pit” photographer at live events, there is an etiquette you NEED to abide by and that only begins with yourself.
You shoot quite a lot of interviews and videos in addition to you still work. How does your approach differ? Do you have a preference? Are you comfortable on camera or do you prefer to remain behind the lens?
My preference is to do the best I can based on my knowledge and know about of the environment around me. My work has always been behind the camera. Working with Skullsnbones.com for over a year handling their interviews behind the camera and its thrilling to capture that emotion and the attitude of various musicians from different background of the globe. That thrill is so miniscule, but it makes the interview come alive and bring depth to something that is just perceived “AS NEWS”. I honestly was in front of the camera and I love it to. The ability to be multifaceted and intelligent is a deadly weapon in entertainment believe it or not.
What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your artwork?
I SERIOUSLY despise Social Media. It has been the best and worst thing for the world because there is TRULY incredible talent. The problem is, they don’t have thousands and thousands of followers. They, as I do, have become overshadowed because popularity is a deterrent to simplicity. We have a lot of people in every spectrum of entertainment from journalists, to photographers, to videographers etc. etc. You name it, there’s definitely more than one of you and you are expendable. I never went in this for popularity. That doesn’t pay my bills or get me to better projects. A like, a retweet, as share… it’s all the same to me. I can have a photo in Revolver and it’ll get 40 likes on Instagram while one that isn’t gets 300 likes. You can’t buy talent but you damn sure can buy popularity thanks to its access. I stick to a path nobody follows.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? Do you play any instruments or are all your efforts poured directly into your artistic work?
I got into this when I was 22. I was always a rocker and that started in High School. I decided to pick up a camera because I am a natural artist and my classes in college taught me how to hone my skills and work about honing a vision that is just tailored by my own craft. I do not play instruments but I wish to learn guitar and piano one day. I love to sing though even when I feel like I suck at it haha.
What’s the stickiest you have ever been?
Don’t understand this question, you can elaborate for me though.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists out there?
The beaten path is VERY beaten. People believe you can land something incredible overnight and that is NOT the case. Entertainment takes years to build a resume and your portfolio. You can spend years and years and years shooting shows, getting photoshoots or video releases and it won’t mean nothing unless you know how to market. Even before you say “yes” to a project, you have to think how it can benefit you because the client will be benefitted regardless when you post the work. Think the ENTIRE journey of the product through before you commit.
I think many of us would love to know, as an amateur, how to get a great shot at a concert that we go to. What kind of equipment are you using these days and what would you recommend for people who insist on shooting concerts on their iPhones?
Canon is my go to camera. Find equipment you are comfortable with before you aim for the best in the market you represent.
Finally, when you’re not listening to, writing or playing metal, what are some of you favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
I am currently blasting After The Burial’s “Dig Deep”, followed by Rivers of Nihil “Monarchy”, Seas of Wake “Virology”, Killer Be Killed, Megadeth,’s “Dystopia” Fallujah and so much more. My genre types are everywhere so I don’t mind listening to new and old material. My favorite albums are some bands such as Starset “Transmissions”, Breaking Benjamin’s “Dark Before Dawn”, “Dear Agony”, and “Phobia.” I love love love seeing Killswitch Engage and cannot wait for their “Incarnate” album due March 11th. I have a lot of New York HardCore albums I blast to. Madball with their “Set It Off” and “Hardcore Lives” albums are my favorites along with Biohazard’s “Urban Discipline” and Sworn Enemy’s “Living on Borrowed Time” and “ As Real As It Gets.”
Thanks so much to Derek for his time (and his beautiful photographs)!