Photographer Focus

Michael James


Michael James spent this summer living through a once in a life time opportunity working as a photographer on the island of Ibiza. With beautiful weather and the world's best DJs, Ibiza is the mecca for the club music scene and Michael James had full access to the whole island equipped with his cameras capturing every great moment he witnessed. We spoke with him about his summer and how this opportunity came about. 

First of all, let’s talk equipment, what do you use to shoot with?

When I’m working in the clubs I use a Nikon D750 usually with a Tameron 24-70mm lens, but I swap between wide and long lenses as well and most of the time attach a Nikon SB 700 flash. When I’m travelling or just out with friends I opt for my trusty Canon EOS 3000v with a 50mm prime lens, carrying either Illford XP2 black and white or Kodak Supra colour 35mm film. All of the photos shot outside of the club were shot on my canon. I suppose in a sense they are more personal photos of my Ibiza experience, places i’ve been to like the abandoned Festival club, random pictures from afterparties and snaps of my friends who really made my Ibiza experience the best summer of my life.


Describe Ibiza and what it means to you.

Ibiza is stunningly beautiful, but that beauty has an element of mystery and wonder to it, so there are many moments where I feel I have to pinch myself to check I’m not dreaming. It’s very easy to fall in love with a place like that. From its beach sunsets to its lovely countryside, to me it’s a photographers delight. So when I wake up in the mornings I never feel like i’m going to work and I walk around with a smile on my face. When talking about the music scene there, one friend once said something incredibly true to me; “It’s like the Hollywood of music, it’s full of dreamers and people who make the industry tick, those people who live for the music. It’s got everything that Hollywood has, just without the sign. Loads of hills, lots of villas and clubs everywhere, temptation everywhere.” 


Who was your favourite act of this summer?

Difficult question! There were a lot I saw over the season visiting the clubs. But I think I would have to say Sven Väth. I first saw “Papa Sven” in 2016 at Awakenings festival in the Netherlands and his set was good but I felt at the time I would need to see him in a club to fully immerse myself in a set like that. Fast forward to 2017 and I saw him play Rumours at Destino. The experience was incredible one, set in a wonderful outdoor venue with the sun going down and Sven playing a eclectic mix of tracks. One of those tracks, Senhor Doutor (Adam Port Edit) was my summer jam, I love that song, it instantly transports me back to that fantastic evening.


What was your favourite photo of the summer?


Again a very difficult question because I took so many over the course of the summer. But from this particular set, I really like this one of the magnetic Es Vedra islands. I like it because it reminds me of the third week into the season and I went on a boat trip out to that part of the Ibiza coastline with the Ibiza Spotlight team and I shot it there. On that day I can remember feeling how lucky and I was to be there and fortunate to be doing a job that I absolutely love. As we turned back to the Ibiza mainland I also remember Es Vedra slowly shrinking into the distance and thinking that it’s kind of moments that are once in a lifetime and you must cherish them as much as possible. I also got badly sunburnt on that day, so perhaps its a reminder for me to wear more suncream as well, haha.

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How did you come to doing photography in Ibiza?

Around November 2016 I saw one of my friends who is the social media manager at Ibiza Spotlight post on Facebook about a vacancy for an Internship at the company. So I spent about 4 weeks organising my portfolio and designing a interactive CV, and on boxing day I submitted it. Then about 4 months passed (at this point I didn’t think I’d got it) when I got an email for a Skype interview, so I nervously did the interview and then waited. I can’t tell you how excruciating those weeks of waiting were. But about 5 weeks later (again now thinking I hadn’t got it) I was holidaying in the south of Spain and I got another email to call Ibiza Spotlight. When I did I spoke to the clubbing manager, and he asked If I still fancied coming to Ibiza. I immediately said yes!


What advice would you give to someone just starting out in music photography?

Firstly I would say, practice, practice and then practice some more. Go to as many events as possible and try different styles of photographing. Remember to take a step back from your photos, what might look rubbish on your camera in the club, might look amazing once you have edited it a bit. Network with event promoters/organisers and club owners, find out what nights they put on and offer your services. 

Talk to as many people as possible at the club; clubbers, resident DJs, bar staff, everyone! It may lead to more photography work elsewhere, E.g shooting press shots for the resident DJ. Accept that some times you might not get paid, always ask of course, but some more high profile events aren’t going to pay a beginner. Aim to go see and photograph your favourite artists, doing event photography has always been my way of getting into the club for free, haha! Finally once you have practiced, develop your own unique style to set you apart from other photographers.


What is your favourite club of Ibiza?

If we’re talking about specifically clubs then I would say that Privilege is my favourite. For one being the biggest club in the world, the scale of the productions in there are tremendous and amazing. I’ve seen Afterlife, Resistance and Pure Carl Cox events there and each one has never ever disappointed visually or musically for that matter. My favourite venue however would have to be shared between three amazing outdoor places; Benimussa Park for it’s incredible Zoo Project and Game Over events, Cova Santa for Woomoon and it’s tribal hippy vibes, then finally Destino for its elegant decor and of course, Rumours free event on Sundays.


What event or festival would be your dream place to do photography?

I have a long list as you can expect haha! For me its always about the music though so I always chop and change depending on the line-ups. But I think that Burning Man will always be on my personal bucket list. I see photographers go there every year and they come back with such beautiful work, so it would be a dream come true to go and photograph there professionally. Even if I don’t get a commission or contract to work there, I will just save up the money and go there anyway and take my camera with me. Going to raves and capturing images has been the norm for me since I was 19 (i’m now 26) so being able to creatively photograph from a clubbers point of view is something I massively enjoy, whilst having a little boogie of course! 

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Where can people view your work and projects?

You can read all about the events I went to in ibiza here on Ibiza Spotlight

All of my photographs you can find on here, soon i’ll be creating a website also, so like the page to keep updated!

I also run an alternative dance music brand and magazine called Zone Focus, articles and free downloads galore inside…