Toronto's nightlife scene is the blank canvas upon which Ded Pixel works. Since starting his freelance photography career some three years ago, Tim Sandik—aka Ded Pixel—has left the 9-to-5 world behind him. He has grown his skill set alongside Toronto's contemporary nightlife resurgence. From BPM to psychedelic playgrounds in Ontario's northern reaches, Ded Pixel has been there for techno onslaughts by the likes of Marcel Dettmann and Green Velvet. His cinematic style is inimitable and resonates with Toronto's artistic community. As Pixel says, "Go full frame, or go home."
THUMP: How did you discover electronic music?
Sandik: The first track I ever fell in love with was Tarantula, by Pendulum. Drum and bass was my first real love. I heard that track and it just blew my fucking mind. Then I somehow made the transition into house, deep house, tech-house, the more underground sound, whatever you want to call it.
Has photography always been a part of your life?
I studied Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, so I have always had a somewhat creative background, but it's been more streamlined towards practical, traditional broadcasting in the past. I felt I always had an eye for video and photography, anything visual really. I decided to pursue that opportunity and about three years ago I started doing freelance.
I was more a videographer before being a photographer; I think I just realized that photography lasts longer. Videos can last long in your brain and in your mind, but your brain is able to retain a still moment for longer and it has more impact.
How did your experiences with photography translate to the Toronto nightlife scene?
I had heard of Way of Acting [Abeed, Emile and Imaan]—they promote Electric Island in Toronto, and work closely with the Platform crew and Coda. My friend was shooting for them at the early Electric Island parties. I thought, "Why don't I approach WOA?" I went to Abeed's apartment, and I told him, at that time I had a crazy idea that I was going to direct a multi-camera production of either Veld or Digital Dreams. The project didn't work out but it was a good meeting, and he was the first one I shot for because of it.
What's your goal when you shoot an electronic music event?
Getting the best shot I can. What I aim for at every party is taking that DJ's next profile picture: taking such an epic shot that they are going to want to put it up.
How would you describe your personal of photography?
My style is more cinematic; I play a lot with depth of field. It gives a very filmic, cinematic look to my shots.
Are there any photographers who have influenced you?
I was definitely inspired by The SuperManiak; her photos made me want to pick up a camera and see if I could do what she did. Danilo Lewis and Doug Van Sant, who were at BPM and I was kind of working next to them and watching them do what they do. Playing with off camera flash, putting the flash in every corner in every way of every room, really changing how the light affects the photo—I started doing that because of them.
Do you change the way you approach the shooting a big festival to a smaller club?
One huge difference would be the equipment. I have a 70-300mm range lens with a 4-5.6 f-stop; it's not very fast and it doesn't let in a lot of light. The only time I can use a lens like that is in broad daylight outside. That lens is useless to me in an indoor setting, but at festivals it's my favourite. The 300mm focal length is my zone.
My favourite photos are when people do not see me coming. I try and avoid people posing for the camera as much as possible, I try to snipe them when they don't see me.
Which events do you prefer shooting?
I prefer outdoor events to indoors, where light is never going to be an issue for me. Obviously, an overcast day is a photographer's dream, but even in harsh sunlight, I love shooting outside; nothing beats it.
If I had to say that I wanted to shoot one party over another it would have to be an underground party rather than something in the mainstream or EDM scene. At a mainstream EDM party you would get a lot of better shots of people probably because they go ape-shit on camera. Capturing those moments is actually kind of cool sometimes. I love the chill vibe of the underground scene too and taking pictures of them is great and really fun.
Does your photography extend outside of music events?
I'm doing some creative, electronic press kits for DJs. I've just done my first fashion lookbook recently. I would like to branch out and explore other areas of creative photography as well.
Going forward, how do you plan on branching out your network of photography?
I have recently decided to pursue photography full-time and I am starting Ded Agency. I plan for it to be a multi-disciplinary roster of photographers and videographers. Just like an agency, I would like to represent and find work for these photographers and I would like to do so in an ethical fashion.
Although Ded Agency will likely start off as a more nightlife-centric agency, I intend on branching out to other forms of photography. I believe that photographers of one discipline can definitely pick up others.
What's your favourite event to shoot?
[Mexico's] BPM was my favourite festival. Although, it was the most labour-intensive. You shoot a day party, shoot a night party, edit the photos, and there really isn't much time for sleep—and it's ten days long. In terms of setting, Playa Del Carmen was absolutely beautiful.
Probably my best photography came from the past Electric Islands. I look at my own photos from two years ago and I look at them today and it's clear that I have learned a lot. That's an amazing thing about photography, it's so telling. You can see the progression in photography and I can see it in my photos. There is always room to grow.