Clubscape gives you a behind the scenes perspective on how rave culture is experienced by electronic music photographers.
If you've been to a dubstep show in Toronto, chances are you've seen Maria Jose Govea with her camera capturing every moment of the show. Maria, also known as THESUPERMANIAK, has seen the love for bass music grow from small venues to sold-out stadium shows. She soon became the go to photographer for all electronic music events and landed the role as the resident photographer at the weekly event, BassMentality. Her photography work for Embrace has caught the attention of international acts with her captivating photographs. THUMP Canada caught up with Maria to talk about her career for this month's segment of Clubscape.
THUMP: How did your career start off?
THESUPERMANIAK: It stared when I moved to Canada about eleven years ago. I went to film school first, but when I graduated, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't know if I wanted to direct, produce, act, or write scripts, because I was interested in every aspect. I couldn't work in Canada yet, so if I wanted to stay here I had to go back to school. At that point I was DJing a lot and I was taking my own pictures for MySpace. My friends said, "why don't you take photography? You're really good at taking your own photos." And I asked myself, "yeah, why don't I do that?" That's how I started. It was a suggestion that my friend made, and then all of a sudden everything clicked, and I wondered why I didn't think of it earlier.
I studied photography for a bit but I dropped out after a few months. I learned the basics and then decided I could take it from there. I took the money that I would have spent on school, bought some equipment, and started shooting. I used to throw a lot of drum and bass parties, and it only made sense to take photos at my own events. From there I started shooting other drum and bass shows, I also found local bands on MySpace and started shooting them too. I built my portfolio that way.
Would you say that drum and bass is still one of your favorite genres?
Oh, definitely. I don't really listen to a lot of drum and bass anymore but it has forever changed me. It's one of the reasons why I moved to Toronto, there was a big drum and bass scene. Everything in your life at some point comes together and I don't think I would be doing this if I didn't DJ first. Everything I've done so far influences my photos. Everything is really connected. I've never clicked so much with any sort of music as I did with drum and bass.
How did you discover the genre?
At a rave back home in Venezuela, I was really into the rave scene when I was a kid. I used to listen to a lot of ragga jungle and congo natty—stuff like that. That's when I first heard it. The energy is what did it for me. It was the best discovery ever. I thought "how can this music exist?!" I was also into a lot of techno and whatever they were playing at raves, but drum and bass was the main thing.
Where does your photographer name, THESUPERMANIAK, come from?
It was from my DJ name, Maniak. When I started doing photography I remember I wanted to kind of separate the two. I don't remember exactly how I came up with THESUPERMANIAK, but it was when I started doing photography. I already had a DJ persona, so I just took it from there. I was a DJ who now had a camera. I think the name came more from having to build a website. My website couldn't be DJ Maniak, so I started something else. I just started shooting and then creating this body of work. Then you realize you have a style and you realize everything makes sense. You kind of understand who you are, what you're doing, and how they are related.
When did you start officially taking photos?
You were here before the whole EDM boom.
I remember when dubstep just started blowing up and that was when everything changed. Until that point it was just drum and bass, then dubstep fucking blew up. That's when I started shooting BassMentality and that's when everything came together.
How did you become a resident photographer for BassMentality?
They somehow saw my work, and approached me about it. At that point I was shooting a lot of big drum and bass parties. But shooting for BassMentality seriously changed my life.
Do you miss it?
I miss it so much. To be there every Wednesday with everyone having that much energy and all those kids going crazy, to me, it was an exciting moment because it was a point where I moved from drum and bass to something bigger. My ears and my eyes were way too open. It was a moment where my technique, skills, and love for the music all came together, so that was super exciting. To be part of something like that really changed my life.
It was also through BassMentality that I started to work with Embrace, which has been absolutely amazing for me. They throw most of the events that I want to go to anyways so it's a pretty awesome situation. I'm very lucky and grateful for all their support and I'm always looking forward to the next show!
You have a really strong connection with the guys of Zeds Dead; you've seen them grow from small venues to being headliners at festivals. Did you meet them through BassMentality? What about working with 12th Planet?
With Zeds Dead, it was just through BassMentality, it's been really dope to work with them. With 12th Planet, I met him through a friend from Toronto Jungle. John was here in Toronto at one point and he needed a shoot, and my friend told him "I have the right girl for you." With 12th Planet we just clicked within the first five minutes. Ever since then we've been shooting together.
Over the years, what have been some of your favourite Clubscape shots?
HARD LA was really good, especially with the level of production. Lately I've been shooting a lot of indie and rock shows. But it depends on the show and the lighting. I think Toronto needs to work on their club lighting. I shot the Red Bull Thre3Style and the lighting was amazing. Sometimes Sound Academy looks great, same with The Danforth Music Hall—my absolute favourite venue in the city. It really depends. Even The Hoxton can look really raw and cool.
I'm also interested in faces. I definitely like those big shots of crowds, but I'm more interested in the subject. I tend to go in fully, I love to do portraits while they're playing and performing. I like to get close.
You've shot at a lot of clubs and venues. Has there ever been a horror story?
There are so many stories and so many struggles. You're always fighting with security even if you have full access—even if you're supposed to be shooting. There are a lot of things that can go wrong or that you need to be fighting against to get the shot. I'm a girl, so sometimes it's hard to be at a club with a camera when a guy tries to grab your ass.
Apart from having to deal with security and drunken people all the time, the craziest thing that's ever happened to me at a club was the time Yolandi from Die Antwoord kicked me in the face. I was shooting from the pit and I got really close and all of a sudden I saw her through my fish eye lens coming towards me. Without having time to react I felt a huge BANG! She kicked my camera, which was up at my face. My nose started bleeding uncontrollably. I cleaned up, waited a bit and got back outside to shoot. It's still unclear whether it was an accident or not, but she sent her management to apologize after the show. I'm a huge Die Antwoord fan so the whole incident broke my heart. But at the same time, come on, it's kind of cool that out of anybody in the world, I got kicked in the face by Yolandi Visser!
What are your thoughts on people who take advantage of media access? Especially those who claim they're a photographer because they own a DSLR.
It's a nightmare because sometimes there are people who are on the stage who aren't supposed to be there. And since they don't know how to behave, they're just in your way. It's really bad because you want to get a good shot and you're taking it seriously, and there are a few people there who are making your job impossible, and they don't understand that they might be in your shot.
It needs to be a matter of promoters being careful, who's getting on the stage or not. There are always going to be people bugging you, people partying, and people in your way. But you need to deal with it, it's part of the job. It is important for you to be there and take a good shot, but at the same time, the party comes first. This is a party. You're there to photograph it, so you better find a way to do so.
I come from a party background, I used to drink so much and shoot, and I think I shoot better when I'm drunk. You know why? Because I joined the madness. Instead of putting up with the madness, I joined it.
Now I really take it seriously. This is my life. At that point I was having so much fun. These days I take it seriously. There are a lot of people; and I have a lot of equipment I need to take care of. The more you do it, the more you become conscious of everything.
Any particular festival or event you would want to shoot for?
Tomorrowland [laughs]. I've worked with ID&T before, which is the company that puts it together. I shot Sensation for them when they came here in Toronto. The level of production is unreal. I was so impressed and amazed by it. When you see all the work and effort put into a show, you just appreciate it more.
I was just in Montreal shooting for the Red Bull Music Academy. You get to go into the studio where these kids are making music and you get to shoot their entire experience. Then you go to the party at night and they're playing the music—it's like an all around real experience. Everything that they're doing is super well produced and thought out. That's an amazing fit for me. That's what's keeping me the most excited right now. The work I'm doing with Red Bull, Embrace and the people that I've met along the way.
Check out Maria's photo gallery: here.
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You can follow Connie on Twitter: @ConstanceChan