All photos by Nate "Igor" Smith
With six years under his belt as a photographer at the Gathering of the Juggalos, Nate "Igor" Smith is one of the longest running attendees of the annual festival. Starting with his inaugural Gathering in 2010, Igor is the only member of the media to cover the festival for the past six years. And unlike what you might think, it's not just to point fingers and make fun of the attendees. In fact, quite the opposite.
We talked to Nate "Igor" Smith about shooting the festival, what he loves about it, and how he got into shooting in the first place. Head below for an interview along with a full set of photos with the infamous Big L.A., Mike Busey and Busey's Beauties, and their performance at the Gathering 2015. If you missed it, make sure and check out Igor's photos of Juggalos from the Gathering 2015, as well as a set with Ho99o9 from the festival.
NOISEY: How long have you been shooting photos?
Nate "Igor" Smith: I’ve been a photographer since I was 15, a professional since 2008. I picked up a camera in high school and it just sort of accidentally became my life. When I was 15 I was a punk kid, we found out that we could start our own club in High School, so I started a punk rock club with my friend. So we started a zine and eventually a label, Outcider DC, and I started taking photos as part of the label. I took photography classes, and my art teacher hated my photos until I started shooting the punk DC scene, then she encouraged me to shoot more and more.
How did arrive at shooting the Gathering?
My first girlfriend loved ICP, and so I kind of was exposed to them through her. I went to college and sort of put them behind me until “Miracles” surfaced. When the video came out, most people just made fun of them not knowing the real story behind them.... these guys aren't dumb, they know how to google how magnets work, and clearly they are one of the most successful independent artists of all time.
In 2010, I went to the Gathering with my then Editor at Village Voice. The piece was supposed to just be some "freak show" style photos, but in the three hour driving distance from the airport to the site, we discussed the history and the music and suddenly the Gathering was a cover story. There was almost no media there at all then, and I was the only photographer for Tila Tequila there that year, when she got attacked and it made big news.
I love shooting the Gathering for the Juggalos, so much so that I finally got the "whoop whoop" tattoo that I've wanted all these years. You can’t walk two feet without taking an amazing shot. Nudity, juggalos, music… it’s great.
What is your favorite thing about attending the Gathering?
I’ve been going to the gathering for six straight years now. My favorite thing is experiencing it with people who have never been. This year, I went with the Ho99o9 guys, talked to a bunch of press newbies, and spent a lot of time talking to a bunch of Mike Busey’s Beauties about the crazy things they’ve seen. There is something insane that happens every two minutes. Its hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it.
When I tell Juggalos that I get paid to shoot the Gathering, they are pretty shocked… which is extremely humbling. Juggalos are pretty humble and kind overall, and the level of appreciation that you get from taking their photo is astounding.
What is it about shooting Mike Busey that is so appealing?
Mike Busey is an insane person and I love that. He brings with him strippers, a giant fat man, a Vine star (Charlie Classic) and a guy dressed as a genie all weekend. They give juggalos lap dances if they buy a t-shirt, they spit fire and they put on weird shows all week long. I had to make an effort not to spend all my time photographing them (and flirting with them).
Do you see the Gathering as going anywhere any time soon?
No. Sixteen years and still counting. It’s become a little more sedate, which is good for longevity. There seemed to be more people there this year than last year. I mean, if you’re a Juggalo, this is your Christmas. I met people who quit their jobs to go to the Gathering or walked from as far away as from Washington state!
Outside of being known for your incredible Gathering coverage, what else do shoot?
I am currently working on a book on Juggalos with Jenn Rockwell, who has been painting my photos. It will be my photos with her paintings. Working on a public nudity zine for release at the New York Art Book Fair. I have a website called Driven by Boredom and a paid site called Girls of Driven by Boredom. I also have a portfolio of just 35mm work at Igor35.com