Few college students have mingled with as many musicians as Dusty Kessler has. In the past year, Kessler’s work as a youth culture obsessed photographer landed him in Rolling Stone and Elektro Magazine, and on tours with successful artists. Kessler’s work is not just in St. Louis, but also across the country. And he’s no stranger to some of the most popular music festivals like South by Southwest. Dive into Kessler’s mind, as this 21 year old talks about touring, photography and his love for music.
written by Matt Duchesne
Q: Could you elaborate on your touring experience?
A: I’ve been on a few tours. The first one, which was big for me, but in all reality was kind of small, was an artist I work with closely called G-Eazy. Over this past summer I was on the road with Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz and T.I. on their tour, called the America’s Most Wanted Tour. It was crazy. I had been to big shows like that, but I’ve never been on that side of it— like behind barricades with backstage passes and full access to everything I wanted to do, anywhere I wanted to go.
Q: How did you get your name out there to get all of these opportunities?
A: A lot of it started with my best friend Josh. He was into music and I was into the art and visual side of things, so it just made sense for us to work together. In 2010 we had a friend who was on tour with Drake. The opening act for Drake needed a DJ, so we made the connection and ended up opening for Drake. Eventually, I made a blog, which then became a real website called They Own the Night, which is all about concert and nightlife photography.
Q: Who inspired your style of photography?
A: This guy, Mark Hunter, known as Cobra Snake, and he’s a big party photographer in Los Angeles. I wanted to be the next Cobra Snake when I first started. Also Todd Owyoung, who is a photographer in St. Louis, Merlin Bronques and Grady Brannan are some on a more national level.
Q: Which musicians have you met?
A: I’ve met a lot of electronic artists, Mykki Blanco, Chance the Rapper, Skrillex, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Chanel West Coast, who co-hosts Ridiculousness on MTV. It’s kind of crazy to think about how many people I have met. I’m not someone who gets starstruck. There are very few people I’ve met who’ve made me starstruck.
Q: So, who did you get starstruck from meeting?
A: Skrillex. It was weird because I knew he was a really quiet, humble guy who wants everyone to party and have fun. I’m also taller than him, so that was funny.
Q: So where do you want to be in five years?
A: I really love music photography because it’s a passion of mine, not because I think I’m going to make a lot of money doing it. There is a lot of money in the music industry, but not for photographers, and there are a very small percentage of music photographers who make it. Even photographers who shoot the cover of Rolling Stone, sometimes they don’t even get paid. I’ve also gotten interested in this notion of youth culture, and a lot of photographers do a great job of capturing it. I see myself opening a studio like the one I work at, FK Studio.
Q: Where can your work be found?
A: I have my two blogs, theyownthenight.com and dkesslerphoto.tumblr.com. Also you can follow me on Twitter at @dustinkessler or Instagram at @dkessler.