At the beginning of 2009 I saw this young lady crawling, climbing, ducking and performing other cool gymnastics moves on stage that I wish my body could do. After figuring out she was not part of the horrible venue’s back up dancers, but was operating a camera like there was no tomorrow, I knew this could be something special. Rosa Maria Koolhoven works under the name of Nikanika.com. She lives in Utrecht and is in her final year of Graphic Design at the HKU High School of Arts Utrecht. During weekends she likes to take pictures at parties, of which 80% are dubstep parties.
Tell us about your work as a photographer, did you just picked up a camera and educate yourself?
I like to experiment with the camera, the light and especially photoshop. I had some photography lessons in the first year of the HKU, but I can’t really remember a lot of that actually. Derek Djons taught me some things, but I’m really a noob if it comes to technical talks. I just don’t really care that much if a picture isn’t ‘correct’. If the moment in the picture is great, with the lightning and composition, then I’m happy. At home I edit them, because I think that every night has a different vibe. And that’s what I want to show in the set of pictures. It’s great if people say that I really caught the atmosphere of that night.
How did you enroll into party photography?
In 2006 is started to go to Dubstep parties. There I met Derek Djons. Derek was already photographing DnB and Dubstep parties and I absolutely loved his pictures. In that time I bought myself a new camera and I asked Derek to take me with him to one of this dubstep parties. I’m actually not sure why I wanted to do that. I think it was the whole dubstep scene atmosphere that fascinated me and I wanted to contribute something to the scene. So that first night was Dubstep a Gogo 24/11/07 in Utrecht. Still one of my favorite pictures is from that night.
What’s your camera setup?
I still shoot with my Nikon d40 and kit lens, 3 years old now. ISO 1600 and then I switch between the letters A,S,P,M and then I adjust these numbers during the night depending on the light … lol, like I said, I don’t know shit. Sometimes people say that I did this and that wrong, that im using the wrong setup or that my pictures are too dark, that I edit it wrong etc. But even though this picture of Skream and Benga is not correct, sharp or whatever, its one of the pictures that makes me really happy. It is more than just a picture, it’s the moment. It shows two good friends (I know them for over three years now), they are two of the biggest dubstep pioneers and 2009 was their big breakthrough. Benga even said to me that this picture is the best of the last year because he and Skream had this amazing time. And this picture outlines that.
Because of all this I’m not really interested in technical talk, because experience, knowledge about the scene and acknowledgement from the scene means more to me than technical correct pictures.
You probably deal with a lot of drunk people. What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you when you were out shooting photos?
Well, it’s always difficult for a girl to be backstage and hang with the artists and crew. In the beginning they always give you this look, I call it the groupie-look haha. Sometimes people really try to hit on you, just because they think they can. That can lead to weird moments. Then you also have loads of ‘can you put me and my friends on the picture please’ moments.
But one time me and a friend went to Antwerp, I was going to shoot at a dubstep party there. One of the UK DJ’s I met before wanted me to bring him some weed. But me and my friend were already in Roosendaal, near the border, where they just shut down all the coffeeshops! So we went on the street looking for people who sold weed. It was a bit scary, my first time dealing with criminal-black-market-dealer-stuff haha. Luckily I was with my friend, she was much braver than me. And then the nerves for getting caught on the train!
If we’d like to trade something for a photo you made, what should the CFYE delivery man bring to your door?
New camera! Or a new lens or flash-light. Something like that. I need it badly.
What’s the purpose of your photography, is it for the crowd or for the artists / organizers?
First of all it’s for me actually. I just love the music (dubstep) scene, the artists, the atmosphere and the people so much that I want to contribute something, be part of it. I do it for..everybody..and myself. It’s not that I really make the pictures for the artists, because there are so many photographers, that there is a big chance the artists won’t even see your pictures. And it is really a lot of work and organizers mostly are too busy with the artists, so they don’t have time or budget to pay you for your work. But they are always glad if you are there to make some pictures. So… at the end.. You are really doing it for yourself.
What’s your favorite item to take on the road with you?
My music. First I got a discman, was quite heavy to carry that around with all the cd’s. But now I got an Iphone and I’m so happy with it. Because I have all my music and my portfolio on it! Yeah, I think it’s great to always have your portfolio with you. And you can add everyone you meet directly on facebook or twitter! Next level networking!
Favorite city, and coolest thing about it?
London, of course. It’s the home of dubstep haha. Every weekend you have the greatest artists playing just around the corner. Line-ups of where you can only dream of if you live in Holland. And everybody is really friendly. I feel at home there. I travel there a lot alone and I like to wander through this endless city.
If you could make a line up for a party that you where about to shoot, who would be on there, and which location and setting?
I would love to shoot some American artists. I’m dying to see the Glitch Mob crew. Edit, Ooah, Boreta, Eprom etc. But also the Raster-Noton crew from Germany, especially Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto), Olaf Bender (Byetone) and David Letellier (Kanding Ray). Love the visuals, artwork, music and the whole performance of these guys, its brilliant.
As a location I would choose some really big industrial building, big crowd, good vibe, no ketamine and.. a really good light-man with an amazing lightshow! And no evil tour-manager who is afraid that I would walk through the visuals! (true story).
Something really fun about me:
One time I asked a DJ to marry me, because I was totally blown away by his set.
Hahaha I still think that’s really hilarious!
Best shooting location we should check out?
Paradiso is amazing. Love it every time. But Fabric or Matter in London isn’t that bad either, bit scary with all this ketamine kids though.
If you could fill a swimming pool with something, what would it be?
Thick Whipped cream, because I think it would be so much fun to slowly sink through the bottom of the pool. And I think it would feel really nice and soft.
Besides being one of the most sought after party photographers you also like to spin some records don’t you?
Yup. In 2008 I started Radical together with Myrkur. We organized a party and we did a pirate radio show in Amsterdam. In 2008 I had quite a few gigs, even played at Sonic Warfare at the Melkweg before Hudson Mowhake, Lukid and Zomby. But because I was also photographing a lot and had a though year at school, I had to cut back a bit. So in 2009 I focused more on my school and photographing. But in 2010 I want to start slowly again, because I like to play tunes that I think people should hear.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Loads! I want to follow a master this September in London. I want to be involved in new media research and communication design. Also I want to grow a lot in photography, try analogue and studio photography. In the future I want to start my own freelance graphic design studio. Because… actually.. that’s what I want to be haha!