Yetunde Dada is a 23 year old photographer from Pretoria who primarily documents live music at concerts and festivals in bright photographs that focus as much on the people in the crowds as the musicians on stage. Yetunde is a founder and editor of Drop Your Drink, an online platform through which she has photographed music events at home in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town and as far off as New York City. Most recently she attended the Free Press Summer Fest (FPSF) in Houston, Texas, whose line-up included Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Jack White, The Naked and the Famous, Die Antwoord, Above & Beyond, Zedd, Ms Lauren Hill, Wu-Tang Clang, DMX and Chvrches. When she is not stealing moments at music events around the world, she focuses her lens on fashion photography and portraiture.
Please tell us about yourself and how you came to be a photographer:
My name is Yetunde Dada but you can call me “Yetu”. I’m 23. I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and I live in Pretoria. I have always been the camera girl. I received my first camera when I was 8 and picked up the nickname “Yeturazzi” in high school. Photography, back then, was about creating a visual record of my life. I was a happy-snappy camera user but this changed just over two years ago when Drop Your Drink began. I realised I wanted to take better photos for Drop Your Drink and that’s where my journey through photography really picked up.
How would you describe your photography style and what are your inspirations?
I consider myself a music photographer with a documentary style. I greatly admire photojournalism and I’ve been put in a situation where I can apply aspects of that style to concerts and parties. My inspirations are from certain music photographers like Loren Wohl and I spend even more time on the New York Times Lens Photography website.
What do you enjoy most about shooting events, festivals and live music?
My favourite live music events have two factors that make them great. The first is if I am a big fan of the act that I’m shooting and the second is if I am surrounded by many fans. In the first instance, I almost pay tribute to these great musicians with photography and I enjoy that. In the second instance, I love the energy that comes from being around people who love the act that they are seeing.
Any funny, strange, or just really great experiences you would like to share?
Nothing really out of the ordinary. There was that one moment when I watched one of my friends walk off a three meter stage while he was shooting Haezer at Grietfest in 2013. I was funny but a sad reminder to look where you’re going! Recently, I met one of my favourite photographers very randomly at a music festival in America. His names is Dennis Auburn and I’ve seen a few pictures of him before. I saw him in the crowd at Flosstradamus and really just chanced asking him if his names was Dennis and it was him.
Please tell us about Drop Your Drink:
Drop Your Drink is a blog that covers all aspects of music, photography and anything that could result in a dropped drink – so music festivals, concerts and parties. It was started in December 2011 and is a Pretoria-based blog but we’re so often in Johannesburg that it sits between both cities. We have a large team of photographers and writers contributing to the blog and at the end of the day we’re great friends. We often drop drinks at parties together and we put out content that we’re passionate about.
How would you describe South Africa’s music scene?
I have a love/dislike relationship with South Africa’s music scene. Whenever I shoot abroad I get reminded about South Africa’s incredible talent. We really have pockets of people that are pioneering in their fields and I’m glad that I’m in a position to watch a lot of these artists develop. Examples of these artists would be Hawkword, Strike in Berlin, The Watermark High, Muzi and Thor Rixon. I don’t understand why some South African acts are more famous abroad than they are here like Spoek Mathambo and John Wizards. I dislike the crowds that are drawn to concerts with international headliners in South Africa. America and Europe have different situations with regards to the crowds that come to see certain musical acts. Most of that crowd would be fans because those acts perform a lot more regularly there. There’s something special about experiencing thousands of people singing along and dancing as opposed to some boet, actually many boets, that heard one song on 5fm standing somewhere at the front and clearly not interested.
What are your goals for Drop Your Drink and for your personal photography?
Drop Your Drink had a complete rebranding that was completed early May and we have some plans for the blog. I can’t give much away but you should see a big blog expansion as well as a move into videography. In terms of personal photography, I will be focusing on two parts – a move into photojournalism and becoming a tour photographer.
What is your main focus when creating gifs? Any plans to move into motion/film?
The idea for concert GIFs came about because I saw a photo project called “Stellar” by Ignacio Torres. I like GIFs, they reference 90s culture, some look 3D and they show another aspect of the event. It’s interesting that you ask about plans to move into film. All the Drop Your Drink photographers have been tasked with learning aspects of cinematography. We already have two active videographers on the team, Lourens Smit and Nathan Thomas, but as a collective we understand that there is a trend to video production so we all have to learn.
Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can tell us about?
I mentioned that I greatly admire photojournalism and that’s something that I’m going to be pursuing during the year. I’ve begun by joining the Pretoria Street Photography group and practicing with being comfortable with street photography. I’m also busy with personal projects around certain themes like sunburn and Iggy Azalea.
I had no clue until a few days ago. I was shooting at the Free Press Summer Festival in Houston and I had a moment that took me back to June 2013. It was when I was watching Zedd, which is something I did last year, almost at the same time too while I was at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware. In June 2013, I set a goal that I was going to become a touring photographer for major electronic music producers. Over the year, I forgot about this goal but it was good to be reminded of it again.