Max Burgess Is The Photographer Behind Your Favourite Music Events
One of Auckland’s favourite photographers is its most trusted insider, Max Burgess, a 22-year-old who has a personality as vibrant as the photos he captures. Over the past few years, Max’s photography of the local music scene in Auckland and beyond has surfaced as a growing, unfading document of this time and culture.
Earlier in the year, he shot for Slo:Wave’s Supertop Stage at RnV and You’re Welcome #2 at Neck of the Woods. You can only imagine how busy he is but we managed to have a quick chat with the man behind some of your favourite photos.
When did you get your first camera?
I actually low key stole my dad’s camera because he never used it. I got MY first camera in like 2015 off my mate, David. It took me about 8 months to actually pay him for it.
What is it that draws you to pick up your camera and take a photo?
I like the idea of being able to see something, taking a photo - you have that moment forever. A lot of my family have been very appreciative of me and what I do because I've been getting photos of Christmas or Birthdays. My dad used to have an old video camera and he made a point of recording my childhood along with my siblings. He's gone through a lot of effort to conserve those and put them onto a digital format now.
I like to challenge myself in terms of what I can produce and then portraying that in the correct way. Because if you don’t, you can misrepresent the subject in a negative way. Being able to do this correctly is a skill I am trying to perfect or at least get better at it.
At what point did you go from doing Photography as hobby to pursuing a career in the field?
I was going in and out of different jobs since finishing school,. I went to uni to study Science and Mathematics. Turns out I hate tertiary study and Auckland Uni can fuck off, that place is awful. It's like a concrete jungle where everyone walks around with their head down and no one talks to each other. Not the place I wanted to be in.
I kept taking photos of cars and shit like that then realised there is no money at the level I was at so I pushed and put myself out there. A friend of mine Logan West needed a photographer for town one night and I put my hand up - been doing it ever since.
I have now started my Diploma in Digital Photography, and that kind of was the point of no return. Dropped 10k on this diploma. I'm gonna finish it and come out with a lot of knowledge and experience ready to tackle the world.
Would you say your photos are premeditated and thought out or is it more of an in the moment process?
Excellent question! I have two sort of significant styles of my photos. One being my premeditated photos like in a studio or a planned shoot of some sort. It'll generally be me sitting on the deck with some beers, ciggies and going through Instagram or other photo outlets looking for inspiration. Now I only do this on digital photos.
My other style is with my film camera that I bought for $1. I have spent so much money on film and developing, its ridiculous. But i’ll generally take my film camera out with me to parties or on adventures and just take photos of random shit and people really fuck with it which is really cool, actually sold a few prints which is crazy.
You need tunes to get you in the zone when you're doing your thing. Tell us, what tunes are you listening to right now?
Obviously Pouya’s new album, Five Five. Some old school Raider Klan and funky ass house tunes as I've been taking photos at heaps of house gigs. A bit of dubstep here and there too. My music taste is super diverse. Open to most things except pop or country. Any Miami rapper I can fuck with.
You photograph a lot of music events like hosted gigs by Small Fortunes, Slo:Wave, You’re Welcome and RnV. How did these relationships form? Was it a challenge having to represent people when some of them are already widely seen?
I believe that people hire me because I have my own way of representing things - whether it be my style, my editing or just me as a person. I know when I started, my photos weren't that great. But I was super passionate about it and I wanted to succeed. Personally, I would hire someone who was friendly and approachable who took sub par photos over someone who is a dick but took amazing photos. So in terms of people like Small Fortunes or Slo:Wave, I developed a relationship with the promoters and came up with a way that we can best represent the brand and highlight them in a way that best fits their target audience and niche.
Our country has such a huge talent pool of artists and we are always looking for who is up next. Who do you think we should keep an eye on?
DHARMA-FUCKING-RAT! Adam is one of my favourite lyricist/rapper. He just keeps dropping banger after banger and the beauty of it all is every song is different. He'll go far for sure, hopefully I get to go with him.
Hxrman has been at the top of the game for years now and always will. Had the pleasure of seeing him a lot for a wee while when he was living in Auckland. He's such a genuine bloke who has so much passion for music and what he does. Puts a smile on my face whenever I see him.
Eno x Dirty also have so much amazing music with such a different sound to everyone else and I think the rest of the world definitely need to hear it. So many of the homies are super talented, I could go on forever.
That is quite the talented bunch. In saying that, who are some artists you'd love to collaborate with?
Depends on what aspect of artist you're talking about. Musically, I love working with the Valley Side Boys. They’ve been my homies for a while now who have some amazing energy that I love to photograph. The same can be said about Omni Potent, some of the most talented dudes I know. Being asked to video and photograph their set at RNV was an honour. Any of my close knit friends who are DJ’s in town also love having their photograph taken so they do their best to get the crowd going and getting the energy going in the room especially the Misfits crew.
Artistically, my friends Sam Dean and Jake Feast have been working on a project, I was actually taking photos of them today. Sam being a graphic designer and Jake being a painter - they have been creating some amazing work and it will all be on display at the AllPress gallery very soon, definitely come along!
People tend to find inspiration in different ways and forms. Who or where do you source inspiration from?
I'm inspired everyday by so many different people. Instagram is such a great platform to be inspired by. Getting lost in the explore section is so dangerous. I’ll be scrolling for hours just looking at so many people world wide. Locally, I have so much inspiration around me. My boss Jared is such an amazing photographer, seeing the work he does makes me want to be so much better and push myself to be on par with him.
I’ve met so many amazing people through this job and I wouldn’t have been able to do it with the help and inspiration from those around me, guiding me to be better at what I do in any photography field.
Auckland has a diverse selection of places to eat. What's your favourite underground food joint?
I love Japanese food, it’s just unreal. The different styles of food, the sauces, the meats, the veges, everything is just amazing. I’ll go to any little random Japanese place I see. My favorite places have to be Tokyo Bay or Ramen Takara. They are pretty pricey but fuck man, it's so worth it!
How do you feel you’ve evolved as a photographer over the years?
Same outlook, different goals. Wanting to create amazing photographs that people fuck with. However, I want to go on a different path in terms of where I want to be. To start off with, I just wanted to events and shit like that but I realised that was just a stepping stone into the photography world. Since then I have been doing weddings, products, people and food. All of which are very different and require lots of time and effort to grasp. I can only keep trying to better myself. This industry is constantly changing so I need to change with it.
We are dying to know - do you have any exciting projects coming up you can tell us about?
Yeah! I have my final project from uni currently in the works getting photos of influential people in their given field. Already started getting some awesome photos of some really cool people. So I can’t wait to share that with everyone. The viewing will be at South Seas, North Shore, in June. The more the merrier so come along, I'll probably have a little shin dig afterwards too.
Make sure to follow Max on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with his journey or flick him an email if you're in need of his services. Once you get a taste of Max Burgess at your events, you'll never be the same.