Exclusive Interview: Pavel Kuna discusses ‘Be yourself, be unique’ project
Esteemed dance music photographer Pavel Kuna will embark on his biggest project to date this Autumn, bringing his very own ‘Be Yourself, Be Unique’ exhibition to the people of Slovakia. Connecting his two biggest passions; Photography and EDM, Pavel has taken his camera around the world during the past three years, attending popular music festivals and working with the greatest names in the electronic music scene.
Listing his client-base, which includes names such as #FutureJack maestro D.O.D, and many more, the award-winning photographer’s exhibition is an embodiment of emotion and euphoria, with Pavel capturing some of the most iconic moments in EDM history through his lens. Commenting on the exhibition, Pavel Kuna said:
“I’ve captured many rare moments: on stage, of crowds and also in backstage or on set with the artists. I’d like to share my work with you.”
Pavel, tell us about your new exhibition “be yourself be unique” – what was the idea or inspiration behind this?
“The whole year I’m very busy at work, preparing my travel itinerary, travelling, editing the photos and so on. Every year in April I travel to LA for Coachella. It’s my tradition and a part of the year when I have a time to relax and enjoy life. This year at Coachella I was thinking about the next steps in my professional career. I’m from Slovakia, it’s a small country in heart of Europe. I really love my country but people there don’t know who I am and what I’m doing. I wanted to show them my work and something from the EDM industry. It was always my dream to have my own photo exhibition but I have never had a time to do it. After a short chat with my family and friends I felt that now is the right time!”
How did you come up with the name of the exhibition?
“Well “Be yourself, be unique” is a type of lifestyle. Each person is different and unique. When you’re going to the music festival you see people dancing, smiling and enjoying life but in a real life it’s not like that. We have to show the world our personality and who we are. Then everything will be as it should be and you will be happy in all aspects of your life! That is the story and my vision and I want to share it with all people through the exhibition.”
Tell us about your career to date, when did you first get involved in photography and why?
“When I was at high school I was an editor-in-chief for our school magazine where I found passion in electronic dance music. I made a lot of interviews with DJs like Nicky Romero, Cheat Codes, Quintino, Markus Schulz, Matoma, DJ Antoine, Tungevaag & Raaban, Dannic, Jonas Aden. I met a lot of people in music industry and started to work as a music photographer. I started to shoot hip hop festivals in Slovakia but I know that it’s not my cup of tea and I want to capture moments at EDM festivals. It was very hard for someone who doesn’t have any experience with this type of photography and who has no portfolio, which is very important for promoters. No one will give you an accreditation when you have never shoot EDM festival. After a short period of time I got an idea, I tried to apply for a press accreditation and I was successful. I got an accreditation for my first EDM music festival as a press photographer in 2016. It was AIR Festival, the biggest EDM music festival in Czech Republic with artists like Martin Garrix, Don Diablo, Quintino, D.O.D and many others. This festival changed my life! I remember the feelings which I had. At the AIR Festival, I met D.O.D. personally too. He liked my work and thanks to that the following year I’ve accompanied him with my camera on his tour. He became a good friend of mine. That has been the step toward working with other artists, developing new friendships and connections.”
What have been your proudest accomplishments and achievements in this field to date?
“I have a number of them. According to the EDM Sauce magazine I was eighth best music festival photographer in 2016. Just one year later I won the third place on Dance Music Awards in Best Music Photographer of the year category – that means a lot, because it is supported by the EDM fans. The first time I shoot Tomorrowland or Ultra, that really blew my mind. To work for the greatest names in EDM as a photographer was amazing. I was traveling all over the world and seeing many beautiful places.”
There are many different types of photography, so what was it about dance music that made you want to engage in this type of photography career?
“I have always been a big fan of EDM music scene in general. I watched live streams of Ultra Music Festival in Miami, waiting for the new releases of my favourite artists till midnight… But the biggest breakdown came in 2015 when I got the book of Rutger, aka Rudgr.com, a legend of EDM photography. I fell in love with his photos and I recognised that that’s exactly what I want to do in my future.”
What are your tips or tricks on how to capture the best images? What do you look for particularly when taking a photo?
“I like to cover the basics every time: crowd shot from behind the DJ, stage shot from the photo pit and from the crowd, telephoto shot of the DJ, portrait shot from the front and both sides and then I’m going to the crowd to shoot people dancing, people with flags and kissing with sunset behind them. Once I have those covered, it’s usually depending on the whole setup for other shots.
How do I find a good picture? One word: authenticity. I’m capturing people having fun and feeling free. I want everyone to feel the amazing atmosphere from the photos.”
They say a picture paints a thousand words, so how do you ensure that maximum emotion is captured in your images?
“I have to ask for the special effects first. I keep an eye on what is going on, so if I know a DJ is going to play a massive track, I go for an epic crowd shot, or wait for a good hands in the air moment from the DJ. Then when the DJ gets a bit more into the mixing, I go for closer photos without being noticed. Everything is about timing. You have to be at the right time at the right place, that’s why I prepare a short script before each shooting with tasks what I want to catch.”
Taking place at EUROVEA, Pribinova 8, Bratislava (Slovakia), between 3rd and 12th September 2019, a special grand opening ceremony will take place at 6pm local time on September 3rd with various special guests in attendance. To find out more about the Pavel Kuna ‘Be yourself, be unique’ project, you can follow Pavel on Instagram, or check the official website. In the meantime, check out the video invitation below!