Through a photographer's lens
Rauner ’12 turns his passion for photography into a career
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 17:10
If, a few years back, you had told Brandeis alum Andrew Rauner ’12 that he would spend the summer after college touring the country as a professional photographer shooting a music festival, he might not have believed you. “Photography was always more of a hobby,” Rauner insisted.
This past summer, Rauner was a professional photographer for Elektro Magazine, a start-up publication based in New York City, taking promotional photographs on tour with the Identity Festival. Identity is an electronic music festival that toured North America from Aug. 11 to Sept. 10 and featured top-tier electronic artists.
“Landing the job was actually a bit of a fluke,” Rauner explained. By the end of his senior year he was submitting photos fairly regularly to both the online and print editions of Elektro Magazine.
“Basically, one night while I was shooting an event with [Elektro Magazine] in New York City, [Elektro] told me that they were partnering with the Identity Music Festival to offer media sponsorship, and they thought it would be really cool to send someone as a means of getting more exclusive content,” Rauner said. “Then they asked me, ‘What do you think?’”
The decision to pursue a career in photography was a radical departure for Rauner, who double-majored in Economics and Computer Science. Other Economic majors in his classes began to plan for post-graduation finance careers, but Rauner decided to take the gig with Identity because he figured, “I would never really get another opportunity like this. I can put that life on hold and go on tour.”
Rauner has been snapping shots since he was about seven years old. In high school, he took occasional photography jobs at concert venues so he could see bands for free.
In his junior year at Brandeis, Rauner enrolled in an intermediate photography class to fulfill his creative art requirement, reigniting his interest in a long-standing pastime.
From that point on, photography was elevated to what Rauner calls his “professional hobby.” He spent his last two years at Brandeis shooting school events, including SpringFest and Pachanga, and shooting promotional photos for the Kaos Kids. Eventually he started landing jobs at local nightclubs and concert halls in Boston such as House of Blues and Paradise Rock Club.
Although Rauner does other kinds of photography on the side, he says that shooting music performances provides him with a stimulating and exciting work experience.
“It’s challenging because every show is completely different. I don’t get to control my subject or the lighting, so I have to sort of learn as I go. It’s a little more interesting for me than working with a model in a studio where there’s opportunity to screw up.”
Rauner concedes that being an undergraduate at Brandeis was sheltering in some ways when it comes to the reality of working outside of the Brandeis bubble.
“You don’t necessarily get the sort of worldly experience that you might get elsewhere. I was on tour for a month with a lot of 40-year-old tattooed middle-America ex-rock star types. I had never really talked with people like that before then.”
As much as Brandeis may not have fully prepared him for his transition into the workforce, his experiences as a Brandeisian were also helpful. “I think something people at Brandeis don’t necessarily realize while they’re at Brandeis is that it’s such an eclectic group of people. Being able to converse with someone who is completely different from me is something I definitely learned at Brandeis.”
Rauner’s tour with Identity was a great match for him since he is interested in electronic music. “Don’t get we wrong, I grew up on classic rock, and I play guitar,” he clarified. “But with the electronic music scene it is not just about a guitar and rockstar. It’s really a major production.”
Rauner’s photography career keeps getting bigger and better as his talents become more recognized within the music industry.
At his first job after the Identity tour, he was given special access to the backstage booth, shooting the Electric Zoo Festival for Rolling Stone magazine on Randall’s Island, N.Y.
“I was standing behind the DJ booth and when I picked my head up to take pictures, I was greeted with a crowd of 50,000 people. I have never had stage fright before in my life, but all I could do was stare at the crowd for a couple seconds and immediately duck back down. I had to take a few minutes to collect myself and realized that I was there to work.”
Rauner wasn’t involved in many clubs and organizations at Brandeis, but he found that he was able to involve himself in many different areas of student life through his photography.
A sustained career in photography is an attractive idea for Rauner, but he remains a realist. “It’s a very fast-paced and exciting life, but it isn’t completely self-sustaining, especially in today’s environment.”
Rauner is currently looking into positions in the music industry to complement his job as a freelance photographer, a search prompted by his interest in electronic music and his experience on tour.
Reflecting on how he currently uses the lessons he learned as a student in his professional “adult” life, Rauner’s practicality returned. “When you’re at Brandeis, you get used to it and start to think that this is what the real world is like. Sometimes it isn’t, but sometimes, it is.”