Nathan Doran is a 25-year-old professional photographer, born and bred on the Mornington Peninsula. And his job is, in a word, cool. He travels the world photographing the biggest DJs in the business (among them Joel Fletcher) and the big music festivals (including Stereosonic). His photography also extends well beyond the music industry. Mornington Peninsula Magazine caught up with Nathan in between stints to talk about his success.
You photograph big-name DJs and music festivals around the world. Tell us a little bit about what you do?
Basically I travel/tour with DJs and document their journey in the form of photos and videos - that the artists use on their social platforms. I also work directly for festivals, photographing their events, and I’ve even been fortunate enough to tour with festivals around Australia.
You travelled to Europe for five weeks last year with Joel Fletcher. What did you do there? What’s it like working for him?
The tour with Joel was rad! We did a big string of shows all over Europe, including Cream Fields Festival (UK). All of the shows on the tour were great and we were fortunate enough to get some down time, including four days off in Mykonos! Working in the same industry, Joel and I naturally became friends a few years ago, so it's just like travelling with one of your really good mates! When you’re touring with an artist it’s very important to have a good friendship.
How did you turn a hobby into such a big-time career at such a young age?
I wouldn’t define it as ‘big-time’ by any means, but I have got to a level that I can be proud of. I guess I just had a strong desire to improve, but that comes naturally when you are really passionate about something. My career was just a succession of small stepping stones and I really tried to focus on achieving the goals I set.
It looks like an adrenaline rush to photograph the big gigs, where are you when it’s going off?
It just depends what the gig is and what kind of photos I’m trying to take. I could be on stage with the artist, in the photo pit, in the crowd on a patron’s shoulders, or at the production tent shooting towards stage – all trying to capture the best shots. It definitely is an adrenaline rush when there’s an epic moment and you create a photo that captures that perfectly.
Is it true you studied a Bachelor of Science and are self taught in photography?
That’s correct, I completed a Bachelor of Science at Monash University with majors in Zoology and Ecology and Biodiversity in mid 2014. Photography was just a hobby for me, so it was never really the plan. Balancing both became increasingly difficult, but as soon as I finished university I went straight into photography full time, doing a five-week USA tour with Melbourne DJs SCNDL. I have a strong passion for nature/the environment and one day I’d love to shoot for National Geographic, but I love music and the lifestyle of that industry is easier when you’re young. As for being self taught, I learnt everything I know from trial and error, reading articles, Googling everything possible, watching youtube videos and practice, practice, practice. While being self taught probably isn’t conventional, I definitely think it has its benefits.
Tell us about some of the local gigs you photograph?
Local is where I started – one of my very first gigs was at the Bay Hotel in Mornington. Recently, I photographed and directed the media team for Let Go Fest in Mornington, which was amazing! 9000 people watching RUFUS (my favorite band) perform as the sun set over the main stage. I also do quite a bit of photography outside the music industry, so I’ve been shooting the summer series of food truck carnival events on the Peninsula, which has been awesome.
What’s your style?
I suppose it really depends on what it is I’m photographing. I usually like to have a strong use of colour and a sense of depth to my photos; I try to create a feel that’s relevant to the context and story of each image. I like my work to pop and stand out and my edits are normally pretty clean.
Fav places to hang out (café, bar, beach) when you are home on the Peninsula?
I’m no stranger to coffee and all-day breakfast in Main Street Mornington. When the weather is good I always walk my dogs down to my local beach in Mount Martha and in summer I definitely try and make the most of living on the Peninsula! This summer I’ve done a lot of snorkeling around the Peninsula!
Message to aspiring young photographers who might look up to you?
Photograph what you love and enjoy what you do! It’s the old cliché but practice makes the biggest difference – you’ve just got to get out and shoot! It takes time to develop your own style, but just stick at it and everything will start to click.