VISCERAL INDUSTRY: An Interview with John Raptis

A few weeks a go our strong team of Australia based contributors was enhanced with the introduction of one of the most passionate music photographers out there, Melbourne based John Raptis.

The way John started his journey is incredible and you can read all about it on his website at, but for us the most eye catching part apart from the strong brand consistency is the fact that in the primary stages of photography John committed to a self imposed rule that no what what photos he took, he would not touch them photoshop or another other image editing software. This meant that he could truly learn his camera and use it to maximise his full potential.

Here we delve into the mind and life of Australian based photographer hearing about his career to starting off shooting with a Sony point-and-shoot through to publishing multiple sell out books. Looking at almost 10 years of experience in the Music Photography industry.

So first, as soon as you search for John Raptis on any search engine you are greeted, top of the list by ‘John Raptis Photography – Visceral Industry’, what would you say is the meaning behind branding yourself as ‘Visceral Industry’? Does this link to your internal love for photography and music or is it something else?

‘When I first started doing live music photography late in 2008, I branded myself under the Visceral Industry monicker. Seeing as I only shoot the harder edged acts, (Metal, Hard Rock, Industrial, Punk) the title fit nicely. The word ‘visceral’ is one I really like and I feel is a good description of my style and the subjects I shoot. Combine it with another strong word such as ‘Industry’ at it sounds like the name for a band or something.

As you are aware, I have a very strong love for street photography too and even as we speak, I am planning a new website to cater strictly to that side of my work. The site will be called ‘Clandestine Manifesto’ and it will be a diary of how each of my street photos was captured or the story behind it or what it inspires in me. I love writing so much and I want that site to be a very inner look into the happenings within my mind. It can be a strange place to dwell in but I am not afraid to share my most personal of thoughts through images and words. Hopefully I can launch this early in the new year.

So Visceral Industry will be the brand for my live music photography, and Clandestine Manifesto will be the other side of me covering the street stuff that I shoot. Ultimately, they all fall under John Raptis Photography because ultimately I want people to look at any of my photos and know full well, that’s a ‘John Raptis’ shot!’

When you first started what gave you the desire not to use photo editing software? And is this something you would recommend to other photographers? Maybe this would be a cool competition we could run, to see how well people know their cameras in their environments.

‘I started dabbling with a camera in 2003. At this stage, live music photography was still a few years away. In fact, I don’t think it had even entered my mind. I had been working as a professional Web Designer since 1997 so every day I would be manipulating others images in the designs that I was working on. The desire to not edit or do any post-work on the photos I was taking was to force myself to develop my ‘eye’. I needed to know deep within me what is and what isn’t good composition. Looking back at some of that work sometimes I failed spectacularly but sometimes I didn’t. A style was beginning to develop. Perspective, composition, scale, depth and visual stories were beginning to be seen in my shots.

The point and shoot was my constant companion. This was way before we all had killer cameras on our phones, so the point and shoot was with me EVERYWHERE. And I practiced with it each and every day without fail. Would I recommend this to other photographers? Sure! If you’re starting out do take the time to not only learn your craft, but love it as well. I mean, really love it and make it a part of your life where every where you look whether you are with or without your camera… you are framing photos in your mind’s eye! Learn your camera first, learn post-work later.’

Its important to be in an industry you love, and it looks like John is doing exactly that, not only an amazing photographer, but also a collector of memorabilia. If you were running out of a burning house and could pick up one of your pieces of memorabilia what would it be?

‘HA! That’s a damn good question! It’s also a difficult one. I’ve been in the possession of some fantastic items over the years but as of right here and right now, if my place was on fire I’d probably quickly grab my copy of Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ vinyl which is signed by the entire band. Seeing as it is probably one of my fave albums of all time and the fact that Ronnie James Did has died, it is a piece that probably means the most to me.’

Going back to the photography, it is very evident that you have a strong signature style across all your images, how many years in the making did it take you until you found yourself shooting these great images in this great style?

‘Well I have been doing live music photography for just under 10 years. We’re almost at the 10 year mark and looking back at the volume of work that I have covered in that time it is evident there is a style that has been developing and constantly evolving. Which is not to say that it won’t continue to do so over the forthcoming years and change again and again. When my peers photos begin looking like mine, it is time to change and try and push the bar again. I went through a very strong black and white phase at one point and then I noticed a lot of the people I shoot with were doing the same. Not only in a visual sense but also in composition and framing. It was time to move on. I also strongly believe, you cannot shoot black and white until you truly understand and know how to shoot in colour. So right now, I am learning colour. 

I think in 2013 I began to really hit my straps and could clearly see a certain style beginning to take shape. I had been shooting for about 5 years at the time and was desperately keen to ensure that my images did not look like any body else’s. I find crystal clear sharp as hell images of a musician behind a mic so awfully dull. I want my style to evoke a sense of urgency, danger and be as visceral and energetic as possible. And that is another reason I shoot the styles of music that I do. Shooting some Alternative dude standing there in a flannel shirt and jeans looking like he’d rather be making coffee is not what I want to photograph. The stage is holy! When you’re up there, look the fuckn part!’

Linking to this, was it before or after finding your style you found publicists wanted you on board? With a large amount of published pieces of work, which is your favourite? And what was it like getting a front cover image for the first time?

Again it was around about 2013 that I felt my work was starting to really be noticed by either magazine publishers or gig promoters. I’ve been on the cover of magazines a couple of times but I did have one of my street photos used on the cover of a novel. That was a huge thrill because the photo was really just a throwaway photo but it really summarised the feel and story that was written in the book so they move heaven and earth to have it as the cover. Also being published in Ace Frehley’s autobiography was a huge thrill as I was his tour photographer for his Australian tour in 2010. Also being published in the Smithsonian Museum’s book of Rock And Roll remains a HUGE honour.’

With regards to self-published books, all of which being complete sell outs, How long did it take you to develop, produce and then send these books to print?

‘All the book projects that I have done have been self-published. I didn’t want to sit around and wait and see if a dedicated book publisher wanted to put out my work, so I did it all myself. The benefit of doing it this way was that I had no one to answer to but myself but at the same time being self-published meant that the costs were high. So with high costs and limited print runs I ended up selling out all the books I have put out. That’s a good thing! 🙂

The Diabolus In Musica booklet was basically just a program guide for an exhibition I was putting together. Unfortunately it just did not work out logistically because the place where the show had been designed to be exhibited at closed. The exhibition is currently shelved but I am hopeful I can get it happening in the not too distant future.’

Like most music photographers, they love music and especially photographing those raw emotions, guitar solos and crowd reactions. But most of which have other areas of expertise too, for John this is street photography, so much so he is regarded as one of Australias finest street photographers. Not only does his style compliment his concert photography but also his street photography. As a photography, this may be hard to answer, but if you could only ever shoot one of these two sectors of photography, which one would it be and why?

I love both equally as much. As we discussed earlier, I don’t think I could favour one style over the other. They are complimentary disciplines even if technically they are worlds apart. Whereas the live music environment is so incredibly hectic, chaotic and downright insanely energetic (especially the acts I shoot), the street is a different beast all together. With live music you have a very limited time to get your shots in what usually is a hostile and frenetic situation. The street is the opposite. It is more tranquil. Time is not important although timing certainly is when you see a scene about to unfold before you and you need to be ready to get your shot.’

Finally, scrolling through your website, you can go on ‘artist archives’ clicking on all the bands tour posters to see images, which is a cool idea. Or you can click onto your ‘about’ section to see a huge list of bands, but….. who is still on your bucket list to shoot? Is there anyone left.

‘I was thinking about this the other day actually! I have been pretty fortunate to chip away at my top 10 Bucket List acts so as of right now, there really isn’t anyone I have missed out on. I will have to re-think my bucket list pretty soon but I am super eager to photograph Chelsea Wolfe, Myrkur and the like. Chelsea I am pretty sure I will get to shoot on her upcoming Australian tour. Of course, I would still love another crack at current occupiers on my list such as KISS, Maiden etc. but as of right now, the ultimate bucket lister for me would be an act such as Rammstein! For very, very obvious reasons as they put on the greatest rock show on Earth right now!’

Thank you for your time John, we love your work and more importantly your passion and love for the industry is clearly shown through your work. Keep doing what you are doing and we can’t wait to see the arrival of your upcoming projects very soon, including the potential new fully fledged book.

You can see Johns work on the following links:

15943798015_2620a5e538_kAC/DC  AC/DCDevin_Townsend_10KISSKISSMetallica_19Steel Panther

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