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Behind the lens: a photographer’s love letter to Taipei’s techno scene

Take an unfiltered look into Adrien Destribats’ passion for photography & upcoming book ‘Taipei After Dark’

  • Adrianna Cheung
  • 15 June 2023

As an avid photographer who still shows up at raves and after-hours, I continue to explore the world of after-hours photography and the hunt for like-minded artists across Asia.

One night I stumbled upon the work of Taipei-based photographer, Adrien Destribats. His portfolio was an instant draw, with images showcasing silhouettes of anonymous party-goers in Taipei that are captured in a vibrant play of light and shadow, creating a mesmerizing contrast of dark and vivid colours.

Hailing from Southwest France and based in Taipei, Adrien's passion for techno and music shines through in his dynamic and energetic images. With a sophisticated aesthetic, his work captures intimate moments of mid-rave joy and showcases the raw and real underground techno scene.

Adrien shares with us his journey from videography to becoming a skilled photographer and how he discovered his love for capturing the essence of club nights during his time in Shanghai. He also gives us a sneak peek into the concept behind his upcoming book, ‘Taipei After Dark’. So, get ready to be transported into Adrien's world as we dive deep into his artistic process and vision.

Hi Adrien! Tell our readers a bit about yourself!

Hi! So, I’m Adrien Destribats and I’m from the Southwest of France (Hossegor)! I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Taipei where I opened my studio named Slapvisuals.

When did you discover your love for photography and realize that this would be your full-time gig?

I actually first started with videography and as I was looking for new ways to express myself with a camera; my mom being a photographer herself kind of inspired me to learn the bases of photography.

My real love for photography really started four or five years ago when I was in Shanghai. At that time I had the chance to hang out with other photographers and learned a lot of new technics and approaches to photography. It took a while for me to realize this would be my full-time gig but once I have an idea in mind I go for it, so I made all and push it to make it happen!

When and why did you start taking photos in clubs? What makes capturing club nights so special to you?

So my first time taking photos in a club was in Shanghai, in 2019. My roommate was a DJ (DJ Charles B) and needed photos for one of his gigs, so I went for it!

There are many reasons why capturing club nights is so special to me. First, my love for techno; not only the music, but also more of the special vibe that any kind of techno can bring to a club, and being able to capture the emotions of people listening to it. To share my vision of what I love at these parties is truly special to me.

The second reason is mainly the colours and lights. Those nights really give me so much room to play with in terms of lighting and later on colour grading — it’s really fun.

Share with us the photographers you look up to and why!

I would say Alex Verhalle. His B&W style is truly impressive; he really succeeds in showcasing the power of the raves he shoots at. Also, his stop-motion edits are really good; he’s the one who inspired me to do my own stop-motion edits.

Another photographer I really look up to is Karel Chladek. His colours and portraits in clubs and all of his photos tell a different and profound story; everyone should check him out!

What details do you enjoy focusing on in your work process?

There are two details that I love focusing on. The first one is colours; my end result is rarely the same as what it was originally because I really enjoy playing with colour curves to achieve the vibe that I intend to share.

The second detail is making the subject of the photo look like the main character of the story that photo is trying to tell.

How do you approach storytelling as a photographer?

Coming from a videography background, it’s funny how photography can have a very different approach to storytelling and yet very similar…if that makes sense?! In photography, the subject can’t talk, yet, when I take photos of individuals during parties, it’s like I have a discussion with the person in front of the lens, and that’s how I believe the story takes place.

The debate is made through the emotions the person shares at the moment the shot is taken. Add to this the people around plus the colours and lights and you have the whole story written.

Anyone who lays eyes on the photo afterwards can (hopefully) feel the vibe the person was going through and almost have an indirect discussion with the character and the environment. Of course, all this is open to interpretation.

Can you tell us a story behind one of your photos?

I took this photo at a big techno event and I remember at that moment the crowd was getting really excited and happy with the DJ. My original goal was to capture the person in the right of the image, but I missed focus and ended up with this picture that actually (in my opinion) showcases the power of a happy and vibrant crowd.

The happy face in the foreground, the power of the hands in the background…and the lucky timing with the lights!

Tell us about your upcoming publication 'Taipei After Dark’; how did you come up with the idea?

‘Taipei After Dark’ is a little bit more than a collection of photos. As I wrote inside it, it’s a love letter to the Taipei techno club scene! My idea was to share some of my favourite shots that really capture the essence of the city's nightlife.

It has four main themes that are represented through four different colours: red, green, blue and black and white, ending with a special section spotlighting local DJs. On top of that, I also added a Spotify QR code to scan above each section, allowing access to different songs that I believe match the vibe I was going through when editing those photos. I wanted to make the viewing of the book a little more interactive…plus, it’s a way for me to engage in a kind of indirect conversation with the reader.

One of the main reasons I came up with the idea of making it a book was to break the digital wall that we use every day. I feel like we see art through Instagram, Facebook and so on every day, but it doesn’t feel real; we tend to forget what we see very quickly. Printing it on paper is, I believe, a way to make it timeless. Also, this way people can keep a physical memory of Taipei’s Nightlife.

Can you tell us about a moment you captured in a club that continues to captivate you?

That would be when I was shooting the Amelie Lens event in Taipei. The way the crowd was reacting to her set was something I never saw before. It was intense and powerful at the same time. Really captivating to see so many different people (and so many different styles) reunite for the same intense love of music and the same love for the artist. Taking photos of the crowd with such passion really created a huge connection and that felt really great!

What are your three favourite tunes at the moment?

NTO's 'Alter Ego', French 79's 'Hometown' and 'La couleur des emotions' by Dooz Kawa.

What’s your weapon of choice (favourite camera and lens)?

When it comes to photos, my Sony A7III with an 85mm for more personal portraits and a 24-70 or 16-24 to grab more attention on the overall vibe of the night.

If you could capture any person through your lens, who would it be?

Anthony Favier (NTO)! I’d love to do a photoshoot that matches the transporting vibes of his music!

Describe Taipei’s club scene for someone who has never been!

Taipei’s club scene could definitely be described as very versatile and that’s the beauty of it! From the Xinyi area with its EDM and commercial clubs to the underground scene with Studio 9, Grey area and Pawnshop, and passing by Maji Square with its outdoor bars and clubs…you can’t be out of choices!

One thing I love about Taipei’s club scene is that you can always find places full of locals who will warmly welcome you and try to get to know you!

Take us on a night out in Taipei. Where would we start, and where and when would we finish?

Well, if you follow me then it would definitely start in Revolver for a couple of beers. Then, we head over to 7-11, which we all know is the best bar in town. Around 12 to 1 am, you’d end up at any techno club (be it Studio 9, Pawnshop, Final, etc.) that always has a good line-up!

Who’s your favourite DJ from Taiwan?

I don’t have one! Everyone in the underground community is so talented and they all have different styles; it’s impossible to have a favourite! That’s the beauty of the underground scene here.

Tell us your go-to club in Taipei and why!

It has to be Studio 9, where I shot most of the photos showcased in the book. It’s a fairly new club and yet it succeeds in championing the techno culture in Taipei!

What’s your go-to hangover food?

If I were in France, I would definitely say kebab. It’s cheap, lazy food that tastes super good! In Taiwan, my go-to hangover food would just be any breakfast shop available with 起 司蛋餅 (Chinese cheese omelettes).

What makes Taipei’s underground scene so inspiring?

I would say the fact that it’s so diverse and creative. The underground culture encourages experimentation, pushing boundaries and exploring unconventional ideas. All of those happen in so many different art forms; music, visual arts, fashion and so on.

What instantly puts a smile on your face?

So many things! Good music (especially with good memories), having good friends around… and also good weather!

To purchase your own copy of 'Taipei After Dark', head here.

Adrianna Cheung is Mixmag Asia’s Culture Curator, follow her on Instagram.

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