Juliana Bernstein comes from rock photography royalty. Her uncle is Joel Bernstein, whose iconic touring photographs of artists like Joni Mitchell, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan inspired Cameron Crowe’s imagery in Almost Famous.
“He gave me a Nikon camera when I was seven years old,” Juliana laughs. “He was like, ‘You’re going to do what I do.’”
Inspired by her uncle’s work, Juliana says that photography has always been her focus, her passion — especially where music intersects with art. It’s what drives her. And as a photographer on the team at Coachella’s Do LaB stage this year, she’s putting all her knowledge and passion to work.
Do LaB is known for being one of the wildest, coolest parties at Coachella. Their stages are works of art and their incorporation of water, music, and bold creativity bring people from all over the festival flocking. So check out these gorgeous photos Juliana took of weekend one, read her words, and run, don’t walk (though you might collect $200, just for food) directly to the Do LaB for weekend two.
You shot at Do laB this year at Coachella, what do you love about the Do LaB stage?
I’ve worked with a lot of companies, but the Do LaB is really special. They build incredible stages that are based on art. And they bring fire dancers out, and aerialists. It’s really, really special. The company as a whole, it’s just really grounded people. People don’t understand that music can be more than just about the party. It’s really about creating a foundation for an entire generation to build off, and to learn, and to grow.
(Do LaB) wants to create a whole experience for their audience. That ties in more than just music-art. That ties in with cooking; that ties in with the environment stability; and yoga and the body. It’s really amazing.
Did you have some favorite or surprising moments taking photos at Do LaB?
I’ve been waiting to shoot for the Do LaB for a very long time! I fell in love with that stage, when I first went to Coachella in 2009. I flew from New York, and I was running around, little 16-year-old, 17-year-old me, like super excited, and found the Do LaB. I was like, “This place is awesome and I’m going to hang out here.” I had a goal, a long term goal to shoot for them this weekend.
I got to do the boom lift! They do an aerial shot every year of the Do LaB stage where they take a boom lift. It’s usually taken by Daniel Zetterstrom who’s the other Do LaB photographer. And that photo has inspired me for years. I got to actually be up there with Daniel this year, taking that photo. It was pretty amazing. I almost cried. Almost.
I think what surprised me … I mean, Friday day was packed. I’ve seen the Do LaB really packed, but I’ve never seen it that packed.
What are the challenges when it’s so full? As a photographer, is trying to get individual pictures really hard in that situation?
Yeah. There are moments when you look at the crowd and all these people are dancing, and half of them have their shirts off, and they’re sweaty, and their arms are in the air….I’m very tiny. I’m actually 4’11”, so I get very nervous about going into a crowd that packed and just getting swallowed by them.
I love getting the people in the pit of the show, to get people who aren’t posing for the camera but are really in it. I’d say that’s the challenge, because … people want to be seen. That’s Coachella. Kids get really excited and they’ll all pose and smile. But I’ll just keep shooting them until they forget I’m taking a picture and they go for the next drop. That’s the photo I end up using, the one where they’ve all stopped posing and their hands are in the air because whatever drop just happened was too important to pay attention to me anymore.
The stage is low and it’s covered, so figuring out different ways to shoot it is definitely a challenge, but I’m lucky to work with a lot of really amazing people. They actually have a ladder that we were using to climb up and get those really great wide crowd shots. I stood on stepstools, coolers, and lots of other things.
It sounds like such a unique venue!
I think really that’s what I love so much about it! It’s three aspects. It’s the art stage, it’s the fact that the crowd can vary drastically throughout the whole weekend, and the water. There’s always water being sprayed. That’s really fun and different to photograph. The shot I’m happiest with … there’s a Sunday shot where this girl is coming in through this beam of light, and there’s water spraying, and her hands in the air. It just created this moment. That was the shot I’d been trying to get all weekend. It finally happened on Sunday and that was nice.
You’d mentioned that Daniel was a photography inspiration of yours, what was it like to work with him?
The first moment I got brought on to the Do LaB team, I was in total disbelief. We were up on the lift together and I was like, “Whoever says dreams don’t come true is a liar.” We all get to sort of watch each other work and we’re all incredibly close.
Daniel is really good at keeping me from doubting myself. I’ll be like, “I don’t know, it’s crooked. I don’t really like it. It’s too dark.” He’s like, “Trust yourself. You took it, you like it, you got it. It’s the way you know how. Submit it and you’re done.”
It’s always really comforting to hear that, especially from him, a talent I admire so much. Daniel and I also have these moments where I’m like, “Look, I’m doing a lot of wide shots. We need some portraits.” He’s like, “I’m on it.” He’ll come back with like 50 of the most amazing portraits I’ve ever seen. We work very well as a team. I have such admiration for him. Watching the way that he captures people and works, the enthusiasm and the drive he keeps up with his work was just like…
Everyone at the DoLaB is kind of like that too. They’re always smiling. Even if they’re working hard, they’re still happy with what’s going on. They’re never snappy or stressed. It’s kind of like a weird anomaly, but it like pushes you forward for the whole weekend.
How do you balance being at the festival and enjoying it while at the same time working?
Pace yourself. I’m not a huge partier to begin with, so I don’t ever really have a bunch of problems there. Once I started working festivals almost every weekend, I was like, “Okay, the festival is no longer a place where you party. You work now.” But it’s a long festival. Our days start at noon and they end at one. For me, I have to know when to take breaks, and when I have to be really on.
I’m really good at scheduling myself at festivals, like managing my own time. That’s something I’ve learned a lot with practice and working with these guys. You have to take care of yourself first and then take the images, because you’re only going to take great images if you’re feeling great.
Especially, during artists I love … I took a set on Saturday. There was a moment where I let my camera hang and I was just like dancing and singing with Amtrak on Sunday. I love his music. I was shooting and then I was like, “You know, I’m not going to shoot. I’m going to dance. That’s what this moment is for. It’s not for shooting; it’s for dancing.”
You kind of have to find that balance yourself. It’s important that you enjoy it.
In between weekends, do you just like go into silent rooms and curl up?
Yeah, I am home for the week and I’ve basically been home all day, staring at a computer screen. It’s creepy. You go from being really surrounded by a ton of people all day every day, to isolating yourself to relive all those moments with all those people, but alone. It’s a very weird juxtaposition. You get this weird nostalgia because you’re home alone going through all these photos of all these people. You’re like, “Oh, it was so fun.” You’re talking to yourself.
What do love about your job? What do you love about what you get to do?
Everything. I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky that I get to do what I do. I really just feel like it’s in my blood. My photo background extends as far as I’ve told you, but then I studied at the International Center of Photography when I was growing up. I majored in it in college. I’ve always had a focus on music. Some people pick what they want to do and they have a path. That’s it for them. I’m kind of like one of those people. This is it for me. I’m only going to do this.
My biggest compliment I ever get is when someone says, “Going through your photos feels like being there.” That’s the goal-to make it feel like being there. I don’t want it to look like a picture. I want it to look like a moment.