Pardon The Introduction: Nabil Elderkin

Music

By: John Kennedy / October 16, 2009

The shutterbug behind Kanye West’s Glow in the Dark tour book focuses on getting hemmed up by security and how he got the best shots.

VIBE: When did you first link up with Kanye?
Nabil Elderkin: I linked up with Kanye way back when I heard his [2003] Akademiks mixtape, Jeanius Level Musik. It just had come out. I really liked the music and what he was saying. I started searching online for him and looked up kanyewest.com and there wasn’t one. I was like, “Oh, shit.” And I bought it. I got a call a couple of months later from Roc-a-Fella saying that they just signed this guy, Kanye West, and that they wanted the domain name and asked me what I wanted for it. I wasn’t trying to do anything with it, so I was like, “Yeah, you guys can have it. No problem.” They were like, “That’s it? What can we do for you?” I said I’d like to take pictures of him. They set up the shoot. I shot him in Chicago. And that ended up being his first press shoot. We bonded and I ended up shooting him around town at shows and became friends.

How’d you get involved with shooting this tour? I assume that as a photographer and video director, your schedule is pretty packed.
Don, Kanye’s manager, hit me up like, “Yo, Kanye wants you to come out on tour with him.” I was like, “Cool.” Everything that I do with photography, my goal is to travel. I didn’t do the whole tour, probably about 10 to 15 shows. From the first tour [in Europe], to the revamp of it in [North America].

Do you have any moments that particularly stick out from the tour?
I really enjoyed China. I’ve been there before, but it was great to experience it with Kanye. I enjoyed London. And Australia was the best, because I’m from there.

Did you get to be his tour guide, since that’s your home?
You know what? He’d already been there a couple of times. He didn’t venture too far, but he went on his jogs and I went with him and he’d go down the Harbor Bridge. We did a scope around the hotel. We saw a couple of things within reason of the tour.

Were there any times when big moments occurred but you missed or decided not to shoot?
There were a couple of intimate moments that I didn’t shoot just out of respect. He’s a human being, so there were a couple of moments where I’d put the camera down and go into friend mode. There were things going on with him during the tour that were very trying and solitary moments.

Did you come across any problems trying to get the perfect shot of any of the show’s scenes?
It involved a lot of running. If you saw a crazy dude running around with a camera at the show, it was me. I was definitely back and forth. Because sometimes you want a nice wide shot. So sometimes I’d run all the way back. Like at the United Center, you’ll see a double page spread of the whole screen and the crowd. It gets difficult because you get all these security guys that are like, “Who are you?” And you’re running around places backstage that even production doesn’t go. Like I’m trying to go to the top of the United Center to get this cool angle and I’m trying to explain that I’m here with Kanye. I had an all-access pass that said “Kanye Photo” on it, but in general Kanye didn’t allow cameras at all. So the crews at the venues were instructed that there were no camera whatsoever. Barry, his security guard would try to explain it when I was around, but there would be moments that someone would say I can’t shoot.

What can you say about Kanye’s work ethic as someone who has seen him up close for a while?
He’s very, very demanding in a creative way. He wants everything to be top notch and he’ll do anything to make sure it’s the way he wants it. It’s his show and it’s his vision. People have to understand that he wants it the way he wants it and that’s why he’s paying boatloads of his own money. I guarantee you that he spends more of his own money than any other artists to ensure that the creativity is where he wants it to be. And he’s very open to creativity, too. He’s always open to other people expressing themselves and taking what he feels is right from it. -Brad Wete

Glow in the Dark, narrated by West and photographed by Elderkin, hits stores on October 20, 2009. Check out a sneak peek in VIBE’s exclusive gallery.