With his hair pulled back into a ponytail, a cigarette behind his ear, and a tattoo of his own design edging from the sleeve of his T-shirt, The up-and-coming videographer is measuring his rapid success carefully. Twenty-year-old Dax Sukstorf offers boyish smiles sparingly, but he’s quick with a kind word.
The 2015 Omaha North High grad knew from a young age his future lie in visual media. From polaroids up to his current Nikon D5300, Sukstorf has always had a camera in his hands. He got his start working with his mother’s photography business, helping to shoot and edit for weddings. “It was nice, but it’s just not really my kind of thing,” he says. Still in high school, he found the process of shooting and editing “nice” photos pleasant, but unfulfilling. “Taking photos of something is cool,” he says, “but I want to make a photo.” He resolved to take the risk of starting his own business, where he could push the limits of photography and challenge himself creatively.
While friends were changing their majors every semester or resigning to career fields they had no passion for, Sukstorf was methodically building his company. He experienced house parties through a camera lens, experimenting with different shooting techniques and networking with the local musicians who would become his client base.
A young man on a mission, it wasn’t long before the photographer uncovered a uniquely raw and irresistible creative voice. Perhaps influenced by the polaroids of childhood friends on their skateboards, Sukstorf finds himself adamantly against reliance on digital editing tools in his work. “I would rather take a photo and work on it for a very long time, you know, not use Photoshop,” he says, “but use the camera to take the photo and print it, and sell it as what it is: art.”
And his photos are art—not the Instagrammable portraits or cityscapes many 21st century photographers are producing. Sukstorf’s photos have a texture to them.
Subjects—usually local rappers—appear to move in the still images. Lighting, which Sukstorf refers to as “the most important thing always,” takes on an almost tangible form in the foreground of many photos.
Sukstorf has owned several cameras in his career, but his weapon of choice in creating art is an old Canon 30D with an external flash. He maneuvers the clunky camera expertly, aiming to capture the essence of an entire moment. By strategically leaving the shutter open for an extra couple of seconds at the perfect time, the decade-old equipment produces photos that appear “burned” instead of a static image that appears “frozen.” Sukstorf says of his method, “It’s like a video and a picture.”
After endless experimentation with photography, the transition into videography seemed only natural. “I definitely just learned photos as a base,” he says, “but videos are definitely the main interest.” After only one year of shooting and networking, he landed his first visual media contract with local rap group R0ach. Once the photos and videos of the rappers in action were
posted, the “Dax Visuals” video brand exploded from there. His ever-expanding client list is essentially a roll call of local hip hop artists, including work with $wipes, PB, Big Tate, and Absolut-P’s Movie House Radio project on
The immediate spike in demand for video work can be attributed to a uniquely slow and diligent editing process. A distinctive texture similar to his photography is present in Sukstorf’s music videos, making them unmistakably his own. Images fade and movement and light are intricately manipulated to create a hazy, mesmerizing effect. The artist is understandably hesitant to reveal too much about his process or estimate the amount of work that goes into a video, but he offers this breakdown of his craft: “There’s 25 pictures in every second of video. And each flicker that you see in my music videos…each little flash you see, it takes at least five seconds to do that effect. And there’s 25 of those little pictures in each second.” For one of his most recent works, “Adi Boyz,” (created for R0ach rapper Cheechy), that’s about 3,725 frames in the 2 1/2-minute video. “It can take me five to 15 minutes, even 30 minutes, on that one frame.” A hand-drawn video component that lasts three seconds amounts to 75 drawings.
Fortunately for a budding young artist who has yet to obtain his own studio, Sukstorf says DoSpace at 72nd and Dodge offers free access to all the digital tools one could need. Sukstorf often spends hours and days there editing his videos to perfection.
Despite a constant stream of new project offers coming in, Sukstorf doesn’t want to rush his learning process. “I could get better,” he says. “You know, I’m learning this all by myself.” He compares starting and growing his business to another big passion—skateboarding. “Once you start a business, you can keep failing,” he says. “But that skateboarder in me is like, ‘come on, you’re like that close to landing that trick.’ ”
Along with the high demand for music videos come decisions for the beginning business owner. Sukstorf intends to expand in his work within the local hip-hop scene and is learning the art of graphic design for album covers. “I’m open to anything,” he says. “It’s really a
This article appears in the November/December 2017 issue of Encounter.