Electronic dance music festivals generally include massive crowds (sometimes a hundred thousand or more), never-ending beats, and lots of dancing. You don’t have to dive into the chaos to appreciate the insanity; Felix R. Cid takes you there with his mesmerizing photos of pulsing festivals in X.
Cid traveled the world for two years, attending enormous events in 10 countries on three continents. At home in his New York studio, he splices hundreds of images into a single photo of mass musical bliss. It’s a bit like seeing cells teeming in a Petri dish. Though the perspective is from afar, the feeling of being in the middle of vast horde is palpable, almost claustrophobic. Cid was fascinated by the elbow-to-elbow intimacy.
“I thought it was interesting that in this moment, where young people interact so much through social media that they wanted to then be in these spaces where things are very physical and touchy,” he says.
Cid, 38, grew up in Spain in the 1990s when electronic music was exploding in Europe. He worked in local nightclubs, an experience that prepared him to shoot events like the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit and the Zurich Street Parade, where he bumped against sweaty bodies and dodged spilled beer. His favorite gear was a Canon 5D Mark II and a cheap lens that was easily replaced if lost to the mayhem.
The photographer always sought high ground, where he could more easily shoot into the crowd and get candid photos. As soon as someone posed for the camera, he moved along. “If you’re in an environment with 50,000 kids who are completely high on adrenaline, whenever they see a camera, they want to be noticed, and as soon as I’m noticed I move somewhere else,” he says. “It has to be organic.”
Each print is a mashup of some 600 photos from various locations (only a few prints show a single event). Cid would cut out groups and start grafting them together in Photoshop based on similar light quality or distance. He didn’t care about the layers blending perfectly, so you can see where different images meet. “If you showed this to any professional retoucher they would probably have a heart attack,” he jokes.
X—a reference to multiplication and ecstasy, among other things—is printed large, sometimes as big as eight feet tall. While most images are now displayed digitally, Cid wanted something tangible and it works. In his massive prints, you can pick out minuscule details, from screaming faces to navel piercings. “I wanted to have a clear reason for making a print,” he says.
Over time, Cid liked how his photos captured the intoxicating mood of the festival scene, not the reality. It’s more about getting lost in the experience than anything else. “[The dancers] are after a sort of parallel reality,” says Cid. “And what I’m trying to do in my work as well. There’s an accumulation of experiences that creates its own parallel reality.”