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Words & Photography: Shane McCauley

From live sets in Rome to beach parties in Jamaica: The 10 most amazing moments from life on the road with DJ legend Diplo. 

Wesley Pentz, alias DIPLO, became a worldwide star in 2008 thanks to “Paper Planes.” The song, which he produced for M.I.A., went quadruple platinum in the U.S. and was featured in the Oscar- winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

The former schoolteacher from Philadelphia has since reworked songs for Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé, Chris Brown and Madonna, among others. 

Shane McCauley, 38, first met Diplo at a block party in Philadelphia in 2003. The photographer and filmmaker, who lives in New York, has accompanied the DJ to shows on every continent ever since.

Shane McCauley

08.05.2012 / BROOKLYN, NY
“An unplanned riot. Major Lazer was supposed to be outdoors that night, but bad weather meant we had to move to the Music Hall of Williamsburg. MC Walshy Fire got the party started.” 

M.I.A.: “Paper Planes”

Shane McCauley

01.21.2014 / MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
“Major Lazer is Diplo’s dancehall music project. At this gig in the Palace Theater, 1,500 concertgoers held up their smartphones on demand. The sea of lights they created is a key part of the show, and that’s the best moment for me to take my pictures.” 

Shane McCauley

02.24.2011 / PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD
“Diplo and Major Lazer MC Jillionaire on the way to the aftershow. Jillionaire is a local, so he knows the best parties. We call him the President of Trinidad.” 

Shane McCauley

05.01.2012 / NEW YORK, NY
“MikeQ’s Vogue Knights Tuesday is a legendary dance party at Escuelita Nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen. Diplo is a regular. I took this shot during the 30-minute dance-off, when a team of judges award prizes for the best moves.” 

THE RED BULLETIN: How did you become the house photographer for a world-famous DJ?

SHANE MCCAULEY: I first met Wesley 11 years ago. A New York music magazine had commissioned me to photograph his block party in Philadelphia. Wes still wore baggy pants at the time and had a ponytail. We hit it off straightaway because, like me, he’s crazy about music.

Shane McCauley

How does this craziness manifest itself?

Wes is interested in all local music cultures. If he’s performing in India, he’ll spend hours at flea markets looking for Bollywood records because they might have an interesting beat.

You’ve been traveling the world with Diplo for more than a decade? What’s the wildest nightlife scene you’ve seen? 

All hell really lets loose in Tel Aviv. The political situation there is tense. Young people there have the attitude that they could be dead tomorrow. Which is why they’re all the wilder when they party. Kenya was crazy, too. Diplo played in this venue with a roof made of palm grass and a wooden dance floor. The kids danced so hard that the floor caved in. The security staff had to form a protective ring around the hole so that nobody fell in.

Where is it dangerous to be a nightlife photographer?
Kingston can be rough. You shouldn’t go out there at night without a local guide. In the Philippines, we wondered why there were sniffer dogs at the hotel. Later we found out that they’d thwarted a terrorist attack the week before.

What’s the secret to taking great nightlife photographs?
You can’t capture music in pictures. So I try to document the energy of the people at the concerts.

Shane McCauley

04.20.2011 / MADRID, SPAIN
“The Zombie Kids are the kings of Spanish nightlife. Here they are at the Sala Heineken. But why is Diplo literally on the decks? Couldn’t be more straightforward: Because he’s a showman.” 

Shane McCauley

08.04.2012 / PHILADELPHIA, PA  
“Diplo’s wild Block Party sets are famous: 8,000 people partying outdoors and a carnival atmosphere. Here, a steward coaxes two revelers down from a pole.” 

Diplo

06.03.2009 / ROME, ITALY  
“Diplo on his tour of Italy with DJ duo Crookers. This picture was taken during his set at Atlantico Club in the south of the city. Rome was one of the few cities Diplo also had a look around in the daytime. Normally he’d be on his laptop, creating new tracks.” 

Shane McCauley

02.19.2012 / KINGSTON, JAMAICA
“A couple dance during a Diplo set on Sugarman Beach. He loves the island nation’s dancehall music. The dance that goes with it is called daggering and looks like you’re having sex with your clothes on.” 

Shane McCauley

01.20.2013 / PHILADELPHIA, PA
“For his Trap Hawk Down tour, Diplo played four sets a night in four different cities. After Baltimore and Philadelphia, he flew by helicopter to Atlantic City and New York.” 

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