behind the stars

she may have changed her name legally to dana distortion, but her clear outlook in life is inspiring and straight-up admirable.

The sway of living in a saturated busy city has contrastingly given her a different perspective in life. Meet the person behind the lens.

please tell us about yourself — your journey, when did you start getting into photography.

Dana Distortion Yavin (yes, I legally changed it). I live in the city that is my biggest inspiration, Brooklyn, NYC. Among many other things, I’m a photographer, a filmmaker, and a business owner.

Photography was always a part of my life, but I actually started my career as a filmmaker after graduating from film school. While I was on tour shooting video with a band, I fell in love with concert photography. So I did that full-time for over a decade, and now I’m excited to be making my third film after a long hiatus.

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behind the stars

did you study photography, or did it start out as a hobby?

Other than taking a black-and-white photography printing course and a short lighting class, I didn’t formally study photography. I taught myself over time. I think the best way to learn photography is to do it NON-STOP.

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I also find the internet a great resource to study and learn new things. If you are a passionate and curious person you can definitely teach yourself photography. And I think art is kind of a hobby even if you do it professionally. So you have to absolutely LOVE what you do. If you want to do it, photography has to be your whole world, or at least a huge part of it.

what were the challenges you faced starting your own company, especially in a saturated city like new york?

There have been many challenges, but I think the biggest one is to constantly push myself and ignore the competition.

The competition for work here is huge, I’m not a very competitive person by nature. I like doing what I love and don’t like to think too much about what others are doing.

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I like doing what I love and don’t like to think too much about what others are doing

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behind the stars

what's your take on social media?

I find the constant criticism and judgment happening on social media to be really discouraging. People spend so much time bullying others and sharing harsh opinions--it’s not how I like to do things. I like to use my own social media to try to inspire as many people as I can and encourage people to be secure and confident about their own voice and style. People shouldn’t care so much about what others think of them or their art. I find people apologize constantly for what they say and who they are.

I mean, why does it matter? Why is one better than another? Because they have more Instagram followers?? I mean, life is short, I’d rather spend it being happy doing what I love and spending time with people I love. Okay, I totally got carried away there…. you know what I mean though…

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another big challenge i’ve always faced (and still do) is that i feel like music photography is not taken seriously by people in the music industry.

Maybe it’s because music is something everyone experiences and loves and knows? Or maybe it’s because so many people wanna do it, they will do it for free. So dealing with the people in the industry is a big everyday challenge for all music photographers. Whether it’s being ignored, being expected to work for free, getting rude emails, or whatever.

And then sometimes our photos are used without permission, credit, or fees. So many annoying things, it can really be a challenge to stay motivated. And when we’re brave enough to push back, we get chastised, bullied, and sometimes legally threatened. It’s gotten worse over the years, to be honest. It’s very sad and demoralizing.

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take us through the milestones.

To me, a milestone is getting better at something.

A good example is when I photographed Coldplay at two different shows, three years apart. I got the same photo of Chris Martin in a cloud of confetti both times. It was essentially two versions of the same photo, but the one I took the second time was SO much better! It was great to know that I had learned so much during those three years and had developed as an artist. That’s was a recognizable milestone for me.

Of course I don’t take for granted being published in well-known magazines, working side by side with artists I love, and having them appreciate my work.

being able
to help and inspire others has been an accomplishment I’m really proud of

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who was your first famous musician to photograph? what were your thoughts during that moment?

Hard to say, because I always photographed musicians. The first band I ever photographed and realized that’s what I really wanted to do was Gogol Bordello. I was on tour with them and picked up a camera, and never looked back. Then it was The New York Dolls (still one of my favorite photos I have ever taken). The first band I shot professionally was Sonic Youth. I will never forget that show, EVER.

where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

Exactly where I am right now. Doing what I love. Exactly "what" is a mystery.

I try not to plan my life too much because you really don’t know what’s gonna happen. I like to leave room for spontaneity and surprises.

If I plan too much it usually doesn’t happen, so I’d rather let life lead the way for me. With that said, I’m back to filmmaking and working on a documentary film I’ve been dreaming of making for the past nine years. Hopefully I’ll be finished with it in five years! But I always have to be working on something, or a lot of things.

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did you experience touring with a band as a photographer? how was it like?

Yes, and I loved it. I have become more “domestic” in recent years, mostly for health reasons, but nothing beats being on tour. It’s very hard work and the blues that come afterward are really harsh, but it’s absolutely one of my favorite things to do. I also love living in hotels and tour buses. It’s not for everybody, but I love it.

Being together as a group and with music present at all times. It’s a huge rush, and you get to travel and meet new people and see amazing places. There is really nothing like it!
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I like my photos as tight as possible in the frame. But I think lights and color are my main signatures.
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behind the stars

what's your typical day like?

My life is kind of crazy and unpredictable. I can be home one day and on the road another and leave on a trip to Japan the next day without having time to get ready. I have had some big changes in the past two years, because for health reasons I had to slow down a lot.

These days I’m home most days I usually wake up around 7 or 8 am. I make coffee and go back to bed and listen to an audiobook or read a real book for about 30 minutes. A big reason why I have Alexa is that it’s a rule of mine not to wake up and go straight to my phone, so I just ask her to read me a book.

I feel like taking time for yourself in the morning really sets the scene for how your day is going to be. After I make coffee, then the madness starts. It depends on what I have on my calendar that day, whether it’s a photoshoot or an editing task I have at home, or location scouting, or working on the film. My life is NUTS and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m usually in 20 places in one day! God bless the subway!

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how do you balance life?

Most importantly, I work out a lot. I used to cycle, but due to a hip injury, I switched to Pilates. I think taking care of yourself and your body is super important, especially when dealing with a lot of heavy gear. I have really learned to love myself and listen to my body. I also eat healthier and don’t drink much alcohol as I used to. I really focus on being happy.

I also dedicate blocks of time to arranging my personal space. Whenever I clean up and reorganize my apartment, it makes me feel great.

time I give myself first thing in the morning is sacred. It’s my time to think or read or reset.

I try not to take things to heart. I’m a super-sensitive person and I care a lot--sometimes too much--so I really try to find balance. Balance is a keyword in my life since there’s so much chaos I deal with daily. Whatever I can do to find balance, I try my best.

I also spend a lot of time keeping my skin healthy. I guess it has to do with aging, but it’s something I never really thought about my whole life and now it’s a must to take better care of my skin! I also try to write a lot and spend quality time with people I love. Love keeps me strong and balanced.

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favorite song by a band you did a photoshoot of?

Oh man! There is no way I can answer that. Way too many...next question!

who do you look up to?

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, David Bowie, Quentin Tarantino, Fred Armisen, Shirley Manson

fondest time of your life?

If you mean favorite time of my past, it was my teenage years. There was something so magical in my life back then. I had fewer worries, and life was all about music and friends and love and feelings. I was fearless, I had no shame. I often wish I was that brave and careless again. Maybe it’s age or social media, but I don’t feel like that anymore and it makes me sad.

favorite pastime?

It would have to be music. Yes, that’s my job, too, but it’s the truth!

tea or coffee?

Why choose??? I love both. Coffee is LIFE but I’m also a HUGE matcha fan. I love tea as well, so yeah anything caffeinated is welcome here.

Well said. Dana's cutting-edge paradigm seeks to inspire a generation negated by a deep sense of direction, aimlessly driven into a quicksand of vanity and self-entitlement. Her hopes that by her stand, there would arise a remnant of young blood ready to champion the true value of music as powerfully captured by her lens. Truly a star behind the stars.
See more of Dana's work at:

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