"My name is Chris Finn. I'm from Vista, California in North County San Diego. I'm 19 years old and I'm currently studying Digital Media in Film at Loyola Chicago, but then doing a lot more photography gigs on the side because fuck school."
****All photos included in this article are taken by CFXNN****
How did you get into photography?
"The first time I started doing photography was around middle school, when iPod Touches were popping off and if you had one you were the shit. I started just taking photos with an iPod Touch and I started taking photos that were a little bit more advanced for someone just shooting on an iPod touch - leading lines, vanishing point, more stuff you learn in a classroom. So from there I got my first camera; it was Nikon, hated that camera. Now, I use my Canon t3I which I’ve been using for 5 years now. I’ve been trying to save up for a new camera, but that bitch is expensive. I didn’t really find what I wanted to do for photos until junior year of high school. I wanted to pursue more portrait-based photos; I like the social aspect of photography, I like meeting new people and making a connection with photos.
Growing up in California, it's so over saturated with surf, skate, beach, and landscape photography. It just gets boring. I’ve seen this everyday, what's new? That's why I got dragged into the city - trying to find roofs, taking photos on there. So, that sparked my interest within a city. With a beach you take a photo one minute, wait another 10 minutes, and it's going to be the same photo. In a city, you can stand on one block, stand there for an hour, and take so many different photos. That dragged me to the city and it started my love for wanting to be in the city. I was just over the beach. Landscapes, after a while, get drawn out and it's purely motivation; there is nothing really commercial about it. It’s pretty hard to get gigs, too; once I started with portraits, I just started doing shoots with friends from high school and from there clients started to build up.
Once I came over here, it was a smooth transition because my style was very dark and grimy when I came out. Being from San Diego, that doesn’t really agree because they want the perfect clear image. I almost want each shot to be like a still from a movie. A lot of my photos transition really well - I like the shadows, I like the dark. Portraits are also easy to get your name out, too, because if you take a raw ass photo, at the end of the day, someone is going to talk about you. So, I started working with artists, because at the end of the day, everyone wants a photo of themselves.
I took a class in high school and absolutely hated it. It was like, "you need to take this photo with leading lines," all the mechanics and what not. They always said not to use flash, but once I came over here I started to experiment with flash a lot more and that was the last thing to move forward my photography because it gave me that unnatural, but still somehow natural look. With flash, you're taught not to use it because it's unnatural light and it flushes out the subject. I like using it where it’s in-between, where it’s like bright enough where the subject is in focus and their skin tone is clean but the shadow is super rugged and it looks like another person is right there."
How did you come up with the name CFXNN?
It’s pretty much CFinn, but I just put an X through it. I thought it was cool and it looked good. I just stuck with it and went from there because it became more of a brand as it was catching on. That's not Chris, that's CFXNN photography. Then, I’m trying to start up a small clothing brand. The brand is spelled LXPE, but it’s pronounced "LOPE". If you know, you know. Lope is like a slang word back home which means like "low profile", like, "okay, it's cool to go outside, that's lope, can you pick me up at 12:30? That's lope." It's basically just saying it's chill. I’ve talked about this word with people from San Diego, LA, San Fran, Chicago and NY, the whole nine yards, and nobody knows what it is. That really shows that from this one group of people where I'm from, that's our thing. I wanted to make a clothing brand that remembered where I was from, in a way that only my friends and I would know, and the X through it is just like my personal touch.
Last year is when I started getting a lot more involved with the underground scene. Photography- I want to transition into movies- and then also into fashion. Photography- I got the promotions down- I can take the photos and produce the clothing. I started LXPE last year sometime during the school year, since I really wasn’t involved with the school whatsoever. I just found other ways to do it myself creatively. It’s still in such an infant phase of clothing; it's tough finding production, distributors, and all that and getting people to print it exactly how you want it to print. The only way to do that is to do it yourself, and they up-charge you so much. I have experience in high school doing screen printing. I know the process, I know the whole thing, and there is no way they should be charging you $30 to print a black and white design on a hoodie. That costs maybe $12 max if you have your own kit. I also don’t feel like I’ve reached the level of photography that I want to be at yet, so I want to focus a little more on that.
"Honestly, I wanted to go to a city school and they were the only school that accepted me. I was looking at New York, but I felt like New York was too far. Chicago was the perfect size of a city to get that full city experience. I tried applying to USF and I think I got in, but San Francisco is so expensive- it's ridiculous. My friend is paying like $1,200 a month for a storage unit. I actually liked San Fran- I visited my friend because he goes to USF, but when I went I was like, "thank fucking god I didn’t go here, that would’ve been the shittiest thing on earth." The people, I don’t know; I didn’t like the vibe. It was between Loyola and DePaul but I got waitlisted at DePaul, so I said, 'fuck it I'll go to Loyola.'"
What do you like/dislike about Loyola?
"For Loyola, they are a super basic school. Since I’m in arts and I want to further my art, a lot of the classes don’t agree with people’s pedigree. Some people are in journalism and they’re in the same class as someone who wants to be a director for a movie, and the teacher is a documentary filmer; we should have specific guidelines for each thing. They don’t pay that respect; they don’t want to put it into the budget. In terms of school, at the end of the day it's always going to be bullshit, so you just deal with it. The people here are cool, the friends I’ve met are cool, but that's a rare case. Generally, there’s some pretty weird people here."
On coming to Loyola as a means to get to Chicago:
"Picking my school wasn’t even about the school per-say, it was more so just being in Chicago. I have a roof over my head, I got a bathroom, and I got food. That's literally what it was. I wasn’t like looking into aspects of the major or anything. I just knew if I get in the city, I'm going to do something more than just get a degree."
On his transition from San Diego to Chicago:
"Freshman year was definitely rough. I had the ambition to go out and meet new people, but it was more work-based; it was to meet them to further my career and network. So last year, I did not associate myself with Loyola whatsoever. It was literally every person I met through the underground scene- going out shooting with one person, that person talked about me to another person, and it just went on from there. The transition was easier because I got absorbed in the work."
On staying in Chicago after college:
"See, the thing is about me leaving California. It was more so that I didn’t feel like I deserved to live there, because right off the bat California is too nice. It's unrealistically nice, so I didn’t feel like I really had that humbling experience yet. That didn’t entirely lead to me coming out here- obviously I wanted to- but at the same time, going back there after living a majority of my year here, there is just such a difference in persona and personality. The way I move is entirely different from the people I hung out with and now you’re starting to see the separation within the person’s ambition. Everyone there now is just smoking weed, chilling out, going to school, but not really doing anything to go after a dream of theirs. They’re just kind of sitting in a spot and letting time go by.
I want to move out and make a living to live out in California and then live out in New York for a bit. I got some family over there and I want to try out that city a bit. I picture myself traveling and moving around, but when it’s all said and done, I’d love to be back in California coolin."
Favorite place besides San Diego?
"Honestly, you can’t get better than San Diego. You got the beach. You want a city? Downtown San Diego is alright, but it’s a 2-hour car ride to LA if you want that vibe. It's an 8-hour car ride to San Francisco if you want that, and San Fransico has a lot more terrain, like nature. Most of how you travel through California is based on beaches and natural landscapes and whatnot. But in San Diego, you got the nice beaches, the basic version of everything, it’s nice enough to where you don’t really need to go anywhere. Once you go out, you’re not going to want to leave.
The weather restricts a lot of people within Chicago. The people who want to get shit done, they do it regardless and that separates them. In LA area, you can really get absorbed and not do anything because everything is so consistent. I like the people out here a lot more, out here it's like, "okay, you want to go do this? okay, lets go." I’m not used to that. I'm used to like, "maybe in 2-3 hours".
How did you start shooting with Rockie Fresh?
Recently, I’ve just been shooting the underground scene a lot. My friend Alex Garret manages Heffy, and from there Alex was that one guy. Coming from California, nobody knew who I was. I was this scrawny white kid with a camera, but he was a guy who was involved within the underground scene- he had a blog going and was throwing events. So, I shot for him for a little bit and it got to a point where he fucked with me and I fucked with him just the way he was. So, he would really push for me every chance he’d get, "You need a photographer? Hit up my boy Chris" and it just went from there. That helped me build my name within the Chicago scene and it went from there.
My friends who I’m trying to start a collective with are Kendall Jackson and Tinley. They’re super fucking raw. Tinley- I admire his shit so much. He’s where I want to be in a couple months, on the real, because he does professional shit- invoices, everything, the whole nine yards. He was doing his own networking, he was involved with shooting for Adidas Soccer. His one project manager was looking for a videographer to shoot Rockie Fresh’s documentary series that was going on for his debut album and we literally met each other this year and we just fed off each other; right from the jump, we just clicked. From there, it made his job easier- now he can produce his own creative vision without worrying about the extremities and outside noise.
Kendall is super good at directing. His knowledge for everything is insane. He knows the aspects of every camera and every shot you need to get, so that fed into Tinley. Tinley is kind of like me where it’s more based off a feeling, like, "how do I want to get this shot based off the mood in the room?" With the documentary series, Kendall has helped out so much with narrative. I've been helping out with photography, which is awesome and helping out co-directing the series, I’m really trying to get more involved with it because I want to start filming. Everything I need to know to start, I’m learning through this process now. It’s been an awesome experience working with him, super humbling guy, because I didn’t really know his music beforehand but after I got to know him, this album is actually crazy. I haven’t been in the making of it, but I’ve been watching over the making of this documentary series. Some of the songs are like, "damn, this is Rockie Fresh, this is the dude."
Who are some of your favorite Chicago underground artists?
"Heffy is a cool ass dude to work with and I’m tight with his manager. IggyboySlash- I think he’s super raw, I fuck with working with him creatively. Austen Nobles is super good, he was one of those guys that fucked with me from the jump. Marcusnogood as well. Recently, I’ve been trying to transition into the commercial scene. I shot for Ghetto Wall Flower, their clothing line.
I have to give props to every one of these guys even though I don't name everyone. I would not be the person where I'm at right now because they all just showed me love and that's way more than I could’ve asked for coming from California.
We shot a music video for Frank Vibes. He’s super cool, great experience. His dad was the manager, so it was a good working experience. Solocelo, he’s dope. 2kNato, he’s one of my best friends- he goes here too. I try work with people I know I can create memories with. If I fuck with you as a person, it makes it a lot easier for me to get a good shot. I want to look at my pictures when I’m 40 and see what I was doing when I was 19. Like, "woah thats crazy! how did I take that?" I have to give props to all these underground artists, because they fucked with me unconditionally. They didn’t have to trust me, but they did."
Worst photography experience?
"When I was doing a lot of freelance shoots, it's hard finding a professional person to work with. There was this one shoot I was shooting with 3 guys and 2 of them showed up on time. Like, "okay, I'm going to just go shoot with them." 1 didn’t show up and then came up and 2 of the models started beefing with each other, so the whole thing within an hour went from just literally like, "yo bro I got to go, fuck this, this is wack." It got to the point where me and one of the guys separated two of the guys because they were going at it. All our tensions are high at that point, some homeless guy at Starbucks was tweaking out. I was like, "you know what? it's been a long enough day, I think I got some good shots."
Digital or Film?
"In all honesty, I love film way more. Right now, it’s about producing consistent work. With film you can’t really do that unless you’re developing your own shit. When more shit pops off, I would love to switch over to film. I would love to do the whole developing process and everything just because that’s the purest form of photography. If you don’t get the shot, you’re fucked. Over summer, that’s why I started a film account, which is great because with film you have to pay attention to a lot more things. With digital, you can just take a shot and readjust it really quickly and take another 12 and it doesn’t matter.
Film has helped me pay attention to a lot more even when I shoot with digital. Most of my aesthetic, I try to mimic film photography- it's the most personal type of photography, it’s the rawest photo, it’s the most realistic capture of a moment. That’s why I wanted to bring it into my photography, literally a stamp in time. With film, it's easy to edit because most have the touch I always want on my photos. All the photos on my film account, I didn't have to edit that much at all. Maybe a little retouch, but not much.
Goals for yourself?
"I want to go on tour for photography, because I like traveling and whatnot. Imagine traveling the world, going concert to concert and taking photos. I want to get a lot more into commercial photography, so I want to start shooting for bigger name brands. Getting used to shooting that way, it's a different way of shooting photos. It's less emphasis on the models and more so on the clothing and you kind of want to mix them together. I just want to progress and become a lot more professional with it. Even though I’ve shot with some kind-of big names, I’d say it’s only the beginning. I think I’m still in the infant phase with it, but it’s good to see recognition coming in. "
Favorite season to shoot in?
"When I first came out here, it was the winter for sure. Last year was the first time I've seen the snow fall. Now, I’m done with it; I appreciate having sun a lot more. The other day, it just started getting sunny out again and literally my eyes were rolling because of the sunlight. I was like, "oh shit, what's going on?" Weather regardless, I use a lot of work with flash so it doesn’t really change. For clothing choice, definitely winter."
Best food spot in San Diego?
"You just can’t go wrong with Mexican food out there. The other day I was talking to this other girl about a California burrito; she’s never had one or heard of one, which is mind-blowing being from California because if you don't have one at least twice a week, you’re not eating good. It’s like carne asada, fries, cheese, pico de gallo, sometimes guacamole. So fire. One thing I miss so much from California is Mexican food. I have so much more respect for Chipotle now cause it’s like, "this is a decent burrito". I went to this one place in Lincoln Park and it was like "ugh, they were putting lettuce in a burrito, lettuce should never be in a burrito."
Everyone from the Midwest fucks with it, but lettuce should never be in a burrito. I don’t know what it is, because you think it would mix because if you put it outside of a bowl it's chillin' with the chicken, the rice, the guac. Cotixan is like a fast-food chain down there in San Diego, it’s open like 24 hours- literally anytime of night no matter what fuckshit. Me and my friends were on; we knew for a fact we could stop in there and get an $8 super breakfast burrito that has beans, eggs, cheese, potatoes, and then I get sausage and bacon on some fucked up nights, you know what I’m saying? That shit slaps for sure. The Mexican food 100%"
On if In-N-Out is mid:
"I’m not going to lie, it really depends on the place where you get it from. The classic is the California In-N-Out. The burger slaps no matter what; as long as you’re doing a double-double animal style, you’re doing it right. 4X4’s are nuts. I’ve gone to the point where I hate the fries, because the fries are so hit or miss. For some reason even right out of the fryer, sometimes it’s literally just a bad batch. In-N-Out slaps, no debate. Anyone who talks shit about it is wrong.
We went to Vegas to shoot this music video for Kendall’s cousin and I took them to In-N-Out. After being in Chicago and not having In-N-Out, it’s literally in your blood when you're from California. He just got the regular cheeseburger, like, "what the fuck are you doing? no, you got to go with the double double. You can get fries, a drink, a TWO PATTY BURGER AND CHEESE for $9," I’m sorry, but you can’t beat that. 3X3 is my go-to when I’m hungry there. Fries are forgettable but burgers are fire, no way around it."
On Food in Chicago
*He’s never been to Portillos…*
“I’ve been trying to go out, but once I find a good place, I just stick with it. I went to Devil Dogs which is decent. Honestly bro, I compare it to the Chicago In-N-Out, because when you think of Chicago you think of Chicago style dogs. Bro, I’m trying to find a fire ass hot dog. One of the biggest debates my friends have had over food is Harold's or Canes? I feel like Cane's is such an American chicken meal because it’s like whenever someone is bad at seasoning food, they just add sauce. Chick Fil A does the same shit. I got so over Cane's now, I just started eating their chicken sandwich. The things that make Cane’s good is it’s cheap, close by for me, and it’s open until like 3 AM. It’s a good meal, but I had Harold’s the other day- shit slaps. Harold’s is way better. I had Sharks too, that was good.
I had deep dish from Pequod's, so fucking good. That’s the prime example of me finding a place and sticking with it. Everyone says this pizza place, this pizza place, but Pequod's, I can’t. That's too fire. I like deep dish because you can eat one piece and be done. Deep dish stands alone, that's the best pizza I’ve ever had but I don’t know by slice. I think New York definitely has the best pizza, though. I hate to say it, but there is this one pizza place from Long Island that's walking distance from my grandma's and shit has slapped every single time. It got to the point where my dad when he goes back literally buys a slice, takes it with him into the airport, flies with it and eats it when he gets home. It’s literally that good where you save it for an 8 hour airplane ride. I can’t separate the difference between Chicago thin crust and California thin crust. Anytime I get pizza here I always go with deep dish just because I never had deep dish."
Hot Cheetos or Takis?
"Hot Cheetos for sure, fuck Takis. Takis are just to hard to eat, it’s like biting down on a hard tortilla. My homie Kendall fucks with Takis bro, he macks that shit down. That’s why I toned down on chips, because whenever I would get them, I would get the spicy chips because I wanted the full experience. I didn’t want to be a bitch and just get sea salt. I’d always get the spicy ones."
Most embarrassing moment?
"Some awkward moments come when you meet up with an artist and you haven’t listened to their music and you kind of just have to fuck with them. That’s pretty awkward. I have gotten too comfortable in situations where I embarrass myself. One time, we were at a studio shooting for Kendall’s cousin- he has a song with 147 Calboy- and I didn’t charge my battery. It was an hour car ride.
Luckily by some miracle, I don’t know how, it turns out I had my film camera on me and Tinley so happened to have 2 extra rolls of film. So luckily, they were decent rolls too. That made me look busy for a little bit, then Calboy came and I used the rest of my battery for that."
"Shoutout Kendall, Tinley, 2knato, Cavalier Management, and the whole Chicago area and anyone I’ve ever taken photos of."
"I feel like in Chicago, a lot of the creative scene is very cut throat as you build. It's very obvious because you start needing those connections, you start needing things to move forward. A lot of people don’t want to help you out unless it moves them forward, a lot of people don’t want to help you out unconditionally. That's why I have to applaud Tinley because he would have taken home all the bread, but no, he brought us along and split the money 3 ways. Even I would’ve been like, "I don’t know, I kind of need the money," and that's why I fuck with him. They understand that movement where I want Chicago to be a lot more inclusive. When people hit me up for photo advice, I don’t want to be that guy that's like, “I don't know, I just take photos”. I want to honestly help them out; I want to create a more accepting creative scene where people aren’t so much for personal gain. Because if one person pops off and you fuck with that person and they fuck with you, you’re gonna pop off.
At the end of the day, if you can do your work, you’re a cool dude, and you’re fun to work with, you’re gonna do great. That’s all that's to it. You’re going to get your best work with the people you like to work with. Last year, I was shooting with whoever, whenever. Now, I’ve been more focused on shooting with people I fuck with genuinely and want to create something with. I’d just like to say Chicago artists need to be more supportive towards each other and help each others grow instead of diminishing other’s work to make yours look better.
I fuck with that ambition where it’s cutthroat, but then I also hate it. I’ve just learned to accept it; there have been events where I’ve taken photos and want to get the best photos there- it doesn’t matter if there is someone with a bigger name that is there, I want to make sure they know that I take better photos than them. At the same time, I can admit a good photo at the same event. I feel like a lot of people need to support each other.
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