"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 docum