Steven Nunez is a 19 year old from North Center, one of Chicago's 77 community areas located just west of Wrigleyville. Currently a student at Columbia in Chicago, Steven's stunning concert photography has separated him from other photographers in the Chicago scene.
****All pictures included in this article are taken by Steven Nunez****
HM : When did you get into photography?
SN : "2015, I was a sophomore in high school. I was inspired by G-Eazy's personal photographer and was a huge fan of G-Eazy at the time. I noticed he had a personal photographer; I didn't know that was a thing and I was like, ‘Man, I want to do that.’ Like just the idea of documenting someone's whole career. I understood looking at the photography from it, how important it was, you see the growth through his work.
I was in a program called IB sophomore year, and we had this thing called Personal projects where you get to pick whatever you want and it's a couple month long project. So I chose photography just to see if I was good at it. It was kind of an excuse for my mom to get me a camera.
We were at the Mall of America in Minnesota and I was like, 'Can you get me a camera because it's for this project.' I told her, I really feel like I'm going to be good at this. She was kind of doubting it, and was really unsure about it.
You know how kids are? Let’s say a kid tries jumping into something. If it doesn't work, it's going to sit around and then it’ll end up being a waste of money. But I was really sure about it and she bought me a Canon Rebel. I did the project and from then on I was really passionate about it.”
HM : What makes a photo “good” to you?
SN : Honestly, I think what makes a good photo is when you get a feeling from it. If you look at it and you're like, man, that's the one, you know.
Talking about formal aspects; obviously what makes a good photo is down to the basics like composition, tones, lighting, shadows, depth of field, all of that.
You could say photos possibly come out the same, you can literally come out with bangers every show, no matter how simple the lighting is, how simple the production is, or how dead of an artist it is.
There's so many factors to a show. The vision is really what makes a good photographer, you make the best out of any situation that you get. Even outside of music photography as a journalist in general, if put in a certain place, you can make the best work ever. It's not really what the content is, it's how you shoot it with your vision.
It's your perspective."
HM : When shooting, do you have in mind already what you want the picture to look like?
SN : "No, because you never know what's going to happen. You don't know what the artist is going to do. I mean, you would have an idea, but you don't know exactly what's going to happen. Everything I go to is a mystery. That's what I love about it. You just don't know what's gonna happen and then you just have to be there at the right moment, the right time, then bam. That's what it is. And that takes talent."
HM : If you could shoot for any brand or publication who would it be?
SN : "I want shoot a cover for XXL and the Grammy's. Basically any popular award shows that are on TV.
HM : So what do you like more, concert photography or shooting one on one with an artist?
SN : "I would say both. It's not even just concerts, it's music in general. I just like documenting artists and the music industry. Obviously concerts are where I'm getting placed into because I'm fresh in the industry. That's how I'm getting my name out there. Now I'm like one of the best out here in Chicago. People get more blown away when I do things that are outside of concerts. I have some collaborations with Adidas and Puma.
That's what I want to get into starting 2020. I want to show people that I can do more than just shooting shows. Some people put me in a box of just concerts. People don't know I'm a journalist and I write too."
HM : How did you get involved with The Chronicle, Social Works, and Pep Rally?
One thing you should know about Chicago is that the music industry or just the culture in general is, everyone's tight, everything and everyone is in a close circle.
You start to realize that you're not too far from one person or another when you're talking to someone, it's crazy. But it's just not easy to get around. You just realize how you're a step closer.
Columbia is in their own world. When I was in high school, I was shooting photos and building a portfolio. I was the Editor-in-Chief in Year Book when I was a senior.
I knew I wanted to go to Columbia when I found out they had a newspaper I knew I was going to go there. I applied, got admitted, got an interview and then I got the job. But what I didn't know was that this was a paid job. I just thought it was a club or something like that. I also didn't know is that basically everybody in the school applies for it. So it’s a very tough position to get.
I got the job as an incoming freshman and that's weird because they don't hire freshmen.
Through the Chronicle, I got connected from shooting shows, if you're a music photographer, I would recommend getting a platform to shoot shows for. I started shooting shows and at the same time I had a deal with the Metro to photograph events.
I met Hot Rod in December of 2018 through WemmyMo, an artist that I work with. He needed a photographer for this Social Works event called Taste for the Homeless, it's for the homeless on the West side of Chicago. I took photos of Hot Rod and the rest of the event, Taylor Bennett was there too. Since then, I've been tied in with Social Works and Hot Rod.
HM : How did you work with AT&T?
SN : "They reached out to me on Instagram, it was crazy. It was solid contract, and really simple. Signed it. Boom, done deal. I didn't know where the ads were going to be. People found them and sent pictures to me. I had two ads, but I don't know where one of them is. It was a blessing.
That whole summer was a blessing."
HM : Most unreal experience so far?
SN : "I would honestly say Lollapalooza, because it has a deeper connection to me. When I was 15 years old I got into photography and wanted to do music photography. When I went to Lolla, I was like, dude, I'm going to take pictures here. It only took me four years to get to that point.
It just hit me because I worked so hard and I'm here. I've been talking about this since I was a kid. I shot all four days, and it was an amazing experience. I knew nothing was going to stop me at this point.
Second to that is the BET awards. I went with Hot Rod and Power 92. I saw Megan The Stallion and DaBaby before they were big stars like they are now."
HM : Favorite Event or Festival you've shot
SN : "Lollapalooza hands down because it was a focus of mine. I couldn't shoot Childish Gambino or Ariana Grande, but I got to shoot everybody else. I was shooting maybe around a thousand photos a day for four days straight. Then I had to edit them and get it all ready to be published the next morning.
Every day I was only getting a few hours of sleep, it was hard, really hard. I didn’t really get tired because of the adrenaline I had from being there. I was ready for it. I'm built for this.
J Balvin was the first Latin artist to headline Lollapalooza that year and I was there for that which was important to me."
HM : Would you drop out or finish school if your photography career takes off?
SN : "I'm going to finish for sure.
Everyone's told me to make sure that I stay in school. Although I'm taking off and doing well, there's still so much more to learn. There's a couple of things that I know I need to learn in order to be the best. I want to be the Hokage of music photography. I just feel like I really need to put my time in school to make the money to live after college.
Outside of your own talent and skills, you need to know the business side of things. That's the one thing I want to learn. I'm not trying to rush into this. I really enjoy this for what it is right now and I’m trying to maneuver around in a way where I could be established and make money, making this my full time gig.
I think you feel in a rush when you're young, and feel like if you don't get it now, you're not going to get it then. There's a lot of pressure. I would definitely say that, but at the same time I think you need to slow your roll."
HM : Best Photographer out right now
SN : "Me; nah I don't know man. I just really feel proud of myself. I feel I'm out there doing my thing.
I have a lot of memorable photos and I realized that when I take photos at a show it's usually the artists that hit me up.
They're like, 'yo can you send me this? Can you send me that? What's your number?'
What I really like about myself is that like you can't put me in the same boat as other people. I paved my own lane organically and naturally."
HM : Is there anyone specific you want to work with/Goals for yourself?
SN : "I don't have a list of people I want to work with. My goal right now is planning my gallery. I feel like that's the next step for me to set my name in stone.
I really don't want to be known as a dude on Instagram that just takes photos of artists.
I'm trying to drift away from being categorized in a pool of people. I'm really trying to be in my own lane. I'm doing my own gallery spring of 2020. Other than that, it's just running the business side of things. I'm trying to be more professional all around.
I just want to build a greater audience."
HM : What is your worst photography experience of photography experience?
SN : "It happened recently, one thing I learned about myself is that you shouldn't be putting to much on your plate or taking on two jobs at once. I did this show, and this guy wanted me to shoot and I screwed up because I was shooting for him and I was covering a story for another person too."
HM : How hard is it to balance photography and school?
SN : "It actually got really hard this year because last year, I feel like I blew up. My name came on the radar and I was so busy because I just started doing Pep Rally Takeover with Hot Rod and it's during the school year.
So I missed a couple of classes for some events and it hurt me a little bit, but I still made it out.
It was good lesson learned. Now I know how to balance my time more, seeing what's worth it and what's not.
I definitely want to finish and get my bachelor's, It's a lot, but it's worth it because you know where you're going."
Shout out to Burbs Entertainment for this interview. Thank you guys. You guys are awesome."
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