Steven Nunez | Is the 19-year old Music Photographer Chicago's Next Big Thing? Yes.

Steven Nunez, photographed by  Cande Gervasoni .

Steven Nunez, photographed by Cande Gervasoni.

 

I met Steven Nunez on a hot Chicago afternoon. He walked in to Soho House with a swagger and coolness only a nineteen-year old can get away with. His signature bleached gray hair lay perfectly in place and white Adidas sneakers were branded with his username @stevensjpeg, thanks to tattoo artist Mario Desa

Just a year out of high school, Steven was the first incoming freshman to land a job as a photojournalist for the Columbia Chronicle, his college paper and also the number one non-daily student newspaper in Illinois. In October 2018 he became the house photographer for Chicago’s beloved Metro, a concert venue he calls his favorite, after just a one night trial run, during which he did so well he basically got hired on the spot.


“Where I’m at right now, I knew I wanted to be here. At the end of Lollapalooza last year, I was like it’s over. We’re doing this. I’m not paying for anything again.”

 

A year later, Steven had a photo pass to Chicago’s biggest music festival and was even hired by Smino to capture the magic of the artist’s Lolla set. But the road to success is never easy. With obstacles at home and school (Steven’s a graduate of Steinmetz College Prep, a Chicago Public School), he was fortunately lucky enough to have teachers who doubled as mentors, and the support of his mom who bought him his first camera at Mall of America when he was just 15. By the time his senior year rolled around, he became editor-in-chief of his high school’s yearbook and in a way to salvage the memories of his graduating class, he offered free senior portraits to his classmates who couldn’t afford the photographer hired by the school.


Juice WRLD shot by Steven Nunez at Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash 2019.

Juice WRLD shot by Steven Nunez at Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash 2019.

That kind of go-getter attitude coupled with unpretentiousness, as well as an awareness that even though he knows a lot, he still has a lot to learn, is what’s solidifying Steven’s place at the top of the concert photography scene in Chicago. He works closely with Power 92.3 DJ HOTROD and frequently photographs events hosted by Chance the Rapper’s nonprofit Social Works.

 

“I like what Social Works does. They’re really about the youth and inspiring creativity. Kids need a space where they’re surrounded by good people and encouragement.”

 

With such an impressive resume, it’s exciting to see where Steven’s talent will take him. Though many of his dreams have come true, he’s not done yet. In school, he wants to get his minor in math, “just in case.” Steven also talks about working closely with a rapper whose career he can chronicle from the very beginning.

Steven Nunez by a #itsa312thing billboard featuring one of his photos.

Steven Nunez by a #itsa312thing billboard featuring one of his photos.

 

“Chicago has a lot of talent for artists. I want to use my work to help them out.”

 

He’s still waiting for the right opportunity and person to appear. In the meantime, you can catch him at shows and events throughout the city, or hanging out at the Adidas flagship store with his best friend Henry, founder of clothing line Ambrose.


J Balvin shot by Steven Nunez at Lollapalooza 2019.

J Balvin shot by Steven Nunez at Lollapalooza 2019.

 “You always need a Plan B. but right now it’s Plan A. I’m going for it.”


Follow Steven on Instagram @stevensjpeg and stay tuned for details on an upcoming solo show in Spring 2020.


Author

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Gosia Labno is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She holds a B.S. in Media and Cinema Studies and an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies. She is working on a collection of short stories chronicling the lives of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Follow.