An Interview with: Nathan Copes
Nathan Copes is candid. When I approached him about possibly taking some photos of me he politely told me he didn’t photograph people he didn’t know. I respected that reply, it meant he was serious about his art, that he wasn’t in it for cash or fame.
His approach towards photography is similar to his subject’s approach towards music - the process is as important as the final product. He tells me when he was first got started taking photographs they were of Lil Tracy - but that he didn’t enjoy his own work. Still, regardless if he enjoys his own photos, it’s clear everyone else loves them.
His photographs give all of us an inside and authentic look into the lives of our favorites artists. Unlike other photographers, Nathan is honest with his camera and manages to capture the vulnerability of artists whom otherwise are considered impenetrable and cold. First getting started during community college, Nathan is now well on his way to be an iconic artist himself. His work has been featured in The Fader as well as several other noteable publications.
how old are you and did you grow up in CT?
Just turned 23, and yeah I grew up in ct but moved to San Diego when I turned 18 for a year then back to ct
What were your experiences like growing up in CT? Did you enjoy it? I'm 23 as well and now live in Boston but still find myself nostalgic about my time in CT, are you in the north or south of the state?
Ct is lame once you’ve experienced other parts of the country, I grew up northwest corner and nothing goes on there. I only really enjoy how it’s a midpoint from Boston and New York
That's cool man, so when did you first get into photography? was it while in CT? what were some of the first subjects which inspired you to get into photography and were there any photographers who particularly influenced you to get started?
I got into taking photos first through outfit pics of myself, back in prob like 2015. Then around 2017 I took a photography class in college and started taking photos of music dudes I listened to which were ass photos
Probably gunner stahl is my biggest influence
So, in 2017 where were you going to college and did you enjoy the college experience? did you meet like minded creatives there or was it more of an intellectual wasteland? I went to UVM in burlington, VT and enjoyed it, studied English. What was your major in school? What is it about gunner stahl's style which you enjoy and who were some of the early fashion brands and artist you enjoyed capturing through your camera?
It was community college so it was lame and I barely went, I lived off campus uconn and abused there campus for parties and what not though aha. Just went for general studies and haven’t done anything with it.
I enjoyed how gunner stahl could take simple photos of iconic people that just spoke volumes more then the typical photographs people were taking before him of artists and other ppl in the industry.
Fashion wise I only ever took photos of myself but it’s how I learned a lot of editing/placement when taking photos
First artist I ever took a photo of was tracy and they were some of the worst photos on the planet
Did you choose community college for a specific purpose? were you an academic student in high school? yea the party scene at UCONN is surprisingly fun, so would you say gunner stahl tried to capture artists in their "natural element" rather then staging the photo therefore giving it a more natural and candid vibe? what was the process like taking photos of yourself, did you set up a tripod? how did you manage to connect with tracy and have him be your first subject - did you reach out to him or his management or were you guys already familiar with one another?
I had terrible grades in highschool and that’s pretty much why I was there ahah
And yah the natural element is what I incorporate in a lot of my photos now but the relationships needed to get photos like that had to be built with a lot of show photos and what not which I don’t enjoy taking nearly as much
I was just in the crowd at tracys show and took photos from there , it wasn’t until I met Wicca like 2 months later that I started messing around with digital artist portraits
What is the process like for deciding which photo(s) to release after you've done the shoot? do you let the artist pick their favorite or do you recommend a few which particularly stand out to you?
Honestly I never do shoots it’s more so just hanging out with people and taking photos as the day goes along usually
How has tour been with wicca and has it at all effected how your approach towards photography?
Right now we’re in 3rd day and it’s dope because past 3 shows have been sellouts. It’s actually made me realize I enjoy the point I’ve gotten to because I like film photography a lot more then digital
that's great, so what is a typical day like on tour as the photographer? what is it about film photography which you enjoy more than digitial? does it allow for more creative flexibility?
This is the first tour I’ve been on it’s a lot of moving around and there’s a lot of down time but you’re always having to travel so it’s not really down time.
Film I like because I feel like I’m choosing shots whereashow digital it feels like I’m just taking hella photos and hoping one looks good
Has tour met your expectations of what you expected? what is something about tour you didn't expect to encounter, either socially or professionally as a photographer, also what are your aspirations going forward this year - is there any upcoming shoots you want to talk about or any new collections of photos you plan to release?
I didn’t expect as many ppl to say what’s up to me as they have because usually photo dudes are behind the scenes
I don’t really have shoots I moreso just live my life and take photos along the way, new merch stuff soon tho.
Do you guys stay in hotels or air bnb's? and are you traveling in the classic band-van or are you guys using cars? at night, after the shows, what do you or the tour group prefer to do - do you guys like to meet up with fans at a bar or after party or do you prefer to stay in the car/hotel and just relax?
Usually just hotels but when I throw my own shows it’s always b&bs and usually depends on where we have to be the next day
What are some of your favorite cameras or lens to shoot with?
I don’t know anything about photography no joke, I use Sony for digital and vintage Nikon for film both
Do you have any aspirations of getting into video besides photography?
what do you like to do outside of photo? is there any other activities, unrelated to photo, which you think then influence your photo?
I’ve been recording shows on an old video camera so we’ll see how that comes out?
I’m big into fashion but haven’t been keeping up lately
What role do you think fashion plays in the curation of an artist's style?
What are some of your favorite brands and for what reasons do you admire them?
Fashions important because modern day a lot of artist need an interesting look to separate them apart from each other. Rick Owens.
Are you partial to high end fashion or more DIY stuff? these days it seems most artists are all wearing the same thing and it's certainly interesting when one comes around with a unique style
I like wearing high end shoes and pants usually and then DIY top pieces or more unique tops, been buying a lot of women’s jackets lately
yea for sure, so one question i realized i haven't asked yet is what are some of your favorite photographs you have taken?
What aspects of it make it stand out among your others, in your mind?
My fav photos are ones that I take that I know have an iconic element around them, like when I get 2 ppl in a photo who don’t see eachother often or what not.
My b im moving around rn.
Are you moving around locally or actually moving into a new place/apartment? and what would be an example of ones where 2 you have 2 people we wouldn't expect to see each other? also, are there any hobbies or pursuits your passionate about outside of photography? something perhaps people might not expect your interested in?
On tour moving and my tracy ghostemane pic is probably my most viral and then I have a pic of guccihighwaters and omenxiii that one day will be insane.
Can you tell me the story behind both photos and what was going on that day before and after the photos were taken, to give some context and atmosphere to the shoot? i hope tour is going well man!
Tracy and ghostemane was ghostemanes US tour in the fall in Brooklyn. When I went backstage I didn’t even know tracy was going to be there and we ended up taking a few photos. I like how it bridged the sub genres of the underground
Guccihighwaters and omen was before my nyc show I was throwing. We were on the corner drinking tall boys all night because the venue only had expensive hipster beer ahah