Since 2016, visual director Chief Will has been building an impressive resume chock full of big names like Blueface, French Montana, Rich the Kid, Famous Dex, Rubi Rose, and Kalan FrFr, among many others. Chief Will, real name Wilson Anyanwu, is just getting started and has big plans for 2021.
Will grew up in the Crenshaw district and cites having both parents during childhood as a big factor for him staying out of trouble. He credits his father for helping to give his life structure as well as the tools to take life by the horns and make what he wanted from it. Chief Will has also noted Kobe Bryant, Kenneth Wynn, and Spike Lee as some of the biggest influences in his career, as his goal is to become a household name.
This week’s Behind The Lens features Chief Will as he discusses finding his passion to do photography, breaking into the scene, and special memories working with Nipsey Hussle and Mustard. Read the full interview below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey into photography.
Well, most people don’t know this but my full name is Wilson Chigozie Anyanwu. I’m Nigerian, and I grew up in the Crenshaw District. I’m also the 6th child of 7. Growing up as a kid, I always had an eye for art and basketball, but it wasn’t until 2013 when my dad took us all to Nigeria that I really started playing with the camera. My love for art is what made taking pictures fun. My journey into photography originally began back in 2011 when I went to Nigeria and began taking pictures of the trip on my iPhone.
How did you come to shoot musicians? Was it an easy scene to break into?
Every time I was invited to a show, I would always take advantage of the opportunity and made sure I attended with my camera. One particular show I was invited to I just so happen to bump into both Famous Dex and Ugly God. That’s really how it all started, going out to these shows, networking, taking pictures for content, and posting my work on Instagram. It wasn’t an easy scene to break into because all of these artists have their own personal photographer(s). So I knew I had to market my work in a way where it stood out and spoke for itself.
I started making short films to showcase my creativity and watermarking it with my Chief Will logo. I would literally turn a show into a movie and tag the artists. One of my favorites was the one I shot of 03 Greedo and RJ. My friend DJ Bugsy (who was 03’s DJ at the time) invited out to that show, I did a recap video, posted it the next day, and it took off from there. I got a lot of shares and reposts including from 03 himself.
Getting technical, what type of gear do you use?
I use a bit of everything when it comes to gear. When I’m out taking pictures, I’m either using my film or Sony camera sometimes I even use my iPhone. I use my Pocket 6K camera for videos.
If you can recall, what was your favorite moment that you had a chance to shoot?
My favorite moment would be the night in the studio with Mustard and Nipsey Hussle. Nip pulled up to do a song with Mustard but he barely had the chance to record because he used most of his time chopping it up with Mustard and sharing a lot of game and so much knowledge to everyone that was in the studio. I got a chance to record a few moments before I decided to turn my camera off as the convo got deeper.
Growing up in Crenshaw, I always looked up to Nip. So to be able to meet him, receive the information he was sharing and capture what will be his last studio session with Mustard will always be my favorite special moment. I’m forever grateful to have been in that space and be able to capture it. Shout to Mustard because he made that moment possible for me.
As a professional in the space, what would you recommend someone to do to separate themselves from just being somebody with a camera?
To separate yourself from just being someone with a camera, I’ll recommend that you stay true to yourself and be authentic at all times. Through your work people will get a sense of who you are. For me, I like to have fun when I work and you’ll get that energy through that. I have a big sense of humor and I’m full of life. So I’m Chief Will with the camera, but once I put that camera down. I’m Wilson Anyanwu and that’s how I separate myself from being someone with just a camera.
Elsewhere in photography, check out our interview with Karis Beaumont.