This week’s Behind The Lens takes us to Los Angeles with seasoned photographer Gino Suvino-Vinatieri. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Gino picked up a camera a bit over seven years ago while he was in college. Fast forward to now, he’s undoubtedly one of our favorite lensmen to make major waves across music and entertainment.
Musicians such as Vince Staples, Guapdad 4000, G-Eazy, and ALLBLACK are some of the many names to step in front of Gino’s lens. Unlike many—through creating and building genuine relationships—the Bay Area native has been able to capture a plethora of the most intimate and animated moments amongst some of hip-hop’s favorites. “What I would want people to take away from my images is a sense of comfortability. Being able to see the artists they love at their best or when they’re most open,” he shares. While environment and circumstances can often create a sense of discomfort, Vinatieri is championed for his ability to adapt and bring life to his photos.
We had the pleasure of chatting Gino about drawing inspiration from his older works, navigating the world as a photographer, and staying resilient amongst other topics. Read on for our interview!
You’ve worked with the likes of Marc E. Bassy, ALLBLACK, Guapdad 4000, and several others on a multitude of occasions—what elements do you think make a good relationship between a photographer and artist?
I think being from the Bay Area has given me a certain comfortability around other artists because there’s such a tight-knit community there. There’s this mutual respect and love that creatives have for each other. And I think embodying that mentality is very refreshing for artists from areas where that community feeling is lacking.
How often do you look back on some of your older projects? Is there anything in particular that you’re able to take away from some of your earlier works?
I never really understood art growing up, and I think with photos, a lot of it is simply practice and failing a lot. In the beginning, I would just spray and pray. One of my friends always said: if you’re working with a digital camera, you have no excuse to have bad photos because you have virtually an unlimited amount of frames to take. If you’re shooting on film, you have however many frames that specific roll will allot, so you must be very deliberate with your frame choices. So when I first started, I shot as much as possible and if I had anything good in there, I’d thank the Lord.
Looking back on some of my older work, a lot of it was the wrong framerate or I wasn’t using the right shutter speed so it was really choppy. During the pandemic, I would go back to some of my older stuff and re-edit it. Now, I know what I’m looking for and how to edit. When I first started, it would take me maybe an hour or two to get through a small folder of photos. I can pretty much get through an entire festival in six hours now.
I can imagine, especially with you doing this for so long, there have been times when you’ve wanted to give up.
Oh yeah! I’ve always acknowledged that the photography stuff isn’t something that I’m going to want to do my entire life. It’s always a skill that I’ll have and I’m super grateful for that. Professionally, there’s a time limit for me. I know there are some legends like Mike Miller and Jeff Kravitz who’ve been working forever, but I’m not sure if I could do that my entire life. I think the managerial side of the music industry would be the next stop. Another thing that’s on my bucket list is to own a restaurant.
Talk to us about photographer essentials, what are some of the items that carry with you day-to-day in the field?
I love using mixed media. Depending on the job, I’ll bring with me four to six cameras, both film, digital, video, and Polaroid. I love working with different equipment so I’ve gone through a lot of different cameras throughout my career. It’s become quite the collection in my opinion.
Looking a few years back on some of the events you captured including Rolling Loud and ComplexCon—in what ways has your creative process of taking and editing photos changed?
It’s gotten a lot more deliberate. Through my practice, I know exactly what I can/can’t do with the edit. Before I knew this I’d sit there and play around with the images for hours before I finally came to the point where I was satisfied. Also, at first, I wanted all the images immediately and I definitely got a few jobs when I first started because I’d bust my ass during a show and got people photos before they even jumped off stage.
It’s obviously really interesting to see the dynamic change where in the past, photographers were seen as a background role. However, these days photographers, directors, and so on have the ability to cultivate their own audiences—how do you see that changing the industry?
I definitely find it interesting, to be honest, I’d much rather prefer the relative anonymity that being in a behind-the-scenes role gives you. Although a lot of my peers have cultivated massive audiences by being more out there personally and I have absolutely no hate on that. I just find it odd when I am recognized in public if that makes sense.
Given how competitive the creative space can be in Los Angeles, what advice would you give to younger photographers and filmmakers trying to navigate through it?
It can be super depressing at times, but you just have to keep pushing. Know that the next opportunity is always there and as long as you have the passion to keep going at your own pace, you’ll be good. No one is posting about all the times they get finessed by artists and record labels, but it happens all the time. I think a big thing is being able to separate social media and real life, and use social media as a tool.
I think it’s hard for younger people who grew up with social media being such a big thing. I remember Instagram came out when I was a junior in high school so it was just a way to show you and your friend’s photos. Now, it’s used as a way to show off whatever lifestyle makes people money when it should be used as a peer-to-peer platform.
At the end of the day, what do you want people to take away from your work?
That’s hard to say, I’m not really an “art” person per se. I know what I want to see and I know what I like visually, and it’s really hard for me to dictate that sometimes. One of my friend’s dad once said he likes that all of my work feels so close to people physically. I feel, a lot of times, in the field I work in, people can’t get that close to these artists. As a photographer, I believe my biggest task is to be genuine with people and through time really develop a relationship with the artists.
If not, you’re just a guy around that takes photos and you’ll never have that trust that’s so important to make great images. I think I would want people to take away from my images is a sense of comfortability. Being able to see the artists they love at their truest selves. I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity to capture those moments. My one wish is that kids that see my work let it inspire them to pick up a camera because I definitely wish I would have started earlier in life.
Elsewhere in photography, check out our interview with Florida-based visual artist Katia Luu.