An extremely talented photographer out of Chicago, Timmy Risden has plenty on his plate in between snapping photos of musicians at concerns and developing his own creative endeavors. The young photographer began by capturing local friends on his Canon T3 and since then, Timmy has been able to seize some of the most surreal moments across music and culture. Trippie Redd, MGK, Cole Bennett, Chance The Rapper, and Tay Money are just a few names to step in front of his lens. Now, a college graduate with an artistic flair, there’s a lot in store from him in 2022 and beyond.
For our final Behind The Lens of 2020, we got to chat with Timmy Risden about his hometown and working with artists while reflecting on accomplishments this past year! Read below.
Of course, anyone from Chicago or around the area has likely seen your work more than once, but tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from the Chicago area and I’ve been a photographer for about six years now. I primarily photograph music, but I also do content and projects for brands and other types of influencers.
How did you get into photography, and more specifically, what drew you to concert and music photography?
I was introduced to photography back in high school. I was never artsy or creative, mostly because I never gave it a chance, and I took film photography as a way to fulfill my fine arts credit. Eventually, I stumbled upon a Canon T3 and I’ve been shooting ever since. I started shooting music because I had some local friends that made music, so it was a natural and accessible way to get comfortable with my camera.
Obviously, Chicago is a cultural hub of its own whether that be music or fashion, but it comes with its ups and downs—is there anything that you would change about home?
Chicago is far from perfect but it also has a seemingly endless amount of talent. A problem that I’ve always noticed was how cliquey Chicago is and how a lot of people aren’t willing to break out of that and help each other. Recently that seems to be changing a bit, I’ve noticed a lot of collaboration and relationships that go beyond the cliques which has been going a long way for some people.
What is your favorite part about photographing different artists, and do you prefer working in smaller, more intimate venues, or are the larger ones fun too?
I love working with music artists because I love photographing people but I also have a mind for marketing. Photographing someone that has made themselves a brand allows me to combine both and allow me to help craft their visual identity as an artist, but that doesn’t truly begin to happen until trust is built.
A lot of big names will often pass through the city thanks to Riot Fest, Summer Smash Festival, and so much more—have there been any interesting experiences that really stuck with you?
Working with big names can be fun but more often than not, big-name artists have their guard up and are hesitant to show who they really are, especially to someone with a camera. Lucki has always been one of my favorite artists and I’m fortunate to have worked with him as much as I have. In October 2020, I was hired by a clothing brand to go photograph Lucki at his studio in Chicago. I hadn’t seen him since the pandemic began.
When I arrived, we didn’t shoot for the first hour or so because we were sitting in the studio talking. He said he was happy when he heard I was who the brand hired because he knew I was a real supporter of his and I could tell he could trust me. He also said he was looking for a fan to give feedback on his latest records. Moments like that where artists can act like a person and not just a brand are what mean the most to me.
As a seasoned photographer and someone behind the scenes, what advice would you give to the next generation of creatives who look at your work and get inspired by it?
Always remember that an artist is a human and not just a brand. Artists are constantly treated like opportunities by everyone they meet. Especially for someone that wants to shoot interesting portraits, being able to make an artist comfortable with conversation or simply not being intrusive can go a long way.
Reflecting on 2020 as a year, what have you accomplished that you’re most proud of?
This year, I finally graduated from college which will allow me to apply more of my energy towards things beyond school. I’m proud of all that I’ve been able to accomplish with limited traveling ability, but I’m excited to expand my range and allow myself to meet other artists on their home turf. This next year, I’m hoping to connect with some more new talent and continue to challenge myself in the process.
If you enjoyed our chat with Timmy Risden, peep our interview with LA-based photographer Claire Bishara!