Celebrity Favorites: Johnny Nunez
In the playbook for rap stardom, few things are as essential as being photographed by Johnny Nunez.
The New York photog has snapped some of the most iconic images in hip-hop, from Jay-Z and Nas sharing a champagne toast to Mick Jagger, Sting and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein each flashing the Roc diamond in a picture together. For the latter, Nunez exhibited his trademark charm to pull off the feat (anyone in New York City social circles can attest to this), but he endured a hostile environment in the process.
Nunez has been reflecting on his career lately, with both a documentary on his life (“Shooting Stars”) previewing on the festival circuit and a New Era cap collaboration (to benefit the Eye Can Foundation for the blind).
“A client of mine’s friend said [to him], ‘Why did you bring a photographer?’ ” Nunez told Mixtape Daily about snapping the Jagger, Sting and Weinstein pic that paid homage to Roc-A-Fella Records. “I looked back, and all I saw was all these ice grills [looking at me]. So I thought, ‘Wow, what am I gonna do?’ ”
The event was a Vanity Fair party overseas, and Nunez had accompanied Damon Dash — he worked as the hip-hop mogul’s personal photographer — and his entourage. Nunez saw the three powerhouse celebrities together in the distance and put his hustle to work.
“I said, ‘Excuse me, could I get a photo?’ And I heard the other photographers: ‘What is he doing?’ ” Nunez recalled. “I could feel the security guards wanting to yank me.”
Sting agreed, and Nunez asked the singer if he could put his hands together in the diamond symbol made popular by Jay-Z as recognition of his and Dash’s label, Roc-A-Fella. Sting obliged but asked what the gesture meant. “It’s a universal symbol of love,” Nunez shot back.
Weinsten also agreed to toss up the Roc. The Rolling Stones frontman hesitated, but Sting nudged his peer and soon all three cooperated. “I went back to the same guys [who were hating on me], and they said, ‘That’s what I’m talking about,’ ” Nunez recalled.
“The moral of that story is, I try to do things at that very moment that either have never been done before or aren’t generic,” he added. “I try to be organic.”
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