Photography is an interesting profession considering that there are a lot of areas of photographing one can take a liking for. We’ve seen some of the best photographers at work whether they’re shooting musicians, sporting events, concerts, nature, and architecture just to name a few. Being able to capture a moment that exudes an emotional connection or a moment that people can relate to takes a lot of skill but most importantly a unique eye. Nia Simone, also known as her social media handle l0verebel, began shooting as a little girl and over the last year or so, has become a recognizable new-comer.
After gaining traction from her Dyckman basketball game photos, Nia took her talents further than the court. She has shot some of your favorite artists like J. Cole, Smino, Goldlink and more.
I caught up with Nia to talk about what got her into photography, internal or external motivations, how she landed her gig shooting for the Dyckman summer games, her dream of working with J. Cole, Bas and the rest of the Dreamville roaster and much more in our full interview below.
1 – What inspired you to get into photography?
In all honesty, I really don’t remember. I’ve been taking pictures of people since I was a little girl, I’m not sure what made me pick up a camera. My mom says it was to pass time at family events I didn’t want to attend, although I’m not sure how true that it is haha.
2 – Did you have any internal motivational factors that contributed to your photography work? For example, was anyone in your family into photography?
My great aunt was a photographer, but as far as motivation, no I didn’t really have that. My parents didn’t really start supporting my photography aspirations until last year and I didn’t know about my aunt’s photography hobby until middle school maybe. The nature of a “good eye” and being artistic could’ve been passed down to me though. My nana drew and my older cousin used to sketch cartoons, my younger cousin is good with her pencil too. It’s in the genes, we’re a pretty creative family.
3 – Why did you feel like photography was a great profession for you?
I’m a very observant and emotional person. That alone makes me able to feel what others are feeling around me, which is why I hardly ever miss the opportunity to exemplify expressions being displayed on someone’s face in those brief moments. I like telling stories and I’m able to do that visually. Life imitates our perspective and art imitates life. I’m nonjudgmental and understanding, all my characteristics pretty much factor in what helps me capture things.
I’ve also done a lot of self-reflecting over the past two years on what makes me tick; the things that get under my skin, the root to my evil and a lot of it stems from the relationship I have with my parents and men. It’s put a lot of perspective into my life and it reflects in the instants I choose to photograph and highlight.
4 – In one of your most recent IG posts, you said in regards to your pictures that “emotion is my goal.” Why so?
For so long society has taught men to not be expressive when it comes to their emotions, that it isn’t a sign of masculinity, but a sign of weakness. Then we as women wonder why they can’t provide us with emotional stability when they grow up, so I want to remind the world that men are not the robots they think they are (and the struggles they face emotionally aren’t necessarily their fault) However, it is something they need to take accountability for. We all have problems, it’s up to ourselves to fix them.
I like capturing our emotions because they’re what makes us our individual selves. A lot of our disagreements come from what we’re feeling, our perspectives, men sometimes refuse to believe they’re emotional because they tend to equate “emotion” with sadness, not realizing that sadness isn’t the only emotion that exists. I’m just shedding light that they feel what we feel. We’re more alike than we think.
5 – One thing that I noticed about your work is that you don’t shy away from the black and white effect. What is it about black and white photos that you like so much?
The simplicity of it. Sometimes colors get too distracting, if everything is in black and white there’s nothing but what is right in front of your eyes. Nothing to compensate from a bad angle, or a blurry image. Just the subject and the emotion of it.
6 – Although your name, l0verebel, has generated a lot of notoriety, it all stems from your Dyckman photos. How did you manage to land a gig shooting the Dyckman basketball games?
My friend sent me a screenshot last May (I think) because they were looking for social media and photographer interns they were willing to give college credit for. Since I’m not in school anymore, I took the graduation year off my resume before I emailed them and I got the offer a week or two later. My mans threw an alley and I made the shot. I’m their in-house photographer now, so I’ll be back this summer if anybody out there wants to pull up and see me in action.
7 – You’ve also shot multiple events and concerts. Which space do you enjoy shooting more – concerts or sporting events? Why?
People ask me this a lot and I love both for the same exact reason. Emotion. I’ve noticed they’re (emotions) more dominant at concerts and sporting events which is why I enjoy shooting them more than anything else. I really enjoy showing the beauty of the game and the passion/intensity on the players’ faces.
Artists, in my opinion, are at their most vulnerable during their performances because we feel things more when we say them out loud. In those moments in a sense, they’re self-medicating which is a beautiful thing to capture on camera. It’s almost like they’re writing the song all over again.
This shot I got of Goldlink shows this exact thing. This was the first concert I ever shot and it was amazing. I felt his old wounds opening. He was performing songs off of “And After That, We Didn’t Talk” which is probably his most personal project. There are songs on there I can tell he hasn’t performed in a while, if ever really. Taurus’ tend to wear their heart on their sleeve (yes, I’m “into Astrology”, if you aren’t that’s cool) and although he was trying to mask his emotions he couldn’t hide them from me. This might sound silly, but I felt closer to him like I knew him when the show was over. Photography is a very intimate profession, that’s why I didn’t share the photos I took of him until months after.
8 – I know every photographer’s eye is different. How would you explain yours?
I can’t. I have no idea what attracts my eye to certain things. If I try to come up with an answer for you I’ll drive myself crazy.
9 – Do you ever put focus into getting the “right” shot?
There’s no such thing. I take photos and pick the best of the bunch. The “right” shot to me is always different to someone else. Whatever gets my spidey senses tingling is the shot I rock with.
10 – Your love for Dreamville has gained you access to participate in the recording of their new collaborative album, Revenge of the Dreamers III. How would you describe this moment? Secondly, when did you become such a Dreamville fan?
Hahaha, I photo-shopped that on my phone. Sorry. Ironically enough though, I was shooting someone’s studio session at the time, so it was a sign in my opinion. I didn’t expect so many people to comment and hit my phone the way everyone did. It’s cool to know y’all rooting for the kid. It was something I did for manifestation. I decided to tag everyone hoping someone would see, while simultaneously thinking no one would. Bold move, I know, but bold is the only tactic I haven’t tried yet, so I’m sticking with it. Who knows, I might get flewed out haha.
I’ve been a Cole fan since high school, but he didn’t become my favorite rapper until 2013. He was performing “Chris Tucker” during his first “Dollar And A Dream tour” at Irving Plaza, smoke was on the stage, the lights were going crazy, everyone was rapping along as if we were performing the song and during a beat break he began to tell a story (as he does so well lol, you get it) and after he finished discussing the incident he had with an older woman in first-class racially profiling him, the beat dropped and he started rapping again. At that moment I knew that he was my favorite. I stopped rapping along and just stood there, really soaking up the fact that he was in front of me and I was there. It was crazy. That was the best concert I’ve ever been to.
Being a black woman, there is an unexplainable connection and appreciation I have with and for black men. I think they would benefit the most being shot from the perspective of a young black woman. That’s why I want to shoot for them. They’re minimalistic and my style of photography compliments that. They all put out such quality music, they deserve the same in their visuals and I want to be able to provide that for them. I want to be able to give Cole something back to what he’s given to me over the years.
11 – What advice would you give to the aspiring photographer?
Keep shooting. Always.
12 – What can we expect from “l0verebel” in 2019?