From shooting Fashion Week for Vogue to features for the New York Times, Nina Westervelt wears many hats—and carries two different colors of the vintage ONA Capri tote. While only part of her portfolio, music photography is an intrinsic part of Nina’s story, and we asked her to share some of her favorite recent work and where she finds inspiration. Read our full Q&A below.
Name: Nina Westervelt.
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee.
Last show you shot: Newport Folk Festival.
Go-to gear: Nikon d850 w/24-70mm 2.8 & Fuji XT2 w/85mm 1.2.
ONAs you carry: The Leather Capri! I alternate between the Black and Antique Cognac.
Nina carries The Leather Capri in both Antique Cognac and Black.
Describe your aesthetic in five or less words: spontaneous, vibrant, candid.
“I first picked up a camera…” For as long as I can remember, I always had a point and shoot with me but it was my senior year of high school that I started to get more serious about photography when my Grandad bought me a Pentax K1000.
How (and why) did you start shooting music?
Like I said, I always had a camera with me as a teenager so I was constantly shooting my friends’ bands and any show that came through town. In the late 90s, I started to get more serious about shooting film and began traveling to photograph some of my favorite bands at the time like Elliott Smith, Wilco, Bright Eyes and Cat Power.
Biggest creative influences: I always wanted to be Linda McCartney when I grew up. I loved her music photography but her intimate photos of Paul and Stella and their family life truly inspired me. My other favorite photographers include William Eggleston and Jim Marshall (who I had the pleasure of working with before he passed). Their work still continues to influence me.
Thing you can’t live without at a festival: Water, band aids and Del’s Frozen Lemonade.
Your favorite photo you’ve taken this year, and the story behind it: That feels impossible to answer! I shoot everything from music to backstage at fashion events, and every assignment is memorable! If I had to pick, I would say vintage shopping with the band Sunflower Bean was a fun highlight (below). We spent the afternoon bopping around Brooklyn shooting the piece for T Magazine. As we entered the last store, a Sunflower Bean song was playing and Julia began singing along and my heart just melted.
One piece of advice that stuck with you: Create the photos you want to make, not the photos you think others want to see.
Advice you would give to someone looking to get into music photography: Shoot, shoot, shoot, be flexible and be nice!
One thing most people wouldn’t expect about you?
I’m happiest when I’m swimming and I always have sparklers in my purse.
Biggest challenge: To turn off Instagram and stop comparing myself to other photographers. It’s easy to fall into a slump as a freelancer… some weeks are slower than others and no matter how much I prepare for those slow periods, I always find myself logging on and seeing how busy other people are, and I get frustrated!
Work you are most proud of: I’ve been attending and photographing the Newport Folk Festival since 2011 and that’s for sure the body of work I’m most proud of. It’s more than just a music festival… it’s a community, a family, it’s my home. There’s a small group of us that photograph the event every summer, and I love looking back over the years at the work we’ve made with so many legendary musicians and reflecting on those amazing memories. I can’t wait to see what the next 10+ years of covering the festival brings!
Dream project: I’ve always wanted to spend a day at Broken Arrow Ranch photographing Neil Young.
Favorite album: Ever? #1 Record by Big Star. Right now? In the Rainbow Rain by Okkervil River.
Instruments you play: None but I love to scream along.
Hidden talent: I can hula hoop for a pretty long time without dropping it.
Your first concert: Janet Jackson on her Rhythm Nation tour when I was ten years old… but the next night my mom also took me to see Wings, so I count both!
Bucket list artist to see: ELO! (but I’m finally seeing them in late August!).