Emerging photographer Justn Lopez captures the world on film
by Alexis Watkins, ce Ashlyn Robinette
photos courtesy of Justn Lopez & Alexis M.
New York-based photographer Justn Lopez is leaving his mark on the world one grainy, full-of-life film photograph at a time.
The 24-year-old has worked with brands such as Dior, Burberry and Footlocker, and continues to expand his portfolio with many other well-known brands and models.
Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, Lopez received his first film camera in 2018 before heading to Coachella. It was at this world-renowned music festival that Lopez first tried his hand in film photography. He started winging it and at first all was going well, that is until he pulled out multiple rolls of film from his Olympus Stylus Zoom 140 in the bright sun of the Coachella Valley, immediately ruining it.
“I was like, ‘Maybe I’m supposed to be the one to take it out,’ which is not what you're supposed to do whatsoever,” Lopez said.
After learning more about film photography, Lopez began taking it seriously toward the end of 2019 and the start of 2020. When he graduated college, his parents gifted him a Contax G1 (his favorite and most-used camera) and that’s when his career really took off.
Lopez prefers shooting film over digital. To him, digital feels a little too clean and proper.
“I like the graininess of film, I like the colors better on film, and I also like that you can't see it right away,” Lopez explained.
Film’s element of surprise especially interests Lopez.
“There's an eagerness to it that I like, or the desirability of wondering what is on there,” he continued.
Lopez mostly shoots his friends. During his time working for Playlist Live, a convention for content creators, he met a lot of cool people and started to take pictures of them at the event.
“I started carrying my camera everywhere, and you're around all of these people whose job it is to be perceived on the internet,” Lopez said. “I would just be like, ‘Oh, can I get a picture of you?’ and then I ended up becoming friends with a bunch of them.”
This was a great way for Lopez to connect with different influencers, who he now considers his friends.
As far as aesthetics go, Lopez doesn't feel like he has one.
“Currently I'm going through an identity crisis and I’m like, ‘I want to change my hair, I want to change my clothes, I don't like the photos I'm taking, I want to take different style photos,’ but I guess it's just like in growing up that you start to like new things,” he said. “So, if I had an aesthetic, I don’t know, I feel like people just know me as the film guy. I always have my cameras on me, or I’m always trying to take pictures of someone. I'll just be like, ‘Wait, stop, don't move, stand right there and let me just get this shot of you.’’’
When deciding on whether or not to capture a moment on film, Lopez said that the surrounding colors in an area play an important factor of consideration. Sometimes, something will stick out to him in passing and he will take a photo or send a picture of the area to a friend to plan a shoot.
“Whatever catches me in the moment I'll probably just stop dead in my tracks and be like, ‘I need to photograph this,’” he said.
Making the decision to move to New York City has increased those moments for Lopez. He realized that although he loves Orlando, it wasn't serving him creatively like he needed it to. So, when a friend from college asked him to move to New York City with them, he did just that.
“I was like, ‘Well, this is like an opportunity for me to go,’ so I took the chance,” he said. “I was stumped between Los Angeles or New York, but I'm so beyond grateful that I chose New York instead.”
The conflicting thought that Los Angeles might be better for him socially and New York better for him creatively, made Lopez unsure of where to move, but, eventually, he realized that New York was the best place for him.
“I'm really happy with the choice I made,” he said.
The concrete jungle has made an impact on the rising photographer in more than one way. Being around other creatives has made it easier for Lopez to expand creatively. The city has also peaked Lopez’s interest in fashion. On his TikTok, you can find multiple styling videos and montages. The first styling video Lopez made as somewhat of a joke. He quickly filmed it on his birthday before he and his friends headed to the Olive Garden in Times Square. Surprisingly, the video gained 2.3 million views. Since then, Lopez has consistently been creating content on the app.
Lopez’s photography has caught the attention of brands like Burberry, Foot Locker and Dior. He hopes to work with Prada and Diesel in the future, and has a certain celebrity that he would love to capture on film.
“My top bucket list ever, ever, ever is I just want to shoot photos of Miley Cyrus,” Lopez said.
When people come across his work, or interact with him in any way, Lopez hopes that they will have a good experience. Whether they browse his Instagram or see him ordering a coffee, he hopes to make those around him feel happy.
“Even if they smile at the photo, I'm like, ‘Great, perfect, that works for me,’” he said.
Lopez said the biggest aspect of creating for him is creating something that lasts longer than himself.
“That's my quote, I want to make things that will last longer than me, and I just want to make sure that every interaction that I have with someone is a good one.”