Estevan Cruz: Do things with love and radiate positivity

What’s going on man introduce yourself

Hello everyone, my name is Estevan Cruz. I’m originally born in Arizona, but spent my whole life growing up in Chicago. I attend UIC where I study Kinesiology and work as the creative director and head photographer for shop DTS.


How was life growing up?

Life was pretty cool. I did a lot of moving around. As a kid one of the first things I got really into was skateboarding. On top of skateboarding, I loved playing music. I played a variety of instruments, including the drums, piano, guitar, and clarinet.

At what age did you begin to witness your creative talents?

I was into drawing when I was younger around 12-13, but I’d say the first creative endeavor for me was music. I got into music through the game “Rock Band”. My Dad ended up buying me a drum-set and putting me into drum lessons for a couple of years. When I got into High School I ended up creating a band with some classmates and we called ourselves “Second Time Around” Hence the “STA” at the end of my handle!

Was your Aunt the one who introduced you to photography?

When I was younger, my Dad got me a Sony A550, but I never picked it up since I had no interest in taking pictures. Fast forward to my senior year of high school my aunt gave me her Nikon D80 for Christmas and later that summer she taught me how to shoot in Manual.

What was the first type of photography you got into?

Initially, I practiced on friends to get a hang of how to even use a camera but in August of 2013, on my birthday she brought me to 3rd shoot my first wedding and that’s when I really considered myself to be a photographer

How did you transition from shooting Weddings to fashion/lifestyle photography?

After I graduated High school and entered college, I realized I wasn’t like a lot of college students. I preferred staying in rather than going out and partying. The only way for me to make any connections with anyone was through Photography, which was my foot-in-the-door to networking. Instagram was a huge help and it’s how I met many fashionable individuals and cool companies that introduced me to that style of photography. That’s when I transitioned from shooting family stuff into shooting to advertise clothing.

Who are some of the brands you’ve been able to work with?

Man, where to begin. It all started at Nini’s Deli where I met two of the most impactful people in my career, Joel Tucker and Juan Riesco. Initially, I wanted to buy a hat from Joel’s brand “Rags and Riches Brand Co.” which ended up being the first brand I indirectly worked with and then end up being a part of. This lead me to work do my first restaurant work with Nini’s Deli and then everything snowballed from there! I’ve been fortunate to work with so many amazing brands and people that I’m going to attempt to list out: Future Replica, Le Coeur Watches, AV Chicago, Mitchell & Ness, Departure, Karmaloop, iStance, LIFT CHI, The Grey Layers, HLZBLZ, World of Dance, Megan Batoon, workbyjuan, Nini’s Deli, LPZ Studios, Pedro Gnlz, Notre Shop, Saint Alfred, DJ CJ Buckets, Get fit and Thick by Nicole Mejia, Modern Notoriety, Publish Brand, Cenzol, Chicago Native, Shop DTS, Dreamtown Shoes, Villa, Jack Novak, Kim Lee, Emma Stitch Gawd, Janes Restaurant, Vicki Li, Kristina Chai, Matt Marzal, Ravadee Sim and that’s all I can name for now.


(Emma Mckee x DPTR x 3)

(Chicago Native)

You are currently the creative director/photographer over at DTS. How did that position come about?

I met Jae Jung (whom was the former photographer/creative director) from Instagram a few years ago and he said his friend is opening up a store and he asked me to help take photos for him and the store. When the store opened up I started shooting for him and DTS for free just to get that networking experience and to honestly just have fun. After hanging around the store and developing connections with all of the guys and girls there, they ended up offering me the position as their photographer. When Jae left, I took over. So far it’s been a wonderful store to work alongside with and they’ve become pretty close to me.

Over the years you’ve been able to work with so many brands, tell the people how important it is to develop good connections with everybody you work with

It’s so important to build relationships with the people you work with, it doesn’t even have to be commissioned work or even work. It starts with introducing yourself and making a lasting first impression. My personal tip is to be straightforward and honest with your intentions, know who you are and where you came from, and most importantly is work with people you truly want to work with! Nothing is more discouraging than working for/with someone you don’t care for or even like, you are allowed to reject projects and say no!

As a full-time student and creative how do you still become so inspired to work?

I actually could never picture myself (punny lol) as a full-time creative/photographer, creative work isn’t fulfilling to me. It’s definitely fun and I am passionate about what I do but it doesn’t fill my heart. Doing things to fill your soul is what drives me to work. It’s the main reason why I chose my field of study, Exercise science and health because I want to be able to help others live quality lives through active lifestyles and nutrition. I find myself most inspired when I’m occupied with school and away from my creative space. Being busy is what pulls me back into creating.

You said it’s been a while since you found a clothing brand that has meaning. Have you been able to find a brand that stands out the most to you?

From day one RRBCO has been the brand I felt a connection too. “The ones that roam free but are never lost.” In a way I feel like I’m still finding ways to interpret it but at the same time I feel that RRBCO is our journey to finding one’s self and that’s why I feel I connect with it out of every brand. I mean other than that, Off-white and hidden characters are definitely my favorite brands out there too!

Talk to us about your mentor Joel

Joel is my best friend, my brother and the wisest man I know. He taught me everything I know today and everything I’ve accomplished is a result of his teachings. Joel has constantly taught me to do things with love, radiate positivity, and to always give off the vibe we truly feel. I’m very thankful for Joel being involved in my life.


When it’s all said and done how do you want to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as someone that constantly gave out unconditional love and positivity to everyone I’ve interacted with.

Written By: Nicholas Rud