In our latest interview, we caught up with Tim Nagle to talk about his start in photography, working in the Chicago music scene, touring with artists, his book ‘Take It Outside’ and much more. Indulge below and make sure to follow Tim on social
I’m Tim Nagle and I’m a 25-year-old photographer and filmmaker.
Let’s go back to the beginning. You started out playing tight end at John Carroll University, then began studying journalism at Loyola where you took a photography class that made you realize your true passion. Also at the same time, you had just started to get into the Chicago music scene. With photography and the Chicago music scene being your two interests at the time, did you know that is what you wanted to focus your time and career on shooting?
No, it was actually not a preconceived idea, it just kind of happened. I started out by going to a bunch of house shows around the city with my friends and at that time I had just gotten into photography so I began to shoot the shows and it continued to grow from there.
What was the moment you realized you could make a career out of your photography and art?
I don’t know if there was a specific moment, but as I continued to shoot shows, people’s interest in my work began to grow. More opportunities began to present themselves and even though I never set out to make it my career it just naturally happened that way.
As a young photographer who found his niche early on, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
I think there are a few. Find your style. Figure out what you like to shoot. Once you’ve found that then find what sets you apart from other photographers and make your eye unique.
As a photographer for major Chicago artists, you get to see a side to the industry most don’t. What would you say is your take on what makes the Chicago music scene special from your specific angle and point of view?
The Chicago music scene is extremely communal. It is a very collaborative space and everyone is down to give a hand to each other. A lot of people come from DIY backgrounds so it’s a lot of unique sounds and figuring out what works. Every interaction is very organic and natural and overall everyone wants to see each other do well. Of course, the talent level is insane too.
Your photos are very raw and feel like a direct look into the personality of the artists and the band members’ comradery. What is your editing process and how do you keep your images so honest?
I shoot mainly film so I don’t really have an editing process. It really stems from making sure the exposure is right and I never really know until I get my pictures developed. I don’t really think about what other people want to see. Usually, I am more focused on composition and what the subject is doing to make it interesting. I view myself as having a documentary role so I focus on candid moments and not taking every photo, but instead waiting for those sparks where I know I have to get an image of that particular moment.
With a digital camera you can take 3,000 photos and never stop to think twice about it, but with film, you are much more limited in the number of shots you have and it really teaches you to be selective.
Your studio shots are very intriguing because they give the viewer a behind the scenes look at an artist’s music in the making. Those images must also be cherished by the artists themselves because it acts as a tangible memory of how they have grown musically between recordings. Would you say these intimate shots are more for the fans or the artists themselves?
It’s really both. Sometimes those photos end up being used for press photos or album artwork, but I feel like in a lot of ways it is just documenting the process for all. I like to think the people in the photos enjoy them because all that work they put in in the studio is what gets them up on stage and performing at shows. It’s a reminder of where they came from.
Touring with artists and traveling with bands around the country has been another major part of your career. When artists go on tour, their main job is to perform. Once a show is over they are done working. As someone who appreciates candid moments and capturing the real side to artists would you say, as a photographer, you are constantly on the clock?
Yea, there is a time and place. I try to base it off of what photos I have gotten so far, but those spontaneous moments are always coming up so I do try to keep my camera on me at all times. Stage portraits are very specific shots, but with the ones off stage, there is really no control so you just have to wait and see what images present themselves.
Earlier this year you released a documentary on the artist Tempo called “Making of Tempo.” You have also made a documentary in the past for The Walters to their song “City Blues.” What do you think these videos show that your still photos can’t?
Stills are a just a pause in time, you can imply more than what is going on and really embody that single moment, but with video, it leaves less room for the imagination.
“Making of Tempo” was with my friend Phoelix. That documentary was shot over 7 months and Phoelix has late access to the studio so I would be there with him from 2:00 to 7:00 in the morning. He has a really interesting process of making music by just locking himself in the studio and writing for hours, so we included voice-overs to help represent and explain that process and really make it a full narrative.
However, both video and still shots can be very candid.
You have also done commercial work for PBR and Vans. How much creative control were you able to have on those projects and how did those opportunities present themselves?
I got both of those jobs through sponsored publication work. A lot of it was working their products into the way I already naturally shoot. I still got to do my own thing, it just happened to be for those companies and brands which was really cool.
Your book “Take it Outside” is almost a year old. You describe the photos in it as “taken in the midst of a moment without preparation beforehand.” A year later and would you say that being candid is still your main focus when capturing photos or has your style evolved since then?
I am always taking different kinds of photos, but that project, in particular, includes primarily candids. I had them all sitting around so I compiled them into a book around that theme.
I still enjoy taking that style of photo, but I’ve been working on a lot more staged portraits and still lifes. I really like the storytelling aspect of photos and videos so I’m trying to get into longer story form projects, whether that be through movies or books or what have you. I value the narrative qualities of images.
In a recent post, you mentioned how you worked with slide film for your first time a couple weeks ago. How else do you continue to challenge yourself and grow as a photographer and filmmaker and why is that important to you?
There is a bunch of cool and weird film out there with so many different effects. I am always trying to get my hands on and try out new ones to see what works and what could be used for different projects in the future.
You always want your last shot to be your best shot and there is so much to be done within the photography world that I haven’t done yet. I never want to be complacent where I’m at because I want to be constantly growing and learning.
Written by: Colleen Kennedy