Meet the R&B/Hip-Hop Photographer Breaking Down Barriers

For over 25 years, New York native celebrity photographer Johnny Nuñez has captured the scenes of the entertainment industry’s hottest, most epic events with icons from every era. As Nas once rapped, “Johnny Nuñez got all the pictures.”

Nuñez, who is known by his rapid-fire flash and click photo style, is well beloved by the stars he takes shots of on the streets, in the clubs and at private dinners or invite-only galas. He is also the first Afro-Latino photographer to have his photos displayed by the Grammys and honored by the Recording Academy’s affiliate organization the Black Music Collective. Becoming an official Grammys photographer is a barrier-breaking and crown achievement for Nuñez. “We belong in these rooms, we created so many music forms, we need to document these moments,” he says. “I feel great that I’m pushing this narrative and getting our genres into new spaces with our images.”

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A long-time grandfathered contributor to Getty Images, Nuñez has introduced many creatives, producers and executives, linking them on red carpets which have led to music and film collaborations beyond his wildest dreams. “I’ve elevated a lot of careers. I was adopted and we were poor,” he says of his family. “My adoptive mom was an amazing connector while selling Avon. She would connect neighbors who needed things for people to survive day-to-day. That taught me that your network is your net worth.”

Getting the accolades for his career is a joy, but being able to open doors for those photographers on the come up is his real reward. “I just want those coming behind me to experience more and gain access to more,” he adds. “That’s my mission.” Nuñez gets the moments you wish you were there for…but he makes you feel like you were there.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Nov. 19, 2022, issue of Billboard.

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