Photo by Koury Angelo.

photographer gunner stahl hosts his first concert in la

He tells i-D about curating his ideal lineup for Red Bull Music Festival and shares his favorite photos, including portraits of Tyler, The Creator and The Weeknd.

by Nicole DeMarco
04 March 2019, 7:38pm

Photo by Koury Angelo.

While Gunner Stahl admits that he prefers to be behind the camera, sharing the stage with some of his favorite rappers and his close friends last week at Red Bull Music Festival in LA was certainly a memorable experience. The 26-year old Atlanta-based photographer has made a name for himself shooting hazy film photos of some of the biggest contemporary rappers and hip hop stars, in a distinctly intimate style, and he’s even shared some of these photos with i-D. Fresh off a shoot for Vogue at Paris Fashion Week, Gunner arrived in Los Angeles for his show — billed as Gunner Stahl & Friends — for which he put together his ideal lineup, with Six Degrees, including many familiar faces from his images. After a DJ set, he was joined on stage by Chief Keef, Rae Sremmurd, Young Nudy, Kenny Beats, Tisa Korean, and many more, who took their turn entertaining the crowd, for an evening with some of the most current sounds in hop hop.

Gunner stahl and Rae Sremmurd at Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles
Gunner Stahl and Rae Sremmurd at Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles. Photo by Koury Angelo.
Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles.
Rae Sremmurd at Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles. Photo by Koury Angelo.

i-D caught up with Gunner to hear all about organizing the event and some of the exciting places his music photography has taken him lately.

This was your first concert, how did it all come together?
Well, I’ve had this idea since 2017, so almost like two years. And I think we were originally supposed to do it last year when Red Bull used to have 30 Days in L.A., their original music festival. That just fell through, but we saved that idea for this year.

How did you approach planning the show, and get everyone together?
I really just went with what perfect lineup I would wanna see personally. I was just hoping that it would resonate with the crowd, which I think it did in a way. But those are all the people that I wanted to see in one place performing. And it all panned out.

Tyler the creator by Gunner Stahl
Tyler, The Creator. Photo by Gunner Stahl.

Did you enjoy being on stage or do you prefer being behind the camera?
Probably behind the camera. But you know, it's way harder than I thought it would be. It's entertaining the crowd for a whole hour. And I have a newfound respect for people who actually go on the stage, like production, DJs, lighting guys, sound guys. Hats off to those guys, right? They do stuff like that every day. I was trying to figure out, I was asking some of the performers, ‘How do you do this every day?’ It's impossible.

What kinds of recent projects have you been working on?
Well, as of right now I’m working on a new book. I've just been stacking up photos and been falling back from posting on Instagram and social media, just trying to save as much content as possible. So yeah, I mean, it should be coming out soon, hopefully by the end of this year. It's kind of like a little secret. It's probably like the hardest thing I've ever worked on. But I haven't put out a book since 2017. I definitely wanna put out something new this year.

When did you get started doing photography?
Full-time, probably like 2016 was when I could say that I made a living off of just doing photography. But, I started taking pictures in 2010 when I purchased my first digital camera. I used to take pictures of anything I could find. I'd go outside my house and take a picture of a rock or a car driving by. I didn't go to a school for photography, so I basically self-taught everything.

Playboy Carti by Gunner Stahl
Playboi Carti. Photo by Gunner Stahl.

How did you get into doing mostly music photography?
Most of my friends from high school were rappers and around 2012 or 2013 they got signed to Mike Will. They were starting to build buzz, and so they would need a photographer to go with them. So I would just go to like South By Southwest with them. If they had a tour I would go on tour with them. Any show they had, I would be there. Even like a festival.

What was the energy of some of these earlier tours like? As someone just getting started, was it scary to jump right in?
Not necessarily scary, it was new. Before that, I probably had only to have been New York and Florida, just for like family vacation, so this was the first time I was out on my own, with no parental supervisory, and it's just us in like a 16 passenger man. Driving from Atlanta to Minnesota. It's like 22 hours. It feels crazy. It was definitely a fun experience though.

What are some of the most memorable tours or concert experiences that you’ve had?
I think the most memorable concert for me was probably The Glow in the Dark Tour, which was Kanye, Lupe, Rihanna, and N.E.R.D. I think that was 2008. The most memorable festival or concert that I worked was probably Coachella 2016. Yeah. That was when I worked it with Rae Sremmurd.

The Weeknd by Gunner Stahl
The Weeknd. Photo by Gunner Stahl.

Do you have any upcoming tours that you're doing?
No. I think I got all that touring stuff out of my system early, and I hate being on tour now. I'll come and work with the artist probably for the top of three days going on tour, but me being on a two month tour... The last tour that I went on, I went on tour with The Weeknd, in Asia. And that was crazy. We went to Japan, China, Bangkok, Bali, Singapore. That was fun. That was probably the best tour I’ve ever been on. Especially when you're experiencing a time difference, and you’re all the way across the world, language barriers, everything just becomes exhausting after a while.

What is it about photographing musicians that drew you into that kind of work?
I've always just been in music or been into music. I was in the choir as a kid. My Mom was a choir director. Music was just real big in our house and so I really don't think it was a mistake that I gravitated towards music. I'd be on forums in high school, arguing with people, like who was a good rapper and who was a bad rapper, and I'd actually go to FYE and buy CDs every Tuesday. So, yeah. I was into music. I just didn't wanna be like a rapper or a producer. Just always wanted to be behind the scenes.

What are you listening to now?
I've been listening to Offset’s album a lot lately. I'm waiting on Vampire Weekend’s new album. I'm really excited about that. I've been trying to shoot Ezra for probably for two years now. Our schedules are just the complete opposite. So like, a lot of old Vampire Weekend. And a lot of Queen. I think “Somebody To Love,” is probably my favorite Queen song.

Offset by Gunner Stahl
Offset. Photo by Gunner Stahl.
Sasha Trautvein by Gunner Stahl
Sasha Trautvein. Photo by Gunner Stahl.
Lil Yachty by Gunner Stahl
Lil Yachty. Photo by Gunner Stahl.
Juice WRLD by Gunner Stahl
Juice WRLD. Photo by Gunner Stahl.
Mac Miller by Gunner Stahl
Mac Miller. Photo by Gunner Stahl.
Los Angeles
Chief Keef
tyler the creator
The Weeknd
Rae Sremmurd
gunner stahl
Red Bull Music Festival