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Chris Nuñez

Chris Nuñez

We’d be surprised if you’re not familiar with Chris Nuñez, given that his appearances on Miami Ink (2005–2008) and Ink Master (2012–present) have made him one of the most famous faces in Miami. This month he created a bold vision of decadent debauchery for Pop Shots, starring Miranda Nicole and July 2005 Penthouse Pet Celeste Star.

Photographs by Tammy Sands

Interview by Raphie Aronowitz

The Interview

What the fuck is up with all the fake cocaine?

[Laughs] My concept for the shoot was to create the type of wild night that everybody pictures about going out in Miami. I think it’s artistic—a fun way to really overexaggerate the situation. I wanted to create a photo shoot that would start with models coming into a club, and follow them all the way to the point where they stumble out after seeing just how fucked-up they could possibly get. It wasn’t so much about fake cocaine as it was about showing a completely over-the-top wild night and exaggerating the stereotype that some people have of Miami nightlife.

So this wasn’t a statement about how your ideal type of woman is one who is all blown out on drugs?

No, of course not. But in a photograph … it looks like a ton of fun. I’m a big fan of drug-culture movies, from Blow to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are so many drug-culture movies that have come out in my time, and they always have this incredibly dark, seedy feel. So that was kind of my artistic inspiration—a crazy, Wolf of Wall Street, comedic take on this thing. No one could make it through this night if they tried.
And I don’t recommend that anyone actually try.

Were you nervous, or did directing the shoot feel natural?

Frankly speaking, it was a little nerve-racking because I’m not a single man. So it was like, How am I going to pull this off and accomplish what I want to do, but at the same time not end up with my dick getting cut off in my sleep? I didn’t want to do anything that was distasteful, but at the same time people will argue that girls covered in baking soda is distasteful. But it’s my eye. It’s my view. That’s what makes art so amazing.

Is that why you took such a big risk creatively?

Well, a big motivation for me was to do a shoot that looks more like high fashion than a bunch of gratuitous flesh. My point was to create this progression of a story. It’s just a wild ride through a club, an artistic depiction of what the fuck a lot of people’s fantasies might turn out to be when they explore that dark place in their minds. This is just bringing it to life. Or maybe this is just a dark place in my mind.
It comes back to one of my favorite photos, the iconic pic of a girl snorting a line of diamonds, taken by David LaChapelle.

That’s an amazing shot.

Yes, it’s a fucking amazing shot. Such a cool concept. And it was very appealing to me from the time that I saw it. I wanted to create this mood that makes you feel like you were there. I hope it makes people feel some type of way, whether it’s creepy, whether it’s reminiscent … even if it’s just, Oh, my God, what was he thinking? As long as it inspires a reaction.

Drug and fashion references aside, what does this shoot reveal about you?

I like gritty, grimy, and controversial imagery. I also like for a woman to be comfortable with who she is. That shouldn’t come from just showing a woman’s body. I don’t believe that to be the case. I respect and love the female figure, and this was more about making a statement in culture about being beautiful, feeling confident, and not being afraid to have fun and let loose. It was more about me trying to highlight a personality rather than a body. It wasn’t about trying to see how much skin I could get in the game. Every time there was too much skin, I tried to cover it up with baking soda.

So you were coaching the girls to cover up more than you were telling them to strip down on-set.

I think it’s a lot easier for women to “up” themselves—to appear prettier through wearing makeup, through hairstyling … through all kinds of things. I think it takes a really beautiful woman to bring it back down, to allow herself to look more strung out, more messed up, and more vulnerable. Celeste and Miranda both had a type of look that stood out, even when we abandoned the traditional type of styling that one would do for a more traditional shoot. Both of them had strong, striking features and beauty that radiated through and endured. I wanted to highlight that without adding too many other distractions.

Is it safe to say that Celeste and Miranda best represent your ideal type of woman?

I don’t really have a dead-set type. I like a fit woman, a woman who has natural curves. A woman who takes care of herself. Beautiful skin. Those are all things that speak to me. And the curves and the lines of the body, the beautiful flow of hair and the way the hair frames the face.

What do you look for in a woman’s personality?

My vision for the shoot was for it to be artistic and fun, and I really wanted to show the side of a woman that is artistic and fun. Not only someone who is uninhibited, but someone who is open enough to get what I’m going for and is trusting; someone who trusts me and trusts in the process. Those are values that are very important to me.

I find it interesting that neither of the models had visible tattoos.

I really don’t have strong feelings one way or another about tattoos on women. Since I’m so heavily tattooed, I end up looking past tattoos after the first 30 seconds. It’s like, “Oh, that’s really cool. Where did you get that one? Great!” … And moving on.

Tattooing is such a big part of my life, and it’s interesting regarding my female companions. I guess the reason I’ve not been with many heavily tattooed women is because the last thing that I want to do when I come home from work is talk about work [laughs].

You were actively engaged in the shoot from start to finish. You even took over the camera at one point. Have you ever done anything like this before?

I have never shot anything professionally, but I love angles. I love and appreciate photography, especially the photography that makes you feel something. One of my first jobs was working at a T-shirt company where I would go and develop film in the darkroom and see the images come to light. So when we weren’t making T-shirts, I would just sit in the back with the owner and develop these photographs. The coolest thing about it to me was that he wasn’t retouching anything. He would either under-develop or overdevelop the film to get the effect that he wanted. He had a real understanding of light and dark and shadows, and he really gave me a feel for what photography was all about.

For this shoot, I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just shooting straight shots of straight girls with straight baking soda all over. I was trying to get as creative and as angular as I could through reflective shots … through shots from awkward positions … and through ways of kind of distorting or reshaping the reality. That was the idea.

What was so important about the models not getting too caught up in their poses?

After ten years of doing reality television—every time we have to shoot a promo for a new season, we have to pose. We have to stand there, cross our arms, and give our best “blue steel” to the camera. And for me, that makes me very self-aware. I wanted to make sure that Celeste and Miranda were comfortable.

Also, I would not find a woman nearly as attractive if I walked by and she was posing like a mannequin and trying to be sexy as I would if she was cracking up with her friends or telling someone an intense story while looking them in the eye. Then you really get to see personality come through. I know that you can pose a natural reaction, but that’s not what I’m about, and that’s not what I’m attracted to.

How do you feel about the finished product?

I think we got some really cool shots. We got so many that we’re in the position of having to leave a lot of good stuff on the cutting-room floor, which makes me happy. What the reader will see is the best of the best. I’m excited that the craziness of my message was conveyed. I feel like anyone who looks at this will immediately get the storyline without any explanation, and it was really fucking fun to do.