The Kid’s Alright

13 Year Old Photographer Julian “Kid” Nuñez Captures Lowrider Life in all its Colors

Arturo Hilario / El Observador

Julian “Kid” Nuñez is a 13 year old with a passion for photography. Without any formal training, he manages to photograph at car shows around the Bay Area capturing scenes of cars, people and places with a self taught eye.

“Some people see these pictures and they’re like, ‘oh cool’. They go and start seeing more of my photos, (then) look up a background on me. ‘Oh it’s from a 13 year old.’ They wouldn’t have thought that. Usually you see most photographers as being older, because most people think that kids just go and take selfies and stuff.”

Nuñez proves otherwise. By turning the camera on a world he’s known from birth, he captures the essence of car shows and the community behind them.

“My dad was my first influence, we would go to car shows and he would take pictures and I kind of started liking what he was doing so then I started taking pictures too with his phone.”

“Once I started getting into other car shows he bought me a small camera. I started taking pictures with that and used it for  a while.” Nuñez’s uncle saw that he was taking photos on the regular, and lent him an upgrade, a Nikon camera which he then used to take better shots. “Finally for Christmas my dad bought me this Canon Rebel T3i. It was hard for me adjusting because every camera is different so I’ve been taking pictures.” Since then he can be found with his camera backpack ready to shoot photos at a moments notice.

Deadend Magazine has been around online since 2004, when Nuñez was around 2 years old. Now he highlights features in San Jose when the magazine needs some help in the South Bay.

“Sometimes they can’t make it to car shows over here in San Jose so sometimes I’ll come to small car shows and I’ll take a few pictures and if they like something they’ll post up on their instagram or on their website.”

“The golden hour” is Nuñez’s favorite time to shoot, when the mystical hues radiate off the cars and their wheels. “Its like sunset. If you have a pearl paint job your car changes colors with that pearl. I took this shot in Hayward of my dad’s car. His car is blue but when the sun started hitting it started turning yellowish/goldish,” says Nuñez. At this point in life, Nuñez is already beginning to inspire those young and old. “Deadend magazine went to LA recently and some kid came up to them that they knew. ‘You must know Kid Nuñez from San Jose,’ he said. He was inspired by my work to take pictures too.”

Old and young, people look to Nuñez for a new way to see the world and the cars. He also inspires his twin little sisters too. Featured here and there in his photography, the twins want to take over the camera and want to learn to shoot as well.

He is constantly learning from his fellow photographers, and constantly getting advice from a community that is elated with what he’s doing and support him in every step of the way.

Kid Folklorico

Nuñez also dabbles in Folklorico dancing as well, when he’s not dancing he’s still around taking photos in order to practice his action photography. “So far I’ve just been practicing, with dancing it’s kind of hard because everyone is moving so most of my pictures come out blurry. When I don’t dance I go take pictures and try and learn how to use the camera.”

His self-motivation to learn and achieve is not limited to his art. In fact an anecdote about his grades and its rewards had Nuñez taking apart a car he and his father were working on to try and streamline ‘the deal’. The deal was that he would get parts and work on his car done (to be given to him to drive at 16) if he brought home good grades

Nuñez showed incentive by lovingly taking apart some of the 1958 Bel Air. Instead of putting it back together father and son sold it and picked up a 1954 4-door version of the car. “Me and my dad have been working on that, little things here and there.”

As he talks about car facts and parts he has the same focus and liveliness as when he talks about his photography. These two things seem one in the same, and his happy place feels like it’s right in between the spectrum of classic cars and taking pictures of them.

My First Gallery

On August 14th, 2015 Nuñez hosted his inaugural gallery at Cukui in San Jose’s Japantown. Cukui is a boutique offering streetwear, as well as hosting an art gallery. “That was my first time showing my work as an exhibit. Before that I was just selling prints. I was thankful, some people were just walking around in Japantown and came in and saw the work and didn’t realize it was from a kid, until they actually read my bio. That it was from a 12 year old (at the time).”

The gallery brought him acclaim and helped him get his work seen by many new eyes, garnering him new fans and customers alike. He even brought a 90 year old to tears who was in awe that a young person had created such inspiring works. Seeing the cars of his own youth brought the man a sense of nostalgia, a testament to the power of Nuñez’s imagery.

When recollecting why he is where he is now, Julian “Kid” Nuñez says, “I just remember how my dad was taking pictures of things he thought were interesting, of the paint job or the wheels he liked. Then I started helping out my dad with that and then kind of grew on me, taking more pictures. I started taking pictures of things I liked, then I got better and better at it.”

And if you were wondering among all this car talk, Kid Nuñez does have a dream lowrider. “That would be a 1947 Fleetline. Probably black. It depends.”