Today we’d like to introduce you to Lily Nelson.
Hi Lily, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Hi, my name is Lily Nelson, and I am a creative director and photographer in Nashville, TN. I have always had an art appreciation ever since I was little. I attribute this to my mom, who is an artist herself. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and went to an all-girls catholic high school, where my two best friends and I would skip school to wait in line to watch our favorite bands play a concert. I knew I loved art and music, but I never knew there was a way to join those 2 worlds together until I was contracted to make tour posters for a band. I had no idea what I was doing, but somehow I managed to pull off making a run of 1725 original, screen-printed posters in three months. That was my first freelance job in the music industry. After graduating, I came to Belmont University and pursued a degree in graphic design. I hustled every year of college, taking any job I could get. I learned as I went along and always said yes even though I had no idea what I was doing. It’s fun to see the artists I have worked with develop and grow as artists, particularly my good friend Claire Ernst. I love freelancing because it’s something different every day! One day you’re shooting a titans player’s birthday party, and the next, you can be on the music video set. I love constantly being challenged, and I’m so grateful to be in a place where there is such an incredible and inclusive creative community.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has not been a smooth road! since I started freelancing so young, I realized immediately that you have to be very set on your price and know the value of your work. My “say yes to everything” tactic has given me experience working with great and some not-so-good clients. Struggling to find my worth and value as a creative is something that I am constantly trying to overcome, especially when people ask me to do things for free. This inadvertently diminishes your self-worth as an artist and validates the idea that my time isn’t worth compensation. Through trial and error, I have navigated pricing and rates, but starting, it was difficult to establish a solid base with a small portfolio and little experience. Comparison is also a big challenge to overcome as an artist. Everyone’s style and eye are different. Find what you like and run with it!
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am primarily a creative director and photographer, but I have worked in many different media throughout the years. Hand-drawn animation, film development, and screen printing are some unique things I have learned and mastered through experimentation on different projects from clients. I love visual storytelling! I think there is magic in taking the emotion and feeling from music and turning that into a visually compelling moment for listeners. Whether it is the cover art, music videos, or visualizers, I love being able to create something visual that listeners can relate to and that enhances the overall project of an artist. This translates to tour photography as well. Your job as the photographer is to capture the special moments between the crew, the artist, and the fans. And document the show and the special moments that happen throughout that window. My proudest accomplishment is probably the first video I fully creatively directed and produced from beginning to end for an artist named Brye. We booked out a mansion and shot some beautiful visuals with a great crew here in Nashville.
Who else deserves credit in your story?
I haven’t gotten to where I am alone; Nashville has an amazing group of creatives who have inspired me and trusted me to work with them on projects. My friends at working holiday, Chase Denton, Frank Paris, Sarah Corbet, and Anthony Modica, are an incredible production team. I have been working with them for a couple of years, shooting on set and learning what it takes to produce and direct. Nicki Fletcher, at the house of 42 has also been an incredible mentor and a dear friend.
The biggest blessing in my life, though, has been my mentor Rachel. I had a little canon rebel T3 as a camera and was never really interested in photography until I took an internship sophomore year with local Photographer Rachel Deeb. She took me to my first music video set and introduced me to the world of live music photography. I immediately fell in love. Working with her, I learned the ins and outs of what it takes to run a set and the grind of freelancing. When I graduated, I officially became a part of her team at Elektrik Creative! She has been such an inspiration and has constantly pushed me and encouraged me to reach my highest potential.
- Website: https://itslilynelson.cargo.site/
- Instagram: @itslilynelson
The photo of me taking a picture was taken by Ray Aley