Cameraman Nairobi

The New Wave Podcast Welcomes InTheRough, Cameraman Nairobi and Terrell Robinson by Alex Young

Simply, The New Wave Podcast gives talented people in Pittsburgh a platform to talk about their work and the culture that surrounds them. Rap star Jimmy Wopo visited the show within two weeks of being released from Allegheny County Jail to reminisce about his life and speak about his new tape "Back Against The Wall." New Wave tracks relevancy in the 'Burgh, chatting with national tastes like comedian Marlon Wayans at WAMO radio and the best of the local underground.

When it was time for InTheRough to speak about the journalism and archiving we've done for Pittsburgh, as well as Stillers, New Wave Podcast had to be the place. It's a pleasure to write for the popular and sub-culture scenes here. It's an honor to show the personalities of positive people here and in other cities. But being able to speak out about ITR and the almighty Stillers was liberating as fuck. Thank you, New Wave, for having us on the show. Also a shout-out to the co-guests Nairobi Jones, a photographer and personal documentarian for Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant, and Terrell Robinson, a film director.

Importantly, the best part of the ITR episode with The New Wave Podcast was how we represented for Pittsburgh. Everyone in the room had a piece of the city in their own right. Nobody touches ArtLikeUs when it comes to catching famous people with his camera lens and he was there filming the episode. Cameraman Nairobi and Terrell made it a point to name drop R&B crooner B. Knight who has a mixtape coming out executively produced by Stevie B, the man behind Wopo's tracks. ITR did our due-diligence with a top 5 list of best rap pens in the 'Burgh. Mars Jackson, Blackboi, Choo Jackson, and Hardo made the list.

Enjoy the full episode below. Subscribe to New Wave.





Not a Fan: Cameraman Nairobi's Photos Tell Truth in Pittsburgh Urban Society by Alex Young

Photo by Alex Young

Photo by Alex Young

Beyond Cameraman Nairobi's work inside Pittsburgh sports and music culture, the photographer notes how his images share the truth about the city's urban environment, especially, coming from his black male perspective. 

One Christmas day Nairobi received his current Nikon D7100 digital single-lens reflex camera and wanted to give it a test run. He took to a local Pittsburgh neighborhood, headphones in, camera in hand and began to walk the gentrified, predominantly white areas. He snapped pictures of houses and any details that caught his eye. Nairobi stopped at a particular house to photograph and his presence worried nearby neighbors. A woman came from her house to ask what the cameraman was doing. Nairobi had his headphones in so the woman's curiosity went unnoticed, but he felt he was being watched. Moments later a police car rolled up alongside the photographer. The officer asked, "What are you doing on this side of town?" Irritated, Nairobi politely answered the policemen's questions so he could acknowledge Nairobi had done nothing wrong. After the policemen realized it was Nairobi's appearance that led the neighbor to call 9-1-1 and not his actions, the officer said, "The neighbors called because they were nervous, this house has been robbed lately."

Events such as the one that happened to Nairobi sometimes lead to unfortunate events where the subject in question is brutalized, abused or worse, murdered by the police. While these situations speak to the disgust of racial profiling, they also shed light on the daily experiences urban dwellers face.

Cameraman Nairobi's Instagram, @iamseton, premieres photo movies, consecutive images with captions telling a specific narrative. His first two photo movies,  "Bank Robbery" and "#BlackLivesMatter," are direct reflections of the desperation and prejudices weighing on some Pittsburghers.

People are capable of crazy things when they have no money to eat or when they base judgments off fallacies. "I don't put anything past anybody," said Nairobi.

Interview contributions by Alex Young and Nairobi Jones - photos are original work of Cameraman Nairobi

Alex: Now, there are a lot of police undertones in your photo movies, and even pictures in “Straight Outta St. Croix” the subject is literally flipping off a police car. Has there ever been an instance where you are taking a picture of the police and they say something to you or, who knows, they mistake your camera for a gun?

Nairobi: Never. That hasn’t happened yet. It’s not me down talking the police; it’s me speaking on reality. Sometimes my camera speaks as my voice. I feel as if the truth isn’t told and whenever it is told they try to hide it from us. You can’t hide what is right in front of you. A picture of somebody flipping off the police is really how some people feel. “Straight Outta St. Croix,” it was inspired by “Straight Outta Compton,” and NWA. It is my interpretation on police relations.

Alex: People can take your work and say it paints a picture of rebellion, going against the norm and being different. You expressed to me when we talked earlier how you see yourself as “Other,” somebody who catches something other people may not. Do you think this rebellion is honesty?

Nairobi: It is. We walk outside everyday and face the truth whether it’s dealing with the police or our peers.

Alex: When people see your images what do you want them to take away? Your images have a very urban setting, and when some people use the word urban they really mean black. What is city life like for a black person, a person of color?

Nairobi: Don’t lose sight of what you are going through. Somebody always has it worse than you do and if you look at your situation and somebody else’s situation is worse than yours you win at the end of the day. In an urban situation and a black situation always make sure you are positive because whenever you are negative, negative things happen. There are a lot of things out there that can distract you from positive activity.

Alex: In keeping positive, do you work with charities, do you work with organizations that have a positive footprint in Pittsburgh?

Nairobi: I have, for about two years I volunteered at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. I volunteered there on Sundays for about three hours.

Alex: Do you think you are misinterpreted? Do you think people take your work and see you as somebody you are not?

Nairobi: I do feel misunderstood a lot of the times. But I also realize there are people who do understand where I come from. As far as the people that don’t know where I come from, you have to understand that my environment reflects how I am. I feel the way I do and I am the way I am because of my experiences.

Alex: Have you found yourself through your camera?

Nairobi: Yeah, I started taking pictures when I was six-years-old, with my mom’s little purple film camera. I remember people telling me how good they were for my age and I’m thinking, “They’re just pictures, that’s all they are [I could be good at this].” After the film stage I moved on to taking pictures with a phone. In ninth grade I got my first digital camera. Then I started using Photoshop, I would edit my photos in Photoshop, before I knew what Lightroom was. After I got good I remember charging people $25 for a photo-shoot. Once I understood the process and respected the process I realized I had to up my prices again. I went to $50. After I mastered my little [Nikon] Coolpix camera I got a Nikon D3200 digital single-lens reflex camera. Then I increased my price to $100 and when I got better I bumped up to $150 and that was my set price until I understood the editing. Now, I am at my third camera, a Nikon D7100, and I charge $200. I remember somebody asking me how I arrived at my prices and it’s based off research and the quality of my work. I have to pay myself back for the equipment I have bought. I don’t think I charge too much because you’re getting unlimited shots, location changes, outfit changes, I do all the editing and you get the pictures within 24-hours. I appreciate the process and I like editing because you can fix your mistakes. That’s the only time you can go back in life and fix your mistakes.

Alex: How has your editing process come along so your pictures are what you want them to be?

Nairobi: Before I take pictures I usually know what the photo will look like. If I don’t know how they look when I take it, the editing process will help develop the photos to look as I see them in my head. I use a lot of black and white in some shoots, either because there is too much color in the picture or to help you feel it better. Whenever I take pictures it feels like I just captured something unique. You will never see the subjects in my photos this way again.

Alex: How do you think you have grown as an artist?

Nairobi: I think I have grown a lot. I remember taking pictures on my phone and I wouldn’t realize what I got. They were good pictures but one, I was using my phone and not a camera and two, my mind was not as open as it is now. A couple years ago I would only photograph sunsets and corny stuff.

Alex: Clichés

Nairobi: Yeah, so cliché. Now, it’s from sunsets to rocks, details. It definitely is more of a personal growth. I grew inside more than I did with my camera and that shows in my pictures.

Alex: If somebody told you your photographs and creativity influences the Pittsburgh environment would you agree? If so, how can you push your viewers and the public to live a positive life and see their experience as an honest one?

Nairobi: I agree and do consider myself an influencer. I come from a negative place being from McKeesport. I’ve seen a lot and I know where that leads. I can’t be a part of that, that’s not who I am, but it is a reality of my surroundings. You can’t live the way you see the world, we live in a negative world, not just where I am from. Being from a negative place brings out the positive in us because it forces us to recognize what happens in society. See the positive where there is negative.

Alex: How did seeing a new place like Los Angeles influence your work and personality?

Nairobi: Just seeing it first hand influenced me. Out in LA you have to have a plan or you will drown. In LA everybody is doing what you want to do. My experience was not for me it was for who I was working for. I don’t have this big house, I don’t own these big cars, these are theirs, but experiencing these things makes me go ten times harder. I know what I can have.

Alex: What drives you to be the best you can be?

Nairobi: I have personal problems, I have family issues and we are not the most fortunate family. My dad passed and he was the provider of my family, not just our household, but also his side of the family and my mom’s side of the family. Now that is my job. As a 19-year-old seeing your family struggle, you want better for them, you want everybody to live comfortably. It is just a matter of time before I achieve that for them. Patience is key, that’s my problem being 19. I have to remind myself I’m only 19 with my entire life ahead of me.

Not a Fan: Cameraman Nairobi Photographs Pittsburgh's Sports and Music Celebrity by Alex Young

Photo by Alex Young

Photo by Alex Young

Cameraman Nairobi Jones is not a fan of the notable people he photographs. His work with stars like, rapper Young Thug, football player Odell Beckham Jr., and artist Wiz Khalifa, however, have made people a fan of the photographer.

At Steelers training camp this summer at Saint Vincent College, Nairobi remembers a boy tapped him on the shoulder and wondered if he was "Seton." Cameraman Nairobi replied yes and the boy asked, "Will you sign this for me?" The fan was among Nairobi's followers of @iamseton, a tag that honors his late father, on Instagram where Cameraman Nairobi showcases his photographs of relevant sports and music figures playing in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Nairobi, a native of McKeesport, catches eyes thanks to particular subjects that appears in his photos, Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant and others. Visuals from Bryant's daily life and photographs of the hip-hop talents who perform in the city make Cameraman Nairobi a popular subject. 

Currently taking classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Nairobi has been taking pictures since he was 6. He says, "I remember people telling me how good they [his pictures] were for my age." Nairobi says he sees life differently from everybody else and poured his creative abilities into his photography.

At 19 Nairobi is a personal photographer for his clients and travels the country. One night he was impatient with his progress as a photographer and thought about taking a nine-to-five job, something he now says he will never do. That same night Bryant sent him a Direct Message on Instagram and requested Nairobi as his personal photographer. "I give him [Bryant] all the credit. All of this is because of him. He changed my life," Nairobi says.

For a year now Nairobi's camera lens has been trained on Bryant's every move. When Bryant took to Los Angeles to train over the summer for the 2015 NFL season Nairobi traveled with the wide receiver. He captured Bryant workout at Compton High School and mingled with other football stars in the area like Sammy Watkins.

In Pittsburgh Nairobi documents Bryant on the field at Steelers home games, washing his car and even speaking on his behalf to KDKA for a TV-news spot once.

Even more, Nairobi's relationship with Martavis Bryant has become personal. He says, "I don't look at him like Martavis the football player. I look at him like he's my friend. I can talk to him."

Nairobi's photographs remind us that celebrities are regular people with extraordinary talents; his images make them more down-to-earth.

The cameraman does not spend all of his time with Bryant. When Nairobi is on the same stage as rappers Young Thug or, most recently, Shy Glizzy at a Levels Agency event held at the Irish Center in late October, Nairobi has to contain himself. He notes, "We know who they are and we know what they do. Celebrities have a million people a day come up to them and say, 'Yo! You're such and such, you did this, that and the other!' It makes you stand out more when you can sit there and chill."

Levels Agency CEO, 21-year-old Elijah Hill from Wilkinsburg says, "He is a very humble guy and he is excited about perfecting his craft," The great moments he captures of the culturally relevant people in the city of Pittsburgh are highlighted on his portfolio website

While the cameraman checks being a personal photographer and traveling across the country off his bucket list, Nairobi still dreams of one day working for ESPN and will remain adamant in not being a fan of the notable people he covers. "You have your own path. Make the people want to know who you are," he says.

Interview contributions by Alex Young and Nairobi Jones - photos are original work of Cameraman Nairobi

Nairobi: When I first met Martavis Bryant it was strictly business, but you know as time goes on it gets to a personal level, it’s real personal. He doesn’t tell me every little thing, but he tells me a good amount of stuff and I share a lot of stuff with him. I don’t look at him like Martavis the football player, I look at him like he’s my friend, I can talk to him.

Alex: What sports events other than Martavis Bryant and the Steelers have you shot in Pittsburgh?

Nairobi: I shoot high school football games, specifically McKeesport. I shoot weddings, family portraits, I do normal photoshoots, I do everything, I don't limit myself to just one topic, I spread my craft to other areas.

Alex: In what ways is Pittsburgh culture unique or what does it offer?

Nairobi: I think it offer a lot. It all just depends on how you look at the city and exactly what you do. A lot of people around here if they're not being productive they just find a job and work. A lot of times their job isn't exactly what they want to do so the city gets boring to them because during the week they're working and on weekends they go to the same club, it all just depends on what you do. if you're out doing like me, doing something you want to do, the city is what you make it. Photography wise Pittsburgh offers a lot. There a so many different neighborhoods, you got the Strip District, South Side, not just Carson Street on the South Side, the overlooks on the South Side and the West Side. Then you have suburbs, like Beaver County where there is a lot of woods. Really it depends on what you do and how you view the city.

Alex: What’s your favorite part of the city?

Nairobi: Downtown, because you get so many different types of people. Whenever you go downtown you could run in to people you see everyday and everyday you see people you’ll never see again. I like downtown for all that it offers really.

Alex: Is taking pictures your way to document your life?

Nairobi: Yes, I feel like a camera is a time capsule. I have millions of pictures of people I’ll never see again. I feel like whenever you take pictures of people you don’t know you go back and look at them and it’s like, ‘sheesh I wonder what they are doing now?’

Alex: How do you feel when someone says no they don’t want you to take their picture?

Nairobi: You’re entitled to your own opinion, you can say no. You get the people that are kind of self-conscience about their looks, so I can understand why.

Alex: Do you think as a photographer you have the ability to take their imperfections or insecurities and make them cool?

Nairobi: I do. I feel like whenever you express your true self and take closer looks at your flaws they’re not so much flaws anymore, they’re just something you are insecure about and that’s okay because everybody has insecurities, everybody does.

Alex: Is there anybody in the city right now in terms of photography, music, the culture in general, that you look up to, want to work with or don’t like what they are doing?

Nairobi: Really I am open to work with anybody and I don’t not support anybody, it’s just I don’t like to follow other photographers on social media. It’s not me looking down on their work it’s just me knowing what I can do. I don’t want to see somebody else doing what I know I can do or I have yet to do, because I plan on doing everything. It’s not anything personal it’s just me wanting to come up with my own creative ideas.

Alex: You work premiers a lot on your Instagram and you also have Is Instagram your main platform for showing your work?

Nairobi: It is because everybody gets on Instagram. Everybody gets on Instagram. Everybody might not use it the way I use it but everybody gets on it. That is why I promote myself the way I do, I constantly post, “Book Me!” with my website and contact information, it’s everywhere. Whenever I put my work up it’s showing what I am capable of.

Alex: Whenever you promote yourself on Instagram and Twitter you post a lot. I remember when I wrote the article on your Steelers training camp photos you were sending the link to people like Nicki Minaj, people who aren’t even in this [Pittsburgh] landscape. That shows the confidence you have in yourself and says, “I know I’m the best at what I’m doing so I want everybody to see it.” What would you advise to somebody who doesn’t have that confidence in their work or themselves?

Nairobi: Always be confident in what you are doing because you have to remember why you are doing it. Are you doing this just because or do you want to go far with it? I send out my link, my website and my work to these celebrities because you never know when they open it or what they look at. Do you feel if they were to look at it would they hire you? Would they book you? Or is it a waste of your time sending it to them? You gotta feel like if they open this they are going to call me because they will see something in the work they like. Just always remember why you are doing something, whether its photography, your job, why you’re in school, anything.

Alex: What kind of music do you listen to?

Nairobi: I listen to a lot of hip-hop. I like reggae, I like R&B, and different music inspires me. When I was younger my school bus had a radio on it and my bus driver would only listen to country music. I would listen to the stories and be like… are you serious? This is what you guys were doing? I have my fair share of experiences with country music.

Alex: [laughs] It seems like while you may be indifferent to country you still took something valuable away from those stories the singers were telling.

Nairobi: Mmmhmm. I don’t want my work to resemble everything else on my page. The music inspires me to switch it up because you don’t listen to the same music every day.

Alex: How does it feel when you’re listening to music and that same artist coming through your headphones visits Pittsburgh and you’re standing on stage with him, taking his picture during his live show?

Nairobi: It’s crazy because the artists don’t know their music is on my phone, they don’t know they are on my playlist because I carry myself that way. My main thing is to not come off as a fan, that’s something I take pride in because I have been around a lot of people. I don’t want them thinking, “Oh there’s this kid in front of me with a camera and he’s just here because he’s a fan and he just happened to be a photographer.” That’s not the case at all, man. But, it definitely has a crazy feeling to it, like standing in certain sections of a party with them and then they go on stage and they didn’t even know I was a photographer. Just make sure to never come off as a fan, ever.

Alex: What artists have come to Pittsburgh that you really enjoyed, even if it’s somebody like Wiz Khalifa who is from the area?

Nairobi: I’ve actually never been to a Wiz Khalifa concert.

Alex: Neither have I.

Nairobi: I have been to two Lil Durk shows and a Young Thug concert that I took pictures at.

Alex: Would you say that Pittsburgh’s hip-hop community could be more welcoming to the contemporary artists? I find people like Travis $cott and Vince Staples do not frequent Pittsburgh often for one reason or another. Do you think that has an effect on the quality of music that comes from Pittsburgh?

Nairobi: Not at all, everybody in Pittsburgh thinks they are a rapper now. I don’t think it is the music that keeps them away; I think it is the promoters that keep them away. You have to be big enough to come to Pittsburgh. You’re not going to be an underground artist and come to Pittsburgh. If you’re an underground artist and somebody hits you from Los Angeles you’re going to LA because it’s a bigger stage. I feel like certain artists only come when they are big. The venues here aren’t as nice, like New York has a whole bunch of halls and centers, but Pittsburgh has Mr. Smalls, the Console Energy Center or Stage AE. If you’re not a drill artist or a hardcore hip-hop artist you’re not going to Stage AE or the Console, you’re going to the bars, the local clubs to perform, then another club and an after party. If you’re recruited to come here the promotion has to be done the right way.

Alex: So, if we are going to make a plug here, Shy Glizzy is coming to Pittsburgh Friday or Saturday?

Nairobi: He’ll be here Friday [Oct. 30] through Levels Agency.

Alex: How has your work been with Levels?

Nairobi: It has been great, all business. Twins, Elisha Hill and Elijah Hill, along with Wayne started Levels. I have known them since ninth grade when they were playing basketball for Wilkinsburg. I forget what the first conversation consisted of, but we followed each other on social media and I would see them around town, but once I got my camera and they started throwing parties that is how our relationship started. I appreciate them for sticking with me whenever my work wasn’t as solid. The first party I did for them was called the All Black Affair and it was the first time Lil Durk came. Ever since then it has been all business, it's a friendship too, but we are in it for the business.

Alex: You’re only 19-years-old and you said at times you have to pinch yourself. You are a personal photographer for somebody with notoriety and you have travelled the country, what is next? What do you see yourself doing in the next month?

Nairobi: The next month? Hmmm, I’m not sure yet, but I want to do another photo movie and I have a project that uses receipts. But, I do find myself pinching myself. I have to remind myself that I’m only 19 because whenever I was 17 and 18 I wanted to take pictures, travel, and do a lot of different things. I’m still in school, I’m about to graduate, I still haven’t figured out my camera all the way yet and I have a lot to learn myself. Everything that happened early this year with Martavis, travelling to Los Angeles and meeting people I looked up to this time last year or even chilling with people I watched play college ball, like, “Damn! He’s hard, that’s my man,” is because of Martavis. I give him all the credit. All of this is because of him he changed my life.

Alex: You’re working with people you admired, when you get in that moment its like, “Oh shit, you’re in front of my face, instead of on the TV.” How do you compose yourself professionally but also recognize them as real people, real people who just play football or happen to be a rapper? How do you compose yourself in that moment to network and just be friendly?

Nairobi: Make sure you never come across as a fan, that’s something I pride myself on. I know where I want to get, so the reason I network the way I do is because you never know who is willing to give you an opportunity. Like Martavis did for me, I never thought in a million years he’d ask me to come to LA and do these things for him. Whenever these people are in front of me I make sure to contain myself. We know who they are and we know what they do. Celebrities have a million people a day come up to them and say, “Yo! You’re such and such, you did this, that and the other!” It makes you standout more when you can sit there and chill. You don’t need to be in this man’s face, you have your own path, make the people want to know who you are.

Alex: When we talked earlier you said, “No handouts.” Can you elaborate?

Nairobi: I don’t appreciate handouts. I appreciate people doing things for me, but I don’t like people feeling like I need them. I don’t like whenever people say, “You only got this because of this or you got here because of this.” No, God is real; God is so real. I prayed on a lot of things to happen and I still can’t believe they actually happened.

Alex: You have tackled work in studios, done music videos, done personal photography and journalistic photography, and done photo-shoots. What is your dream assignment?

Nairobi: My dream assignment?... I've lived my dream. Going out to LA, being a notable person's photographer? That is really what I wanted to do, but now that I have done it I can't stop dreaming. In the future I would like to work for ESPN. I love football and I love sports as a whole. The atmosphere sports provide is good for me.

Cameraman Nairobi Interview Nov. 9-10 by Alex Young

Photo by Alex Young

Photo by Alex Young

Cameraman Nairobi's life and work places him around a lot of celebrities, but he wants them to know he is not their fan. The notable people he photographs fill his "time capsule," he says.

InTheRough Style's latest interview and feature article combs through said capsule to learn about Nairobi's experiences as a photographer and citizen in Pittsburgh, Pa. On Nov. 9-10 the editorial will appear on ITR's "Life's Goods," page along with photos Cameraman Nairobi gifted to the site for the interview. 


Cameraman Nairobi Documents Steelers 2015 Training Camp by Alex Young

Football is a proud American tradition, the start of the 2015 NFL season is a welcome sight to almost all, and in Pittsburgh it is a return to normalcy. By now fans are just pulling their team's jersey out the closet, but Steelers fans have worn theirs all offseason, switching to their favorite Super Bowl t-shirt when the jersey needs in the washed. Black and Yellow runs through the city's core, so when whistles blew August 26, the first day of training camp, in Latrobe, PA best believe Steeler Nation was present in full support.

Amongst the crowd is Cameraman Nairobi, a native from Pittsburgh's McKeesport region. He observes the Steelers work to surpass an 11-5, AFC North Championship season, especially the early exit from the Playoffs by the Ravens. Training camp is interesting because the team is essentially a puzzle; each piece tinkered with or discarded so the fit results in a championship completion. Perched on the sideline Nairobi captures foreshadows of 2015 Steelers success while highlighting the rise of Martavis Bryant-- third year wide receiver. The Cameraman has tracked Bryant's progress throughout the offseason, which now has him playing alongside Pro Bowler Antonio Brown in an expanded role. Accompanying on-field action shots the photographer supplies great candids of players like punter Brad Wing. Follow Nairobi's coverage of Steelers 2015 training camp on his Instagram and check the team's developments during its first preseason game August 9 against the Vikings.