Many know Johnny Nunez as a photographer who has made a name for himself by taking pictures of hip-hop artists and other celebrities. He even merited a New York Times profile back in 2007, for his approach to photography (his ethos was to never take an unflattering photo of a celeb.)
Some know that Johnny Nunez is also an entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of followback.com, which is an email service and search engine designed for children. He also founded Nubuzzphoto, a website where emerging photographers could sell their work.
What many may not know is that Nunez is a Greenpointer! He was raised in Greenpoint until the age of 11. Although Nunez moved to Long Island before his teenage years, he still has a soft spot for Greenpoint and likes to visit.
Greenpointers spoke with Nunez about his childhood in Greenpoint, how it shaped him into the person he is today, and how he plans to give back to the next generation.
Greenpointers: Word on the street is that you are a Greenpointer. What is your connection to the neighborhood?
Johnny Nunez: I was adopted by a Puerto Rican family who lived on Bayard Street at age 2. I lived at 133 Bayard St. for about 10 years and went to P.S. 34. Greenpoint is my first love. I’m actually looking at pierogis right now.
Greenpointers: How did your childhood in Greenpoint shape your life and influence your work?
Johnny Nunez: Growing up in Greenpoint 100% influenced my life and work. Unfortunately, I remember horrific encounters related to racism. One example is that I was never invited to birthday parties. I remember waiting on the street outside the party to ask about cake. If I went in to parties, a parent would pull me aside, give me cake, and usher me away.
Events like that shaped me and taught me a lot. Now, I can talk about it and share with people because I have grit and determination.
Greenpointers: Wow. That’s horrible. Do you have any happy memories from your childhood in Greenpoint?
Johnny Nunez: Absolutely. It wasn’t all bad! One thing I loved about Brooklyn is the mixture of races. I had amazing friends of every different races. Bayard Street had block parties where we tried all different types of food. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
And I still remember a teacher I had named Rose who helped me. She was my protector when my mom wasn’t around. She let me exit out the side door so I wouldn’t have to run into bullies waiting out front.
Greenpointers: You have founded something to help kids of the next generation. Tell us about that.
Johnny Nunez: I am a co-founder of Followback, a search engine and email service. A lot of platforms are geared for business, but Followback is geared toward younger generations. For example, it will not solicit ads for adults. I describe it as Gmail for kids.
I also want to start a program to teach inner city youth about life skills and somehow incorporate foster care because I was a foster child. It will be like a big brother or big sister program where a child will have a role model for life.
Greenpointers: Both of those initiatives sound awesome. You clearly like helping people. You also created a website called Nubuzzphoto to help emerging photographers.
Johnny Nunez: Nubuzzphoto was my attempt to have a website that sells other photographers’ photos. I wanted to help emerging artists. It was a platform where they could be seen. I want to return to it and hope to start it up again in 2023 so I can help other photographers achieve success.