Chris Hainey is no stranger to the spotlight: As the drummer of Chicago indie outfit Maps & Atlases, the 35-year-old has played some of music’s biggest billings, from Riot Fest and Lollapalooza to Bonnaroo and beyond. But Hainey has found an equally high-profile platform on Instagram, where, as @chriscreature (“I was trying to think of something that would sound like a weird, glam-rock alter ego,” he laughs), he’s hooked nearly 130,000 followers on his uber-chromatic chronicles of life as a musician-cum-professional photographer.
As a Columbia College grad who studied film and video with a concentration in cinematography, Hainey’s success as a shutterbug isn’t unexpected, but wasn’t always a given: “For a few years, I struggled with should I pick up one or the other?” recalls the upstart creative of balancing his crafts. “Ultimately, I came to terms with [the fact that] I don’t have to fully invest 100 percent in one or the other, because I find very beneficial things come out of both.”
For Hainey, a break in 2013 from a frenetic recording and touring process following the group’s sophomore studio album provided the opportunity to indulge what had been until then a hobbyist interest. Clearly, the lean-in paid off: In addition to his sizable Insta following, the Pilsen-based shooter has snapped collabs for Michael Kors, Warby Parker and other blue-chip brands, bona fides that solidify the appeal of an effulgent aesthetic realized from behind the lens of his Canon 1DX, Leica Q and iPhone.
By employing lush tones that seem only loosely tethered to reality, Hainey conjures an ethereality similar to the fleeting, dreamlike quality of summer. “As a kid, I loved art and I loved art class. I was really intrigued with pop art; some of my favorite artists used really bold and bright, blocky color,” says Hainey, who counts David Hockney and the surrealist René Magritte as influences. “Seeing that you can use digital photography to make something look a little surreal is a cool thing that’s fairly new—you wouldn’t be able to push film quite that much.”