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Daily Inspiration: Meet Chad Rieder

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chad Rieder.

Hi Chad, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I have always had a curious mind. When I find something that interests me, my mind wants to analyze all of the details to better understand everything about the subject. That has been true in both my photography and my furniture design.

Music is very important to me and my friends and I started going to a lot of concerts in our late teens. Later I began seeing high-quality photographs from the shows I attended and that fascinated me. I wondered how photographers were able to capture those images. I had a cheap 35mm film camera that I liked to experiment with and began feeling the pull to invest in a nicer camera although I had no experience using one. In 2006, I purchased a starter Nikon DSLR with a kit lens and my journey as a photographer began.

I am entirely self-taught and have never taken a photography class in my life. The way I learned photography was by experimenting with compositions and reading information on the internet to better understand the technical details. Experimenting taught me the most and soon I began bringing my camera everywhere including to local concerts. After capturing some decent images of up-and-coming artists like Trampled by Turtles and Charlie Parr, Wilco gave me my first photo pass in 2007 and I haven’t looked back. Since then I have photographed hundreds of bands including many of my favorites like Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket, MUSE, Soundgarden, and others. I have also worked as an event photographer in Minneapolis for brands like Hyundai, Target, and Jameson Whisky.

Woodworking is another passion that I have turned into a business. When I was a senior in high school the classes that I enjoyed the most were English and Advanced Woods. I took my woods class seriously and walked away with an A+ and an oak entertainment center that I designed and built. Later I got a degree in construction management and did that professionally for seven years before changing careers to study graphic and web design. During my new studies, I learned more about modern design and gravitated heavily towards that style.

Once again curiosity took over and I spent a lot of time researching famous mid-century and Danish furniture designs. After hanging up my construction hard hat a few years earlier, the pull to build again was strong and my sketchbooks started filling with different furniture ideas. I first built prototypes and pieces for myself, then I began taking commissions and my brand Nord Lion was born in 2019. The name Nord Lion is a tribute to my nordic roots and to my middle name Leo. Much like my photography, a lot of what I have learned in woodworking is self-taught while relying on my engineering background and my eye for design.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Early on in my photography, bands were more willing to provide photo passes to freelancers like me who weren’t backed by publications. As digital photography became more popular and the entry point to owning a decent camera became more accessible, an influx of others who also wanted to be in the pit photographing their favorite bands started happening. It was around 2010 when I noticed that publicists were tightening their requirements to get press passes and it frequently was required to be backed by a publication. I already had my own blog at this point, but looked externally and began shooting for more established publications in order to gain entry to larger shows. I allowed these blogs and publications to use my watermarked photos with credit to me and added the same photos to my own blog along with written show reviews. Within a few years I had built up a lot of content to where publicists were now reaching out directly to me with invitations to cover bands around the Twin Cities. Since the end of 2015, I have been shooting primarily on my own.

As concert photography has become more popular over the years, another literal obstacle is other photographers in the pit. When I first started shooting concerts, there were plenty of times when I was the sole photographer in front of the stage. Now, depending on the size of the show or festival, there can sometimes be a dozen or more other photographers. Combine that with floor monitors, video cameras, mic stands, and lighting gear, it can oftentimes be a real challenge to compose a great photograph. But that elusiveness is certainly part of the fun and separates the good photographers from the greats.

In furniture design, my biggest obstacle is bringing my visions to life. I have a lot of ideas and can find inspiration in the most random of places, but actually building the pieces is the challenge. Solid wood is perfect in its imperfection and is inherently unstable. Depending on moisture conditions in the air, wood moves and a designer needs to take this into consideration along with a multitude of other factors before a saw is even plugged in. I love working with black walnut, but depending on how the boards were sawed, dried, or stored, each batch can be entirely unique in its workability and look.

Joinery is another obstacle in woodworking. Since I design modern furniture, I want the piece to look clean and precise without anchors visible. A lot of time is spent planning and executing joining one board to another. I am good at designing, but dealing with wood’s innate nature and the challenges sometimes posed in joinery are my biggest obstacles. It is not easy, but again, the challenge is part of the fun and it is very fulfilling when a piece comes to life just as I envisioned it.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am creative at heart. Whether it is in my career as a web developer, or my freelance and commissioned work as a photographer or furniture designer, I have a strong need and desire to create. I am attracted to modern design because of its refined minimalism and I think that also comes through in my photography. I want to let the scene speak for itself by not over-editing. I have a high standard of quality in all of my work and my eye for detail is my greatest gift. It is what sets me apart from others.

As a creative, I am most known for my work as a concert photographer. I have put a lot of time and energy into becoming an exceptional concert photographer. When I started out, I sometimes had anxiety in the pit and wasn’t sure where I should focus my attention with so many things going on. But now that I have become more experienced, I flow with the music and I love the feeling of the bass thumping my bones while I search for my composition and wait for the light to hit just right. It is much more zen and I am rarely distracted by anything other than what is happening right in front of me.

I also love the outdoors. Landscape photography is very rewarding to me and I do it for the pure joy of capturing beautiful scenes in nature. I do sell prints however and it feels good knowing that people have my work on their walls.

Today I still photograph bands but have focused more on commissioned and freelance work. The biggest thing the covid pandemic taught me is to value my time and I intend on using mine wisely. There are still plenty of creative ideas stirring in my mind that I have yet to explore and those will come to life in due time. I am proud of my past work, but know I have barely tapped into the creative potential that is within me.

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Image Credits
Jenna Leskela

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