How Caroline Reynolds Is Pursuing Her Passion
“My Converse are my ride-or-die,” said Caroline Reynolds, as she sips on her vanilla latte in the corner of a dimly lit coffee shop. In Chicago’s brisk air, Reynolds wears a red vest over a simple white t-shirt and jeans, and, of course, her signature high-top Converse.
Reynolds is a 21-year-old Chicago-based concert photographer. She’s taken photographs of individual concerts, including COIN and Briston Maroney, and has also gone on tour with different bands and artists.
When Caroline Reynolds (also known as Caroline Zeeman) first began taking concert photos in Chicago, she focused primarily on the artists’ shoes as a focal point of her work. From Stella’s moon boots to Clairo’s taupe-gray Vans, Reynolds finds creativity in someone’s style as a beautiful component of their art.
“I always got a picture that I liked of that artist’s shoes. What you wear out, specifically shoes, says a lot about a person, so I always gravitated towards that,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds describes her own style as “‘70s grandpa mixed with a 12-year-old British boy.” She lives in jeans and thrifted t-shirts, tied together by her simple black Converse, which keep her comfortable at concerts and on month-long tours.
The first time Reynolds picked up a camera was in Singapore, where her family lived for three years before returning to the northern suburbs of Chicago. Reynolds carried a camera wherever she went – whether that be her mom’s Canon, a point-and-shoot that she’d received as a Christmas gift or a Blackberry phone. A camera quickly became an essential for her as she began to pursue a career in concert photography in Chicago.
Reynolds’ first tour was with the Los Angeles-based indie rock band Mt. Joy. During the summer of 2022, she interned for their management while pushing to go on tour with the band in August.
One of Reynolds’ most memorable tours was with the indie band Sun Room. She handled the merchandise inventory and sales in addition to being the band’s personal assistant.
“Some friends from Southern California who like to surf and make music out of their very hot garage” is Sun Room’s motto, and Reynolds quickly became one of those core friends.
Reynolds describes the Sun Room tour as a series of “Groundhog Days,” where they’re at the venue around 2 p.m., prepping for soundcheck, opening the VIP doors, selling merch, driving to the hotel, sleeping, showering and doing the whole thing again.
Having spent every day on tour with the bandmates, Reynolds said knew them like brothers: when they napped, their coffee orders and where everyone’s things were.
“I was the only girl. It was four 20-something guys, a tour man – like a 30-year-old core manager – and then me. And it was great. They’re like my brothers. I love them. I wouldn’t change it. Like, the van got so endearing at a certain point. Like, it was so gross, but it was so endearing,” said Reynolds.
They know each other’s likes and dislikes, and like siblings, they know how to drive each other crazy. They constantly fought over music in the van, and when Max decided to play the Beatles for endless hours, Reynolds slipped on her silver headphones and drowned out “Twist and Shout” with Jeff Buckley’s guitar licks. Above all, they have each other’s backs.
Minutes before a show in Ohio, Reynolds caught a glimpse of her manager sprinting from the venue. She’d “never seen him run in [her] life,” so she followed him. He reached the van, windows smashed in, glass on the ground. The van had been broken into.
“He was just there and he looked at me, and I was like, ‘How can I help? What should we do?’ He was like, ‘Don’t tell the boys, just get me a cigarette and a lighter,’” said Reynolds.
Reynolds was nicknamed “Tour Enhancer” after her experience with Sun Room because of her compassion, dependability and good-naturedness.
“She is so calming. She’s like the embodiment of a safe space, and that applies in her friendships, but also her professional relationships,” said Reynolds’ roommate and freelance photographer, Alana Swaringen. “She makes sure you’re okay, happy and taken care of like no other.”
Sun Room became a family to Reynolds, and it’s those experiences that drove her to take a break from her education to focus on her career and passion.
Reynolds attended Chapman University for a year to study creative producing before transferring to DePaul to be closer to home. She majored in public relations and advertising, while taking advantage of Chicago as a center for music and concerts. Within the last year, Reynolds decided to take time off from school to pursue different opportunities. Reynolds has plans to tour with singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine as her photographer on her headline tour.
Despite being a skilled photographer, Reynolds explains, “I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
Imposter syndrome is something that Reynolds has been struggling with for most of her photography career. She grapples with the risk of fully committing to a career in concert photography, facing a societal and familial expectation to attend university and receive a degree.
Her imposter syndrome and reserved personality have made it difficult for Reynolds to know how much she should be getting paid. She doesn’t necessarily consider herself a professional photographer and, as a result, doesn’t always ask for a higher salary.
“Part of that is, unfortunately, being a young woman,” Reynolds said. “In this industry, that is a factor, I think, where people can tell that I’m hungry for the job. They know that I would take a cheaper rate to do it. Which is true, if I’m honest.”
But Reynold’s immense drive to learn, grow and experience push her to take risks in her already flourishing career.
“I’ve never known someone so eager to try new things. Every photo she takes is a Caroline Zeeman photo at its core,” said Swaringen. “I think that’s what I’m most inspired by, her go-getter attitude in her craft. Whether it’s film, digital, video or photo, she’s passionate to intertwine all of the mediums, and the cohesion is still there.”
She has tenacity, drive and dedication. Caroline Reynolds is the full embodiment of “feel the fear, and do it anyway.” She doesn’t fully know what her future holds, but neither do the rest of us – and that’s the beauty of it. We’re all different: we dress differently, we have different aspirations and we wear different shoes. We’re each taking our own uncomfortable, yet exhilarating walk ahead.
Header photo by Alana Swaringen