Nick Romero’s life has been defined by being an unsung hero. Whether as an offensive lineman for his high school football team or as a full-time employee stocking shelves, Romero has felt his vital contributions are often overlooked. However, his raw talent behind a camera put an undeniable spotlight on him, and after a year with the Daily Lobo he’s graduating to leave behind a legacy of stunning work in his wake.
Romero has been an avid consumer of media ever since he was young, but a degree in journalism wasn’t always part of the plan. After graduating from CNM with an associate degree in communications and working a full-time job for a few years, he couldn’t help but feel like something was missing.
“I just didn't feel like I was making a difference in the world, like I knew that I could. And now I kind of feel like, you know what? Maybe I can make a difference,” Romero said. “And that's kind of where I’m at now, and I know it’s definitely a much better place.”
What Romero never saw coming was that photojournalism would become his speciality. Like many photographers, it all started with a camera. From taking pictures of his beloved dogs to capturing his friends on a semi-professional basketball team, Romero started to gain confidence in his abilities.
Romero knew his newfound skills could be useful to the team at the Daily Lobo and had even spoken with the editors about coming on board as a photographer, but staffing changes and technical difficulties stood in his way. Never one to waste good lemons, Romero made lemonade and spent every chance he could independently covering the wide range of protests that started in the spring of 2020.
Liam DeBonis, the former photo editor and current copy chief at the Lobo, said he remembers the eventual hiring of Romero vividly.
“I just remember him bugging me about getting him hired and before he was hired, I’d see him at protests and I was so happy when I was able to finally hire him … I only wish we could have hired him sooner,” DeBonis said.
Former Daily Lobo managing editor Gino Gutierrez has known Romero for over five years and said he was thrilled to have him join the team. He described enjoying their previous relationship, which was built on jokes like referring to Romero as a “knucklehead.” But working together at the paper allowed him to gain a greater appreciation for the professional side of Romero and his raw talent with the camera.
“For every photograph I ever saw him take for any story he took, regardless of if it was news, sports or culture, the human element always came across and the understanding was always there right off the bat,” Gutierrez said.
Romero’s eye for good composition and human emotion caught the eye of one of his photography professors, Roberto Rosales. Romero’s work stood out to Rosales on his very first assignment because he went “...above and beyond what was required of him,” according to Rosales.
It’s no surprise that Romero said his biggest takeaway from his time at UNM was the connections he’s made with people. Every person asked about Romero was as equally impressed with his personality as they were with his photography.
DeBonis remarked on Romero’s drive and how he would always volunteer to pick up last-minute photo assignments, turning around great photos in record time. Romero’s “curiosity and tenacity” to boldly cover events stood out to Rosales. And Gutierrez emphasized how Romero is “one of the most caring people I’ve ever worked with.”
It’s the winning combination of a great personality and skill set that has enabled Romero to get as far as he has in his young career. What started out as an internship for the Santa Fe Reporter working on a profile on Youth United for Climate Action has morphed into a fellowship at the paper that Romero will start in June.
“I've always been better when I'm just getting thrown into situations and (have) to sink or swim,” Romero said. “So I'm definitely excited. But I think it's also a lot of nerves.”
Aside from his nervous excitement, Romero explained he’s open to whatever comes his way, even if that means tackling writing more stories than taking photos.
Whether his future includes more coverage of New Mexico United games or protests, DeBonis, Gutierrez and Rosales are all eager to see Romero’s promising career unfold.
“Journalism never sleeps and [Romero’s] a person who never sleeps,” Rosales said. “And I like that, I admire that; I think he’s going to go far because of that mentality.”
Shelby Kleinhans is a freelance photographer and beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99