Getting the Shot: Luke Santell ’21

“Getting the Shot” features the photography of URI students and recent alumni whose work illustrates the intellectual curiosity and big thinking characteristic of our community.

Lil Yachty and Luke Santell
Luke Santell ’21, pictured here with Lil Yachty, is a film/media major at URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media. He is from Somerville, Massachusetts.

Luke Santell’s name is known in the hip-hop world for powerful portrait and concert shots of some of the biggest names in the business. And at a moment when artists’ success is measured in likes and followers, Santell stands out for another reason, too: He doesn’t care. Santell is all about the work. “Posts and likes don’t matter to me. I care about the fact that an artist saw something in my work that they liked and wanted to share with his fans and the world.”

That Shot of Lil Wayne on Stage at the Ryan Center

“That was one of my first concerts I shot at URI. It was so cool. There he was in a URI basketball shirt. Most of the shots I do now are close-ups, portrait shots, but this time I got this strongly composed wide shot, and it’s more powerful because those shots are the harder ones to get. It was one of my first iconic shots, and if I could only have six of my best pictures in a portfolio, that one would always be one of them.”

When Drake and Meek Mill Squashed the Beef

Drake’s Aubrey and the Three Migos Tour. TD Garden. 2018. I was given access through Migos’ manager, but it was specific to Migos. I was taking pictures of Drake and bumped into one of Drake’s security guys. He said I didn’t have access to shoot, but once he left, I kept shooting. Then I bumped into him again. He took my pass. It was a little discouraging. I was considering going home, but I went up into the crowd, and Meek Mill came out and did his ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ intro and when that dropped it turned into a frenzy, and I just started taking pictures. The building was electric. This was hip-hop history.

URI men's basketball team and Coach Thompson with Lil Baby
“Squad and Baby,” URI men’s basketball team, Head Coach Cox with Lil Baby

Lil Baby, Coach Cox, and the URI Basketball Team

Lil Baby was starting to get big when that photo was taken. Drake had co-signed him, and he blew up. This shot was of a meet-and-greet in a small room with the basketball team, the coach, friends, family, and staff. Sometimes at meet-and-greets, the artists can be kinda like mannequins, but Lil Baby was genuine, smiling, and happy to be there. Later, the basketball team got to go up on stage with him. It was a very unique experience.

See more of Luke Santell’s work on Instagram @flick_killer or at