Interview by Danny Steezy - 2.28.17
Hi, Nick, I'm stoked we're finally getting this project off the ground. It seems like we've been trying to work on something together for a while but as two photographers, I've always thought it's weird to "collaborate". Then I dreamed up the Poster Club and boom! You were the first person I wanted on the lineup.
[NJ] I can honestly say I'm really flattered and stoked to be asked to be a part of this. I love the concept and I couldn't agree more as like the whole "collaborating" as photographers, but this is a perfect vehicle in which to do so. And glad we finally do get to connect on something! I haven't been doing exhibits so much the last couple of years -- but that's gonna change big time this year -- and I love being able to collaborate in that way with photographers, so this Poster Club really got me hyped.
I remember when I stumbled upon your Tumblr and knew nothing about you, my first thought was "this person adds a lot of contrast in their work". Not in tones, but more so the type of content you capture. What provokes this?
[NJ] I just love variety. I'm not a portrait photographer or a landscape guy, but I love to take both. I really dig photographing friends or like people who have never been shot before as it's a fun challenge to make people comfortable. I'm not equipped with the best social skills, so it genuinely is something that requires me to get out of my normal comfort zone and make people feel at ease when shooting. Also, I hated driving in LA, so I spent so much time wandering around on foot which enabled me to snap a lot of random stuff that you wouldn't really notice if you were out and about driving, so a lot of my content is just stuff I shoot while wandering around be it LA or cities I visit.
Speaking of tones, what factors play a roll in the color tones found in your images? It seems candid yet well thought out.
[NJ] Yeah I would say it's always thought out. I hate wasting frames when shooting film or like I hate having excess digital files, so I try to take a thoughtful approach when shooting. I'm always looking at things like light, complementary colors and backdrops.
In an age where we are so visually over sexualized, I've always dug the fact that you don't go that route. Was this a conscious decision or spontaneous?
[NJ] I would say for me it's just not my personality to sexualize work, so maybe its more of a subconscious kinda thing for me. I have nothing against photos like that, but it's just not for me as far as something I wanna shoot.
When I go through your work, one of the many things that stands out to me is the fact that you use a lot of signage in your photographs. Are you trying to voice something in particular or is this merely a wink at the viewer?
[NJ] I really love signage. I don't know why or when I developed any type of inclination towards it, but I just gravitate towards it for some reason. I was hanging out in Toronto a lot over the last couple of years and I notice a lot of places of business have such dope signage and LA has so much, too. I also grew up hanging out with family out in the desert areas of the Southwest and old motel and diner signage was something I thought was so unique and cool even as a little dude on family vacations.
There's not a lot of personal information on the person behind the camera. Shit, you don't even have an instagram, which I think is amazing. Especially in this age. Is this deliberate or are you like myself and tend to add a hint of mystery?
[NJ] Haha, I have had a couple of personal Instagram accounts, but I deleted them. I get easily irked and annoyed with people on there, so I got rid of it a couple of times. I guess I have problems with like the way people project on social media like these versions of their lives that don't necessarily align with reality, so I had to just get away from it. I do have one for my project I am launching in the near future, though, its @closeenoughgallery.
Your product work is very clean and sharp but also has an interesting color palette. I personally think making things that have no life, look interesting is quite difficult but when done correctly, can be more beautiful than any living subject. How do you go about placing these items into their environment?
[NJ] This is gonna sound lame or like a bad slogan tee, but I'm just crazy for color. I've always noticed and admired colors especially when the sun hits things at certain times of the day. I try to shoot within certain hours of the day as I'm gonna get the results I want. I would shoot all these inanimate objects because I wouldn't always have a friend or model to shoot with, so I would just kinda do my things shooting objects be it cars, or store signs, or flowers, etc.
I notice you travel abroad for work. When you're in an unfamiliar setting, do the surrounding steer the direction of the images?
[NJ] I love traveling for work especially when there's downtime and I get to wander around the city. I just stick to what I do in LA and just hit the streets walking looking for interesting signs or stores or cool cars. Usually I know people in certain cities so they can also guide me as to like areas they feel I would like, but also I do not mind one bit just taking off without any guidance and doing my thing anyway.
After going back and forth with a lot of options from you, I selected the three images that personally resonated with me. Can you tell me a little about the photographs and what captured your attention in those particular moments?
[NJ] A couple of them were taken on the hood of my car. The fries one was shot in Laguna Beach, CA at Husky Boy Burgers on Pacific Coast Highway. I was shooting with someone and I bought some food to use as props and some fries spilled out of the bag but the light was hitting nicely and they looked cool, so I added that ketchup for a splash of red, because I felt it would complement the photo.
The other one shot on my hood was when I was shooting some product for my friends skin care brand. He needed some Valentine's promotion photos, so I figured red roses were needed and I placed them on the car before adding the product, but again, the light was hitting nicely so I snapped a pic of just the flowers on the hood thinking "Oh, this is good for Tumblr."
Those leaves were shot in Mission Viejo, CA. I was at my parent's house, that's where they live and I think I had just gotten the Sony A7 so I wanted to wander around and test it out a bit and there's these leaves that always hang out over onto the sidewalk and I shot the pic thinking I would like make a custom shower curtain with this photo as the print, but I never did and it became another one for the Tumblr.
You curate the show, Under the Radar. I don't know if you know this but a few years ago I emailed you guys asking to be apart of the show. You ignored it, which was probably a smart move at the time (haha). How do you go about selecting the photographers and do you consider yourself under the radar?
[NJ] Ha! I'm sure I wasn't ignoring your inquiry to get in on one, I think at that time I didn't want to continue doing that show or like I was uncertain as to where the next one would even be. The Japan tour edition was the last one we did and that was like 2 or 3 years ago now. But, as I mentioned, I'm gonna do a new series in the same spirit as UTR, but more diverse. As far as the selecting of photographers went, I had/have a partner in the show - skateboarder Richard Mulder - and we selected people we've known with some legit talent and come from the skateboarding world primarily. I think this limited what I wanted UTR to be, so that's why I want to start with something new and a bit more diverse. I loved UTR for sure and I think we might do another one, but I just want to branch out a bit more as there's so many photographers I know or am a fan of that don't necessarily come from skate/street culture world.
I was asked to shoot the poster image for Sneeze but it never happened due to lack of communication and my hectic schedule. You've done a lot with them and other publications. How do you feel about editorials in this age where everything is so instant and the audience is so vast? Do you think tear-sheets and published images still matter?
[NJ] I personally love having images published in print, so they def matter to me. I shoot a lot of stuff for various brands including ads and I still love seeing my photos used in that capacity. I think in working with Sneeze, too, and seeing its immense popularity due to various things like the large print or like you can take pages and have them as posters on your wall just shows that it's still so important and I think there's a level of I guess prestige with that kind of stuff.
Speaking of which, we are in weird social society right now that happens to be bombarded daily and force fed shitty content. How do you feel about the current state of photography and the watered down trajectory it has taken?
[NJ] I would say I was really annoyed by it for the most part to a point that I didn't even like telling people that I am a photographer. It's like everybody became a creative director or consultant or stylist or "published" photographer because it says so in their bio, so it made me feel kinda embarrassed to tell people I shoot photos for work. I kinda have moved on from that feeling, because I feel like my work speaks for itself and it's obvious I'm not some poser or like some person that slaps on all these weird filters making things and colors look like nothing found anywhere in nature. I think for the most part I wholeheartedly agree its watered down and sad, but I'm stoked with how things are going for me and appreciative of the talents I know and get inspired by, so there's not point in exerting too much energy paying attention to whack stuff.