Written by Nick Wilkie
June 10, 2021
Tell us a little bit about yourself….
I’m a photographer born and raised in LA and now based in NYC
I like working in a mix of fashion and documentary portraiture - coming of age stories
Where are you from and what brought you to NYC?
From Los Angeles - family used to come to New York almost every summer to see family. And eventually for college and summer programs. Love the productive energy in NYC - hard to find that in LA - was never a party person- wanted to remain productive
What are you passionate about?
What I am most passionate about is deff photography, gives me a reason to wake up in the morning- gives me something to look forward to- dealing with my chronic illnesses, it gives me something positive to look forward to in life.
Also passionate about providing others with accurate information pertaining to my chronic illnesses. Allow people to be sensitive
Why do you do what you do?
I couldn't imagine doing anything else
What’s the most fulfilling part about the work you create?
The most fulfilling part about the work I create varies from project to project. When I'm working on my Lymes disease series it’s the fact that I'm able to tell people's stories. When i’m working a fashion, interview or editorial piece I get to take someone who is very passionate about what they do and I get to make them feel like their best self and to give them the recognition they may have not been getting and allow people to see what I see in them which is very fulfilling.
What’s it like being a female photographer in such a male dominated industry?
I would say that a lot of people underestimate me a lot. When working on set as the main photographer, there have been times where it was assumed I was just an “instagram girl” who was supposed to be in the background or some fangirl who just wants to be around whoever is on set, so I get told what to do on my own set pretty frequently by people who don’t know who I am or what I am doing there
What advice would you give to any fellow female or minority photographers in this industry?
Don’t be afraid to assert yourself in your ideas. Speak up and be confident in advocating for your ideas. Be authentic.
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
My favorite project I've worked on would have to be shooting this musical artist “Isabella” for Flanel magazine. That was the first shoot where I really had to bet on myself both in my vision and financially just with the hope of getting good photos and showing what I'm capable of. I was very used to doing shoots and coordinating with a team but not necessarily having the resources to make it exactly what I envisioned it to be. So for this shoot i wanted to go all in so i got my favorite vintage dealer to style the shoot with his whole archive collection, had an amazing hair and makeup crew, investing in locations and lights all of that out of pocket for the sake of the art was something i was very nervous about, first big shoot i was producing on my own which was super stressful. But to this day they are my fave photos I've ever taken, and because it was the first time i had to really trust myself and it paid off everytime i look at the photos it inspires me to do that more
What does your dream shoot/campaign look like?
A shoot with Young Thug for a publication like Dazed or ID - he’s a creative genius in my mind.
You’ve battled multiple chronic illnesses in your life, can you tell us a little about this…
I have been battling chronic illnesses most of my life in one form or another. I have chronic lymes disease, POTS, i have Pans Pandas which is caused from a strep infection, causes bipolar and OCD symptoms. Even growing up I've had major spinal issues and major spine surgery when I was 12. It forced me to look at things from the lens that I'm a kid and i have limitations other people don’t. And accepting that was pretty hard for a long time. But learning to love my illness so to speak kind of change my whole outlook on that and allowed me to be able to accept where i'm at in life wherever my health is and still be able to find joy in things
How has the adversity you faced battling these illnesses inspired your work?
For a long time, photography was all I could ever think about doing, but dealing with an illness that really reduces your brain function to the point where I could barely read or write, I couldn't take photos either. I used to see the world entirely in terms of photography and that went away when I got really sick, and you know I could barely get out of bed, I could barely even think of taking a photo. Now being in a space where I can shoot again, Not only do I have such an appreciation for light and color and space and air, when you've been sort of stuck in a bedroom for a really long time, but it also gives a new outlook on what I really want to share. Because a lot of the time when i was sick i spent not wanting to make lyme my identity, and so everyone was like why don’t you take photos around lyme, and i didnt wanna do that at that point and coming to NY i found a much stronger need to share with people what it’s really like to actually have this illness. But that was really hard to do without exhausting myself to every person that I met so I wanted to create something visually, where you could look at an invisible illness and see a visible struggle because that's what it's really about, people think that if you don’t look sick then therefore you’re not.
Through my own lyme journey I've met so many people who have struggled with this for a very long time, I would listen to them and hear their stories on the ways each are similar and different from mine in their journeys. I began photographing people throughout their day, depicting the moments that define what it’s like to have lymes disease vs not on a day to day basis.
Tell us a little about your service dog Storm….
He is a 2 year old silver lab, (he’s such an angel). He is trained with different tasks that help to offset things throughout my day that are way more exhausting than they should be. I get super dizzy anytime I have to pick anything up or anything like that so anytime something drops he picks it up and hands it back to me. He also performs something called deep pressure therapy or DPT where he lays across my legs when i get blood pooling in my legs which makes it hard for me to stand and i can do it anywhere with him and he just lays across my lap, sinks his weight into me and it's like when you’re having a panic attack and someone gives you a really big hug and ti calms your nervous system down. He’s there for me when i don’t want anyone to be there for me and when I'm sad, he pulls me out of it, when I don't feel like i can get out of bed no matter how hard i try, and i need to get out of bed for his sake, he's really the only thing that can get me there. Having a teammate to sort of go through this illness with is invaluable.
Are there any funny moments you can share from Storm being on set?
On set he's always a beloved character, whenever I'm shooting he likes to lick the front of my lens which makes it pretty difficult to take photos at times. He often times finds himself where he’s not supposed to be but you kind of love that he’s there anyways. He’s definitely my little mascot on set.
What type of change do you hope for your work to inspire in our world?
I hope that my work would inspire empathy in people. I feel that’s something that is currently lacking in our society, whether its cancel culture or views towards healthcare anything like that, i feel people are very set in their beliefs and it’s hard for them to set those aside and connect person to person, so i hope my work will at least show you that there's a lot more going on beneath the surface than you might know about someone,so for you to take someone at face value isn't really fair.
I found that once i started to recover from my illness, i didn't wanna take the same direction in my work that i had previously and i didnt feel there was a genre of photography that fit into what i really wanted to do, there was fashion documentary and portraiture photography, but i wanted to be able to tell people's real stories, and the intimacy that was required there while also making it look spectacular, the cross between fashion and documentary, I really like working with people who are passionate about something because i really relate to people with passion and that all sort of melded together into my current work.
What’s one thing you want people to know/remember about you?
That even though i'm very private, publicly, if you ever sit down and talk to me i’m the most open book you'll ever meet,
Remember about me : that I was here, that I existed.
Any interesting projects upcoming that you can speak about?
Not right now
Describe yourself in one word.
When feeling uninspired, or down on your luck, what actions do you take to recenter, focus and continue on your journey?
I just take a step away, focus on family, friends and day to day things that bring value, and usually through that time, I'll discover more things I was missing in my work or want to communicate in my work. Never push yourself to continue shooting or working when feeling uninspired because i dont think youll get anywhere.
I try to sit back and surround myself with people who love and care about you
What advice would your current self give your younger self?
Don't take things too seriously; when I got sick it put things in perspective, and reminded me that things could always be so much worse when things aren't going well.
If you won 10 million dollars from a lottery ticket, what would you do with the money?
I would buy an abandoned mansion called Linwood Hall on the outskirts of Philly. Buying the land, restoring it and starting a non profit artist conservatory and running it out of there.
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