November 29, 2012

Scott Nichol's interview

" I can't say enough about how incredibly fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work with these wonderful people. Their patience and understanding and trust are all invaluable to making the images work so well." Scott Nichol

"Overhead, quietly"
Art Model Nori

Art Model Kaitlin Lara

A brief bio :

" Scott Nichol is a fine art photographer specializing in exquisite nude figure studies.
Most of Scott's early works come from self-taught experimentation with landscapes and nature photography. More recently, he has studied studio lighting and figure photography with Olaf Starorypinski.

He has recently been invited to take part in the Banana Factory Photo Salon, a collection of prominent Lehigh Valley, PA photographers who hope to build a world-class photography festival and exhibition space on the historic site of the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Bethlehem, PA.

Although, not formally trained in photography, Scott has an amazing eye for composition, a wonderful sense of lighting design, and an amazing ability to coax emotion and feeling from his subjects.

He has recently completed a series of outdoor nudes and is in the process of putting together an exhibit based on these photographs. His next series will be a collection of studio nudes with alternating images on deep black backgrounds contrasted with luminous white backgrounds."

Art Model Nori

Scott Nichol and Nori

Scott, tell us how did your passion for photography begin ?

It really started early in life for me. I was lucky enough to have parents that weren't afraid to let me hold and experiment with an expensive 35mm film camera. I was captivated by capturing and preserving images. This really planted the seeds for me and shortly after I graduated college, I bought my first Nikon SLR.

A year or so later, a friend's father was looking to get rid of some darkroom equipment, including an enlarger. I purchased all the gear he had and this lead me down the path of learning how to make my own prints and a passion for exploring it as a true craft.

Where did you learn your art ?

It started with a lot of experimentation and I often failed to accomplish the visions I saw in my head. I didn't go to school for photography or even art, but I always had these images in my head that were captured from moments in real life. And it was difficult sometimes to replicate what I envisioned due to some of the inherent limitations of camera/lens/film. After I got the enlarger, I realized that I truly didn't know what I was doing. I purchased, read, re-read, and memorized most of Ansel Adams' series The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. These books changed the way I saw things, and how I executed a capture. At the time I was focused mostly on landscapes, cityscapes, and other subjects that did not focus on people.

"White Sand - Color"
Art Model Hillary Marie

After I moved into my house from the apartment where I had my darkroom set up, I never rebuilt the darkroom. And for a few years I mostly stayed away from photography. I was watching with great interest the evolution of digital photography. When the quality and prices got to a certain point, I jumped back in and was very excited to be making images again ! I had an interest in setting up a small studio and doing some portraits which lead me to a class at a local creative arts center on Fine Art Figure Photography. This class was taught by the great Olaf Starorypinski. Olaf helped me to understand lighting, how to design a shot with it, and how to work with figure models.

"With Veil at Sunrise"
Art Model Audrey

"Sierra Nevada Sunrise"
Art Model Candace Nirvana

How long could you be far from your camera ?

A few days, really. My full time job is not photography, so I mostly shoot on weekends and other days off. The real question is, however, how long can I stay away from the PowerMac and the Aperture library full of images ?!? I visit that almost daily and work into the night until I just can't keep my eyes open any longer ! You'll notice that most of my deviantArt submissions are done after midnight.

"Summer Beach"
Art Model Candace Nirvana

I noticed !!! Who are your favorite photographers ?

Ansel Adams was a big inspiration. His technical understanding of light and shadows which formed the basis for the Zone System sticks with me in everything that I do. He also had a deep, deep understanding of the characteristics of film, how it was developed, and ultimately how to print the resulting negative to produce the image that he had visualized long before pressing the shutter release. I really try to previsualize this way with my own work, and I can only do so based on my thorough knowledge of the digital workflow process.

But all the technical aspects aside, I am really blown away by Sally Mann's work. Particularly her work in Immediate Family which is so very personal, so connected with the subjects. It really raises the photographs to an emotional level for me and I truly strive to achieve something like this in my personal work.

"Return to Eden"
Art Model Zinn

How long dit it take to find your own style ? Could you define it ?

Shooting nudes is really a new direction for me, but something that I am very passionate about. So, honestly it has taken me all my life to get here ! I've been really focused on shooting my style of nudes and people for little more than 1 year now. Over that time, I feel that my work has matured and it allows me to choose to work with models that have specific emotive talents that I am looking for in my photographs.

So, the evolution of my style has a bit to do with technical knowledge, but also the friendship and trust that I can build up with the models in order to coax out the emotional aspects that I want.

"Reclined On Rock"
Art Model Ginny

That being said, though, I really like to keep my style as versatile as possible.

I spent a lot of time in the studio, working with lighting and posing. This summer, however, I practically abandoned my studio to venture outdoors and shot landscape nudes exclusively. It was so refreshing and rewarding to head in a new direction and flex some creative muscles.

Subway Series
Model Trinette

Dealing with outdoor lighting and trying to get a quality fine art shot without an assistant is truly challenging ! I've also tried to branch out, working on a series of urban landscapes as well, exploring the Philadelphia subway systems with a wonderful model named Trinette.

But to answer your question more directly, my style involves several key elements :
1. An emotional connection with the subject. This is so essential for me.
2. Placement of the model in the scene. I usually want to convey the model's presence in the scene and her command over it. When the model has command of the scene, it empowers her to express the emotions without any reservations.
3. Unposed poses. I don't like poses that look too stiff or planned out. It needs to be more organic for me and I will often pause for a few seconds before pressing the shutter release, just to release a little of that tension.

Thank you Scott ! Is your photography mostly about nudes ?

 Mostly, yes, but not exclusively.

Art Model Soma

"In a Guarded Stance"
Art Model Soma

I saw it. What is your process of creation ? Is it improvisation from the beginning to the end ?

With the summer landscape nudes, I am really so much more comfortable when I have had the chance to scout the location before going there with a model.

I tend to circle locations from every angle and try to visualize how the model will look, where the light is best, and what kinds of poses will work best.

Typically I do this while hiking by myself. But once we get there I'm not locked in on how each shot will happen. Often times the models bring their own ideas when we're on location and I am open to trying anything. So, there tends to be some planning along with generous room for improvisation !

Art Model Leah

When I'm in the studio, I tend to have solid ideas with a series of poses or moods I am trying to accomplish with fixed lighting setups.

I will typically sit down with the models before we start and explain the idea, give some general guidance on emotion and feel and show them examples of what I am trying to accomplish.

If the model tends to pose herself, I will allow her to run through her own poses, making suggestions and offering guidance when necessary. This tends to result in a really pleasing collaboration between two artists.

Ultimately, I get better results and am able to better realize my vision when I go into a shoot with some kind of a plan, even it is just a hint of emotion or feel. A healthy collaboration between model and photographer is always the key to accomplishing wonderful things !

"Seated with Stool"
Art Model Nori

Organized so. What a lucky worker you are... It seems you like studio and outdoors, with no real preference ?

 I have a small studio built in my home and I shoot there a lot. My friend Olaf has a fantastic studio space that is a bit bigger. When I can, I like to shoot there too, just because it has more space (and there's usually a bottle of wine there) ! However, when it is warm outside, I like being outdoors trying to find a serene location to shoot a landscape nude. I tend to spend a lot of time scouting locations prior to shooting with a given model.

Art Model Nori

Some words about your models ?

We don't have enough time, honestly !

Take it ! They'll love !

 Really, though... I can't say enough about how incredibly fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work with these wonderful people. Their patience and understanding and trust are all invaluable to making the images work so well. I've said before, if it wasn't for them, I would only have a large collection of well lit and quite boring paper backdrops !

Not to play any favorites, but there are a few people who have supported my work with their incredible talent and friendship.

Art Model Nori


The first model to pose nude for me, she changed my life and my perspective on photography. She's incredibly goofy and loves to laugh on the job. The friendship we now share is invaluable. Wonk, wonk !

Art Model Zinn


Incredibly emotive poser, she never sits still for me and that's why I work with her. She is truly poetry in motion. She gives so much to every shoot we've done together. Her friendship has become invaluable to me as well !

Do you remember a shooting you particularly liked ?

The shoots all have their moments. But recently I took a trip to California to meet up with some friends for a week of shooting in Sequoia National Park. I couldn't really scout locations since I'm on the east coast, but google is your friend.

I found mention and some snapshots from a location within the park called Heather Lake. It is a beautiful alpine lake, nestled up at 9000 feet elevation. Getting there requires a 4.5 mile hike and a climb of 2000 feet. I asked several models if they would be interested, but timing (more than lack of interest) was the issue since most of the models had booked morning and afternoon shoots.

"Heather Lake"
Art Model Rebecca

One model, Rebecca, expressed a great deal of interest and had no afternoon appointment scheduled. The only problem, I told her, was that the hike in would take about 3 hours and a little less time back out. This is compounded by the fact that it is late September and it gets dark at 5:00pm. So we hatched a plan to get on the road at 6:00am, got to the trailhead by 7:00am and after a long, arduous hike finally arrived at our destination. The location was absolutely pristine and so beautiful.

After a break for lunch, we shot for about two and a half hours and then with Rebecca posing nude on a lakeside log, suddenly two hikers popped out of the woods ! There had been a threat of rangers finding us and issuing tickets and I stammered out the words, "Rebecca, someone is coming !" After a quick cover-up, and an awkward introduction, I told the couple that if they saw the rangers to make sure they didn't mention what we were up to. The woman just looked at me and smiled and said, "Don't worry, we're going to be doing the same thing in a few minutes ! I want to go for a swim !" It was truly a memorable moment and a wonderful accomplishment to make it all the way up to the lake.

"In the Surf"
Art Model Beatrix

How do you feel at the end of a shooting ? Tired, isn'it ?

 Exhausted. When I'm shooting outdoors, I usually feel like I need a shower because I will absolutely crawl around in the mud to get a shot.

"Demolished Barn Window"
Art Model Candace Nirvana

"Spring House Again"
Art Model Candace Nirvana

I understand. I feel the same after a "hard" text... Have you some challenges you're dreaming about in a near future ?

 I put a lot into my photography. I try to buy the best equipment that I can afford. Equiping a studio is just plain expensive, and getting good models doesn't always come for free. I plan to try to take a bit of a break during the Christmas and New Years holidays and assess my collections. I would like put together a plan to turn around this cash flow. I would like to put together an exhibit and start working on a book design. I am very much a do-it-yourself kind of guy, mostly because I like to maintain control over how the final prints look.

"Ganoga Falls"
Art Model Zinn

"Just Kaitlin"
Art Model Kaitlin Lara

I wish you the best ! When do you plan your next exhibition ?

 That is a fantastic question. I have yet to do an exhibit, but would like to start working on an exhibit of my summer landscape series.

Thanks for your "fantastic" !!! And have you published a book ? Is there one to come ?

 I will be published in Carrie Leigh's Nude magazine. She doesn't know it yet, but I will be !

I tell her to see your work. And besides shooting, have you another passion ?

 C'mon now, is there really anything else in life ?!?

Thank you Scott for this wonderful interview ! Thanks for your so kind participation ! Come back as soon as possible... This space is definitively yours.

"Lost in the Corn"
Art Model Zinn

Scott Nichol ©

No comments: