Richard Nicholson by Laura Anne Caporizzo

Posted on February 14, 2011


Interview with Richard Nicholson

First off, I really like the lighting and consistency you have in Ali
Barber.  Do your lighting skills come from your post-graduate studies
or are they self-taught?

Self-taught. My lighting skills really developed when I switched from
film to digital in 2008. The instant feedback of digital allowed me to
use more lights and to be more experimental when using them. With film
there was polaroid for feedback, but each polaroid took 2 minutes to
develop and the image quality was very poor. Also, polaroids were
expensive. On a commissioned shoot there never seemed enough time to
fine tune the lighting. I tended to use just one light (normally
bounced) to keep things simple. But with digital I can be more
ambitious with lighting as the feedback is instant, and the image
quality on the camera’s LCD is excellent. 35mm digital needs much less
light than medium format film, so I can work with smaller, lighter
flash units that are quicker to set up and adjust. The ‘Ali Barber’
series was shot with 4 Elinchrom units in softboxes.

I noticed from your website that you have a strong background in
philosophy and literature.  How has that influenced your work over
the years?

My studies in philosophy took me down the blind alley that is
continental theory (Lacan, Derrida etc.). I turned to photography to
escape all that. But recently I’ve started reading philosophy again.

What, would you say, are the strongest influences to your

I’m not sure if I have strong influences. I go through periods where I
look at a lot of photography, but there are also periods where I only
look at my own work. I like buying photobooks. I like the Dusseldorf
School (The Bechers, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth,
Candida Hofer etc).

I am from the US, so I am not that familiar with the UK photo scene.
How would you describe how you fit into the UK photo industry and the
fine art world?

I’d say the UK photo scene is really a London photo scene, and that
it’s very fragmented. There’s a wealth of talent here as photographers
come from all over Europe. How do I fit in? I work regularly for a
handful of magazines, and in between I shoot personal work that gets
exhibited in London galleries.

How did you get into doing commissioned work for magazines?

I had a girlfriend who wrote for fashion magazines. She asked me to
take some portraits of fashion designers. The pictures were alright, so
I got asked to do more.

What advice do you have for promoting yourself?

I’m the wrong person to ask. I’m hopeless at it. I just make the work
and hope that someone notices it. But the great thing with the
internet, especially recently with Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, is
that people notice good work and the word gets spread. So having a
simple, easy to use, website is essential.

Is there anything you think every photography student should know?

No, different students need to know different things.

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