Interview: Photographer Jackie Nickerson by Metropolitan Society

We've decided to release partial interview content from the first issue of our print magazine, Persons of Interest. The interview below is with photographer Jackie Nickerson. Jackie is very well known for several of her solo bodies of work, as well as photography and creative direction for every Yeezy Season lookbook, and other projects for Kanye West and Donda. To read the complete interview you may purchase the full magazine issue from our online store.

"Jackie Nickerson’s extensive body of photography has been exhibited in some of the most world-renowned museums— including the Museum of Modern Art; Palais des Beaux-Arts; Irish Museum of Modern Art; and the Vatican Museums. Jackie had been photographing in the commercial fashion industry for a several years until her career took a turn after a traveling to Africa in 1997. She left behind her commercial career to dedicate her time to personal projects and fine art work. By using a camera as an investigative tool, Jackie has photographed farm workers in Southern and Eastern Africa in some of her most well-known works, Terrain and Farm. Jackie has also worked with hip-hop artist and fashion designer Kayne West for the Yeezy Season One and Two lookbooks and was commissioned to photograph Ebola Fighters in Monrovia, Liberia for TIME magazine." 

In your latest book, Terrain, you photograph Eastern and Southern African agricultural laborers in several different farms and locations. How does lifestyle change on each of these different farms? Is there a particular place you felt more attached to than any other? How did your experience photographing Terrain differ from your prior work, Farm?

I visited all kinds of farms and locations. Some were family farms, some commercial and some were farmers were working at a subsistence level. So there was a huge diversity. As to the experience of photographing in the 1990’s and today, well, the cultural connection to the land hasn’t really changed, but the politics around agriculture have. The power of land and nature in context with political power are inextricably linked. Most of the farms that I photographed in Terrain were owned by indigenous Africans. I think everyone agrees that land distribution is an essential part of the decolonization process and empowering indigenous farmers is an important part of that. In Zimbabwe I also visited lots of resettled farms, many of which, for practical reasons, were growing tobacco. The main problem going forward is investment in infrastructure because the new farmers are only given a six month rolling lease and can be evicted at any time.

In your book, Terrain, you photograph Eastern and Southern African agricultural laborers in several different farms and locations. How does lifestyle change on each of these different farms? Is there a particular place you felt more attached to than any other? How did your experience photographing Terrain differ from your prior work, Farm?

In 1997 I was living in Zimbabwe and felt that the society there was divided. The global North often stereotypes Africans in a negative way so I set out to try to photograph individuals to try to challenge this perception. I ended up photographing working people who had made their clothes solely for the purpose of protecting themselves in the workplace. It was a way of concentrating on individual identity. Farm is about personal identity through improvisation—a very personal exploration into perception and individuality. It was my first personal project. I think it’s true to say that, whether you like it or not, no matter where you are in the world, your clothes help people to define your status. Saying that, I think we should wear things that make us feel good about ourselves and help to encourage a positive self-image and I think that means being true to yourself.

In the late 1990’s, you spent upwards of three years exploring Southern Africa for the first time, and you have said in a prior interview that the experience changed your life. What about this specific region held your devoted interest for this period of time? How did it change your perspective on the way you shoot?

Yes, I was based in Zimbabwe for about four years in the 1990’s and traveled all over southern Africa. I’m from an urban background, where I’ve lived in confined spaces and environments made up of concrete. For me, space has always been a precious commodity. So living in rural Africa gave me a feeling of space and freedom and a different perspective on life. I exchanged an indoor life for an outdoor life.

Read the full interview with Jackie Nickerson in the first issue of our in-house magazine Persons of Interest

All images courtesy of Jackie Nickerson and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Interview: Julien Boudet | Bleumode by Jerry Perez

Oscar Wilde once said, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable it has to be altered every 6 months." In addition to its extremely high barriers to entry, one must constantly offer something new to the ever-hungry fashion industry just to stay in the game. Born in the South of France, now emigrated to New York City, comes Julien Boudet; a photographer known for capturing the “decisive moment.” Julien is relatively new to fashion photography, but, following his father's photographic lead, he has created exemplary studies which have earned instant renown. Inspired by minimalism and surrealism, Julien has a sharp eye for detail and composition. He has shot for Rick Owens, Louis Vuitton, Haider Ackermann, Thom Browne, and Daniel Anderson, to name a few. Not only is julien inspired by fashion, but he also takes cues from architecture, design and modern art. Metropolitan Society had a chance to interview Julien, to gain some insight into current fashion, street-style, architecture, film, and his other creative endeavors.

How do you approach street style photography in comparison to editorials/industry projects? What is it like behind the scenes of an editorial?

The main difference between these two is that before shooting an editorial, you get some time to prepare yourself, and even while shooting, you're supposed to have the time to think twice before pressing the shutter; you have a theme, a mood-board, a stylist, a model to work with, a team to help creating these images. In street style, obviously, it's the opposite; you are by yourself (although some informal “teams” seem to have been created lately), you have literally between 1 and 5 seconds to find your subject, to figure out what you want to focus on (pants, top, shoes, or the whole outfit), frame it, and capture it before it is too late. Everything happens so fast, and once you got the shot, you have to be back on track in order to shoot the next person you find interesting. You have to be ready all the time, which is pretty fun actually. There is a lot of excitement, I enjoy doing it. Personally, I see street style as a training for editorial/commercial projects, in that sense that you have to do everything so quick, over and over all day every day for a month, that is really challenging. Afterwards, you are on set for an editorial, and it all seems so slow, “easy” in a way that you can actually take your time.

How has fashion week, and street style evolved from when you first began? How has your work evolved with it?

I haven't been doing this for very long so I can't really answer that question like someone who's been around for more than 6-7 years, but from what I've seen for the past 2 years that I've been working non-stop, I can say that it has become more and more crowded with new photographers in front of shows. Clearly, people have noticed new opportunities out there and try to get their piece of the cake. It is not that easy though, a lot of photographers have been there for years doing that job already. If you want to come in and start right now, you'd better come up with something new in order to stand out right away. As far as I'm concerned, I had to adapt myself to this new market. When I first started, I was taking “regular” street style pictures, just like everyone else, without really expressing my point of view. Back then I was just trying to get nice and clean shots. Once I was able to take correct images, little by little, I found my own way of framing, finding a different angle, editing my own way, capturing certain styles only...It takes a lot of practice but finally you find your own vision - if you have one. A lot of people have been telling me lately that they recognize my images right away when scrolling down their Instagram news feed, without even looking at my name, I take it as a compliment.

What do you like and dislike seeing during fashion week’s streetstyle, or streetstyle in general?

During fashion week, I like to see guests coming to shows wearing what they wear on a daily basis, to have that genuine vibe that is becoming more and more rare throughout the seasons. That being said, I do enjoy seeing two or three “crazy” outfits a day (only when they are well worn), it's cool to capture some amazing pieces as a photographer. My favorite things to photograph right now are layers details and oversized outfits that look like big shapes... I don't really like when people try too much to get our attention to get their photo taken, it is a bit annoying for us when it's very obvious. I've even had people asking me straight up to take their picture, and I was like “mhhh well now this is very awkward...”

In your portrait or street style photos, often times the subject is someone from another creative discipline, ie hip­hop artist, musician, etc. Can you touch upon what you think street style’s role is, in pop culture today? In fashion today?

Well, first of all I have to say that I grew up listening to hip-hop. I still listen to hip-hop a lot, so obviously when I've seen that rappers started attending fashion shows in Paris, I thought it was great because it's a bit as if two worlds that I thought were opposite were finally colliding; fashion and hip-hop. I think street style allows artists' audience to keep track of their favorite singer/rapper's personal style. When I saw A$AP Rocky going to Rick Owens show in Paris wearing full Rick or Kanye West attending Haider Ackermann in Paris, I think it is a good thing for their fans because they are introduced to avant-garde designers they wouldn't have heard of otherwise, i.e not known by the average guy who has no interest in fashion.

You’ve said before that some of your favorite designers are Rick Owens, Damir Doma, and Yohji Yamamoto. Can you share with us why you're attracted to their works and its influence on your photography?

You must have found this info in an old interview because I eventually got a bit tired of two of these designers you just mentioned (laughs). Basically I am attracted to their works because they fit my personal aesthetics as well as my photographic vision. Attending their fashion shows is very inspiring to me. Looking at these monochrome outfits has forced me to pay more attention to details, in opposition to being distracted by colorful and flashy patterns printed all over a piece. Thanks to their works I've enhanced my personal vision, making it more edgy in a way.

Documenting your travels around the world is there a particular city you have a deeper attraction to than any other? Why?

I would say Paris is the city where I feel the more at home, I guess because I am French, but not only. I love the atmosphere there, it is very relaxing and it's definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I love the culture there, there is a lot going on. I like New York a lot, but after 7 years there I am starting to realize I wouldn't be able to live there another 10 years; it is a bit too stressful and loud...

Are there specific architectural styles that speak out to you as a photographer more than others?

Without hesitating, brutalism is my favorite type of architecture. I have been documenting myself a lot about this movement, particularly on Le Corbusier work. Whenever I get a chance I go spend some time on the rooftop of his masterpiece in Marseille, “la Cite Radieuse,” it is a magical place!

How does shooting with film change your overall approach when shooting? What are your staple film cameras and lens you use when working?

Shooting with film is very different, mainly because of the fact that you can't check your images right after you shot them on the digital screen. It makes a big difference, it makes you think more before pressing the shutter. Also, I love nice black and white grainy images, it adds a dramatic mood that you don't have with DSLR's. Analog photographs feel definitely more authentic, more “real.” I shoot a lot with my Mamiya pro 7 ii (medium format) with a 80mm 4 lens and more recently with my Voigtlander Bessa-R4A (35mm) with a 50mm 1.1 lens.

What do you see for the future of Bleumode? Are there any big projects you're working on right now that you can share with us?

I have a lot of things in mind for the future of Bleu Mode. Basically I want it go grow into something that goes beyond photography, more like a very specific aesthetics that can be applied to other contexts as well, such as clothing, books, magazines...I want to collaborate with designers, artists, in order to create new work with that same Bleu Mode signature. As of right now I am working on a couple different projects like that so I'm very excited to share them with my audience soon. It should be cool!

Thank you for your time Julien. Is there a message you would like to leave for our readers?

I'll just end this interview with a quote from Camus, for those who feel a bit lost in life (we've all been through this): “En vérité le chemin importe peu, la volonté d'arriver suffit à tout.”