Name: Nicole Canegata
When / How did you start creating?
I was inspired by my father’s photo obsession at a young age; he compiled massive photo albums of every occasion and was an avid picture taker. He first handed me a Polaroid camera at age 10 – gave me a quick tutorial and requested that I take an outdoor portrait of him in his military uniform because my mother could not take a ‘straight’ picture to save her life! He was surprisingly impressed and satisfied with the prints – one of my proudest photographic moments to date! Little did he know, he awoke the budding photographer inside of me; however, it was not until later on in life that I would explore my photographic potential and skills.
During my undergraduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, where I received a B.A. in International Relations, I had the opportunity to work as a print and commercial model, and I became fascinated with the artistic and technical process behind the lens, while in front of it. It wasn’t until I participated in Semester at Sea my senior year, a study abroad program where I lived on a ship for 100 days, circumnavigating the globe and visiting 10 different countries, that I picked up a camera and really fell in love with photography and traveling. My dad ended up giving me my first film camera as my graduation present from college and little did I know, the beginning of my photography journey began.
I ended up purchasing my first digital SLR camera in 2007, and life was never the same! From thereon, I continued to document my extensive world travels; I have traveled to 6 continents, 48 countries and 185 cities to date. In January 2011, I was invited by a local art director, Francis Thomas Capone (now a great friend of mine) to have my first solo exhibit: The Traveling Lense at his space, MacheteMachete Art Studio. My show’s success was the catalyst that inspired me to “follow my bliss” – quit my Financial Research Editor position of 8 years, and relocate to Santa Barbara, CA to pursue my second degree, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Professional Photography at Brooks Institute.
I graduated in April of 2014 from Brooks, and am presently a freelance commercial, editorial and fine art photographer, running my photography business back home in St. Croix USVI, where I specialize in architectural, food and portraiture photography.
What is your creative process?
My creative process really depends on the project. When working on certain personal and commercial projects, I really enjoy being inspired in the moment…being open and spontaneous and just going with the flow of creative energy. With other projects, I do lots of research and try to be as prepared as possible for specific shoots.
As I approach photographing architectural interior shoots, I want to be able to give life to a space, make the viewer feel like they can walk through the space, and capture details that may go unnoticed to the average eye. If I haven’t scouted the location, I am very inspired in the moment and will observe, explore and play. If I have scouted the location and my client has specific angles or a vision they want me to capture, I follow their lead and go from there.
When preparing for a food shoot, I spend a LOT of time with pre-production. Once I figure out exactly what type of food experience I want to capture or convey, I will do my research for inspiration photos in books and online. My research includes the food/drink items, to the plate-ware & cutlery, color theme and feel of the shoot. I really enjoy this process, as I am a foodie through and through!
Most recently, I have done a couple pseudo “fashion” editorials as personal projects. During this process, I tend to look through print fashion magazines and online fashion blogs for ideas and inspiration with a specific vision in mind. Then I scout and select models that will help me accomplish this vision, with the goal of collaborating with them, and most of all having fun in the end!
What are your inspirations?
I am inspired by my every day environment whether it be natural or urban – the ocean, sunsets, rolling green hills, full moons, dilapidated buildings, historic districts, industrial modern spaces; people from all walks of life – friends, family & strangers; books (I LOVE to read); poetry; music; yoga & mediation; traveling; photographers past & present; independent films; complimentary colors; and I’m obsessed with shapes, lines & textures (thanks to Brooks).
How would you describe your style?
That is a difficult question for me to answer, as I feel my style is still evolving. When I first picked up a camera, it was more about documenting my surroundings and experiences. Initially, I was really intent on becoming a travel photographer and throughout my time at Brooks, my focus and interest shifted to architectural and food photography. For a long time, I avoided photographing people at all costs, because it made me super nervous; now I think people are the most interesting subjects to photograph and I can’t get enough of it!
Presently, my main objective is to create imagery that is meaningful – I want my viewers to have an emotional connection with my work. I LOVE utilizing natural light above all else. I love capturing black and white images that emulate the dark room film process for my personal fine art work. I enjoy abstracting parts of the whole. With my commercial work, I want my images to be as clean and minimalistic as possible. During portrait sessions, I love creating soft, ethereal, timeless scenes. With my fashion work, I like bold, bright, complimentary colors, and I enjoy juxtaposing my models within interesting environments. I am fascinated with people, places, architecture, food, nature, fine art and documentary photography – I can’t quite narrow down my genre or subject matter, but who says I have to?! I am pretty happy shooting it all, and in time my style will come together.
Among your work, what is a favorite project and why?
To date, my favorite project is a black and white, fine art, female nude series I did about two years ago. This project was very personal for me as I really discovered the fine artist in me during the process. I have always wanted to honor and celebrate the beautiful, fascinating and mysterious female form and was inspired by a nude series by the classic photographer, Ruth Bernhard. I was very fortunate to have one of my best friends pose for me in my apartment, utilizing strobe lights, which are not my forte, but I really was able to express so much with the lighting and overcome the technical challenges – conveying strength and grace through movement and stillness, creating shapes with shadows, and also highlighting and abstracting parts of the whole. I am very proud of this series and hope to do another series similar to it in the future, possibly with a male subject.
Any advice you would like to give an aspiring Photographer?
- Be open to evolving as an artist.
- Believe in your work and always defend it.
- Accept constructive criticism when need be, but in the end, make yourself happy – not everyone will love your work, but you should strive to, as we tend to be our own worst critic.
- Shoot personal projects as much as you can.
- There is always something new to learn and discover about your craft – continue to educate yourself.
- Manage your time well – I struggle with this one the most!
- Challenge yourself by stepping outside of your comfort zone.
- Create something extraordinary.
- Be inspired.
- The wise photographer, Ernst Haas once said, “There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”