“…at the end of the day, who the image is for and what products are in it are somewhat inconsequential. As a consumer of visual media, I get excited when I see a stunning image or video that evokes a genuine reaction. And that moment can come whether the brand is Hermes or the dollar store.”
Nicholas Duers is a commercial still-life photographer/director in New York City. His award-winning work can be seen in commissions from such notable brands as Harry Winston, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Netflix, Stuart Weitzman, David Yurman, John Hardy, and Adidas/Y3, among others. Nicholas has been shooting predominantly in NYC since 2007, servicing agencies, brands, and magazines in the fashion, beauty, entertainment, and luxury goods sectors. He studied fine art photography at the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle before further developing his aesthetic at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Today, he operates out of his studio in midtown Manhattan and is represented in the US by Farimah Milani. In addition to Graphis, his work has been recognized by Px3 Paris, the Int’l Photo Awards, Moscow Int’l Foto Awards, Tokyo Int’l Foto Awards, Advertising Photographers of America, Surface Magazine’s Avant Guardian, and Photo District News, among others.
Here’s a snippet from Duers’ interview:
What is your work philosophy?
In my twenties, my work philosophy was driven by the idea that although you will strive for it, you don’t necessarily have to be the best to succeed; you can still achieve success if you are willing to work a little longer and a little harder than your competitors. The most important things at that stage were finding a space at the table and establishing a voice. In my thirties, this view remains pervasive in my approach, but the challenge now has become: how do I maximize the amount of time I have to focus on the creative aspects of jobs and on the development of new skills that will propel the business for the next 10 years? Or, stated differently, how do I keep my look and my perspective on brand and on-trend, yet also different from my contemporaries, and how do I leverage “new” mediums like CGI, video, motion control, and highspeed to evolve my capabilities with emerging technologies? Major shifts are occurring for technology and business as it pertains to photographers. The traditional methods of print advertising are rapidly giving way to social media and online advertising. Moving images are not just in demand, but becoming an expected norm, as we are surrounded by screens that are capable of delivering this content. To remain relevant in the industry for the next decade, I am not convinced that remaining just a still life photographer is a sure bet. Similar to when digital photography supplanted film as the dominant medium in commercial photography, we, the current practitioners, must evolve with the times or risk becoming obsolete.
Who has been some of your favorite people or clients you have worked with? What are the most important ingredients you require from a client to do successful work?
My favorite clients are the ones that come to us with a solid, clear concept for their shoot, and the proper time and budget to execute it. And, of course, it is an honor if and when they are interested in my creative input. Creatives that share a similar aesthetic outlook are also a huge plus. I believe creative collaboration with a great team is key to reaching that ultimate goal of creating content that is greater than the sum of its parts. There is no denying that it is exciting and an honor to work for iconic brands and with well-crafted, high-end products, but at the end of the day, who the image is for and what products are in it are somewhat inconsequential. As a consumer of visual media, I get excited when I see a stunning image or video that evokes a genuine reaction. And that moment can come whether the brand is Hermes or the dollar store. What matters most, it seems, is whether the visual can stoke that visceral reaction from the audience at large—not necessarily who commissioned it, or how expensive the products may or may not be. To have the best chance to come up with those images requires having the start of a good idea, ample time, and a reasonable budget.
What advice would you give to students starting out today?
For those interested in a career in still life photography, my advice would be to look at lots of work, old and new, and keep a well-organized archive of it. Be keenly aware of past and current trends in the still life world. When you are testing and making your own work, try out these trends and see if you can not only replicate techniques and looks, but expand on them and strive to make your execution unique. Using the experience you gain, begin to develop your own techniques and looks. Pay attention to adjacent, relevant mediums like video and CGI. Ideally, be conversant in these mediums, or forge connections with practitioners whose aesthetic works with yours. Maintain an active presence on current and emerging social media platforms, and understand how to most effectively leverage these for your own marketing. Beyond that, shoot often.
Read more of Nicholas Duers’ interview and discover other great artists and educators in Graphis Journal #375, which you can purchase online at graphis.com.