INTERVIEW: NICO THERIN
The World Belongs to Those Who Dare
BORN IN A TINY VILLAGE IN THE SOUTHWEST OF FRANCE, NICO THERIN FOLLOWED HIS HEART TO BE WITH HIS BELOVED MEL IN CALIFORNIA’S CITY OF ANGELS. NATURALLY, AMERICA’S “GOLDEN STATE” BEING A SURFER'S PARADISE HELPED LURE NICO, A WAVE RIDER SINCE CHILDHOOD, TO HEAD WEST. HOWEVER, LET US BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS: HIS LOVE FOR MEL CAME FIRST, HIS BOARD SECOND, AND THAT SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT MEL!
MEANWHILE, NICO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER WHO IS QUICKLY CARVING OUT A NAME FOR HIMSELF. HE DOES SO WITH COMMERCIAL WORK, STILL LIFES HIGH ON POP ART, AS WELL AS STREET PHOTOGRAPHY. HE MOST RECENTLY VISITED THE TOKYO FISH MARKET, WHICH IS THE WORLD’S LARGEST, AND FLEW TO BALI TO CAPTURE CALUNGAN, A HINDU FEAST IN HONOR OF THE WORLD’S CREATOR.
“I GREW UP IN FRANCE, THEN GREW OUT OF FRANCE, AND FLEW TO LA TO FOLLOW THE SUN, SURF, AND MEL, NICO WROTE ON HIS WEBSITE. “HAPPY WITH THE NOW, BUT ALWAYS READY FOR THE NEXT, WE’D RATHER BE SURFING, SKATING, CREATING, AND PLANNING TOMORROW’S ADVENTURE. PROFESSIONAL PEOPLE WATCHER, AMATEUR BOTANIST, AND A DEDICATED FATHER TO TWO IMAGINARY PETS. I BELIEVE IN SIMPLICITY AND I HAVE FUN BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS WORTH IT.”
Nico, I love the introduction on your website about how you grew up and grew out of France and flew to LA to follow sun, surf and Mel. So, my first question can only be: how’s Mel?
Ha, Mel’s great! She's currently making us chocolate chip banana pancakes for dinner. I hope they'll be ready soon....
How did you meet?
Mel was an exchange student when we met on the school bus eight years ago in France. We fell in love, visited each other as much as possible andfinally started living in the same country about sixyears ago. Long distance relationships force you to be creative with how you express your feelings and that's how I started discovering what exactly my creative outlets were. Turns out my favorite was photography.
Could you tell us your age and where you are from in France? And how would you define where you’re from in three lines?
I'm 27 and I'm from Le Bassin d'Arcachon. It's a
little bay on the Atlantic coast in the Southwest of France. It's small and laidback - a great placeto grow up. You can surf, sail and fish and you'realways surrounded by nature.
You’ve become a professional photographer living in LA for over six years. How would you convince a New York-lover like me to go visit LA?
Four words: blue sky every day.
You studied photography at Santa Monica College. It offers quite a technical education. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
They are very much focused on commercial photography and that was good, because it gave me a strong technical base for my work. I worked in the color and black & white printing labs, and spent countless hours in the studio playing around with lights, which gave me the necessary tools to work on the things I like to do now. All in all, it was a very well-rounded photography education.
Today, you do commercial work, fine art in
your studio and more classic travel or street photography. Do you have a preference? Or does each have its charm?
Each definitely has its charm, but right now I really enjoy shooting people in their real life environment/culture. It's a nice contrast to what I do in the studio, which is pretty much the opposite of real life. What I like about still life is the process of trying to come up with a way to visualize a concept for my feelings or my take on the world. It is both challenging and satisfying.
We at Plastik love our Pop Art and so we love your gun with bubblegum, your Kimberley sex doll and Crude Awakening series. Surreal and funny. How do you come up with these ideas, and why? To vent anger or just to have fun?
Both! Kimberly was just for fun. I thought she would photograph nicely, and I really enjoy creating a funny and colorful still life. But still life is also becoming more and more a way to express how I feel about certain things going on in the world. Crude Awakening and Je suis Charlie are good examples of that.
I like your Je Suis Charlie series. Simple and to the point: a held-up hand with a pen with a touch of color. Where were you when the Paris assault happened? And how did it touch you?
I was in LA at the time and I was pretty shocked, I think everyone was. But what touched me the most was the unity of the people afterwards. I would have loved to have been in Paris during the big walk on that Sunday but I couldn't, so instead I made crépes and had my friends over for the photo shoot.
Would you say your commercial photography has influenced your more personal work? I mean, advertising forces you to create a clear, simple, single-minded message. Like a slogan: short and sharp. Je Suis Charlie and some of your objects meet these criteria perfectly ...
Definitely. Advertising teaches you to strip down the idea to its simplestform, which is especially helpful for my personal work since it's really important to me to make sure that I'm conveying a very clear message and not confusing my own audience. But it also works the other way around: when I'm conveying a message for a client, I also want to keep my personal touch, style and feel in the images. I'd rather think of it as a collaboration rather than something that is just commissioned. So, I suppose you couldsay that they both influence each other.
You are also an enthusiast street and travel photographer and you once said you want to keep things as real as possible. That’s quite a contrast with your commercial and studio work. How do you do that?
I just think of them as two separate worlds. Whenever I'm in the studio, I know exactly what I want and I have control of every aspect of the image. When I shoot people, I'm just a witness and I try to show what I'm experiencing and what my feelings are about the situation. I want my audience to really feel that they are there, and hopefully get a true sense of what the place is like.
You're a self-confessed surfer. What's the beauty of surfing?
I'm going to sound pretty cliché, but it's true. Surfing is not just a sport. It’s a lifestyle. I grew up surfing and probably every single aspect of my life is influenced by surfing. I'm very curious and active, but I'm also quite patient and calm at the same time. I think all of that comes from surfing.
What is the best film you saw in the past year?
Either The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or The Grand Budapest Hotel.
What's the last exhibition that managed to touch you?
“The exhibition about Jean-Paul Goude at the Pompidou Center in Paris last April. His body of work is incredible and he isn't limited to one medium. Very inspiring.
If the sky is the limit, options are endless and money is not an issue, what would be your dream job in 2016?
Let's be real: National Geographic if you're reading this, hit me up!!
INTERVIEW BY PETER SPEETJENS