• Jonathan Murillo

Nick Fabian - A visual creative talent

Nick (@sleepingastronaut) is a photographer based in Germany. He has an innate talent for creating beautiful images, not only with a camera, but also painting or photographing in a video-game! He uses both color and B&W in his images, alternating between them as needed to show us how he sees the world. His style is often abstract and minimalistic, isolating the subject using light and shadows.

Nick not only has a sharp eye for composing his images but also for critiquing other artist's work. He helps curating @urbanstreetphotogallery and @fineartness content, selecting great images from photographers all around the globe.

I asked him few questions to know more about his life and work:

Do you remember what drew you into photography and which was your first camera?

First of all, I would like to thank you for being part of your interview project! Art has always been a big part of my life. I always liked to take pictures, but in the past without any pretensions and simply with my smartphone. About 3 years ago I saw a documentary about Saul Leiter - I was thrilled and immediately interested in this special kind of photography. My first camera was a Sony Alpha 6000, but I sold it very quickly because the feeling about the camera was just not right. Since then I own the Fuji xpro2 and it was my best purchase decision so far. For this I use the 35mm f2.0 lens.

Does anybody on your family have a creative background or are you the first one taking that path?

Yes, indeed. My father used to draw a lot, but especially my mother is very creative. Since I can think she paints, meanwhile she also likes to take pictures but preferably in nature. My cousin works as a photographer, he takes pictures of weddings and many other things, he has made a lot of good music in the past, that had a big influence on me.

Do you make a living out of photography or is it a side-job or a hobby?

It's a hobby. Every now and then I sell prints of my photos or artwork - I'm very happy about that every time. Maybe photography will become more and more, but I didn't start it to earn money, but to express myself creatively. I work as a social worker / streetworker with young adults who are homeless or acutely threatened by it. Art is a nice compensation.

Why do you shoot street photography? Do you remember how you ended up focusing on this photographic genre?

I have never photographed anything but street. The documentary by Saul Leiter was to blame - I am very enthusiastic about many things. No moment will ever be repeated, the city changes - I try to capture and abstract life on the streets. Street photography means a lot to me - nothing is as versatile as life and this genre captures it.

How often do you go out shooting? Do you always go to the same spots or do you like exploring/traveling?

Unfortunately very rarely. A friend on Instagram once called me the most productive street photographer he knows. All my photos were taken in about 50 days? Many people know my problem, I can only photograph in my city to a very limited extent. I know everything here and I just don't feel creative - I have to work on that. Moers is not Paris or London, unfortunately.  If I'm in Lisbon for a week, for example, I have enough photos for the next six months.  Then I take photos all day long, I feel like I'm in a tunnel - I love it. Traveling and taking pictures, then I'm happy. When I travel, I walk through the city and very rarely am I in the same place. But when I have found a spot, I love to wait until I am satisfied with the photo. In my quite small town there are unfortunately hardly any places that are really good, so the light or the weather is more important.

Which is your “to-go” gear for street photography? Why did you choose it?

I only have one camera and one lens, so my selection is limited. Fuji xpro2 and the 35mm f2.0 - I can use this camera blind and feel very familiar with the focal length. But at some point, I am attracted to the 56mm 1.2 - I tested it in Amsterdam and was directly in love. I chose this Fuji camera because everything was right. I tested it and didn't want to use another one.

Which is your editing workflow? How much time do you spend editing your photos?

I don't do much photo editing. Since half a year I work on everything on the iPad - mainly I adjust the contrast. I do this very intuitively and try to keep the photo as natural as possible. I use Lightroom on the iPad for this.

I am impressed by the range of photographic techniques you use in your images, more specifically, the way you equally use colour and B&W. Is it difficult to manage both styles?

Many thanks for the compliment! I photograph very intuitively and rarely think about techniques. It has become important to me to have more abstractions in my photos, I like this style very much and I like to use different techniques for this. Whether a photo becomes black and white or coloured has a lot to do with moods, if I'm rather melancholy, it's more likely that a photo becomes black and white. Sometimes I also like to use both versions.

Before taking a photo, do you know if it will be color/B&W or is it a decision you take in post-processing?

Mostly I photograph in colours. If the light is not good and disturbs me, I directly use a black and white filter from Fuji, then I look at my surroundings directly, differently and look for other motives. Most of the time a photo becomes black and white when colours make the picture too restless.

Are you a “fisherman” or a “hunter”? Do you first compose your background and wait for the perfect subject?

I like to do both. I think that I hunt until I find a place I want to fish. Does that make sense? I love to run around the city, taking pictures, but when I find a particularly interesting spot, I love to wait just as much. 

You collaborate as curator in @urbanstreetphotogallery and @fineartness. What does an image have to have to be selected by you?

The first impression is very important. I look at a lot of pictures every day and when I scroll through the feed or the hashtags, I usually recognize a special photo by the fact that I stop and look at the photo for a longer time. Everyone has a certain taste. I love abstraction, strong contrast, playful ideas and interesting angles, something like that quickly attracts my attention. 

During the lockdown due to the Covid-19, you and some other photographers such as @sixstreetunder and @Craig__reilly started doing virtual photography in a video-game called “Read Dead Redemption 2”. You even did photo-walks! How all this came about?

Ha ha, that is so funny! I have done this before out of boredom, but only for a few minutes and without any pretension. Then I saw @craig__reilly virtual streetphotography and how much potential the game has as a photographer and tried it myself a few minutes later.  It is so impressive how many possibilities the game offers, the atmosphere is incredibly nice and it's just fun. The photo walk was fun, you need creative answers in the current time - I think I want to and will do this more often.

In addition to photography, you recently started digital abstract painting. Is it something you had in the back of your mind for a long time? What inspired you to start painting?

I've never actually painted before. I've been doing this for 2-3 months? It's just relaxing and fun, I'm very happy about the positive feedback and also about the fact that I already have my first customers - that's very motivating. I think I started painting because I can't photograph every day. I need a creative output and that's what this is great for.

Do you have any upcoming photography projects? Maybe a Youtube channel, as one of your followers recently suggested?

I find the idea of a YouTube channel exciting, but I feel much more comfortable behind the camera than before. I am planning my first own photo book, exhibitions and some in cooperation with @urbanstreetphotogallery. 

Could you recommend one photographer and one book that have inspired you lately?

It's always so hard to name just one. All of Saul Leiter's books have really helped me. Early colors, for example, are impressive. I deliberately don't name current photographers - there are too many and I would feel bad to name just one. All those I follow, I follow for good reasons!

What would be the best piece of advice to somebody starting out in photography?

The best is also the simplest recommendation: always have a camera with you and take as many pictures as you can. Beyond that I can only recommend asking for honest criticism. It can be hard sometimes, but it's the only way to get ahead. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

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