where are you from?
I am from Passaic, New Jersey. I’m based in north New Jersey, New York.
how long have you been doing photography?
Maybe like five years? Five years, yeah.
was there a particular moment when you decided to pursue it as a job?
Never, never. I used to assist my teacher in high school with his shows and stuff. He paints, so I would come to the Mary Boone galleries - a bunch of galleries in the city, and he got me jobs there. I bought my camera with my first tax return, and I just photographed my friends.
what kind of photography do you enjoy most?
Fine arts, for sure. Conceptual. My last project was with a girl from Australia, who’s here for dance.
how do you find your models?
Sometimes they find me. But usually Instagram - I’m super bold. I’ll just be like: “You’re really pretty. I know this is strange, I’m not a psycho, I promise. Can I shoot you please?”
I saw you recently changed your username to “thugnanny”. Is there a story behind that?
Well, I’m a nanny.
and you’re a thug?
And I’m a thug. I grew up in the ghetto. Like, the ghetto ghetto. You could not walk out of the house past a certain time cause you’d die. But you know, my family, we joke around. I live in the suburbs and stuff, but sometimes, I can be like a thug. I could hustle you, I have a street mentality, cause that’s how I grew up. And that’s how I got all my work. And honestly, I thought it was really catchy, and people love it, so..
are there any projects you’re excited to start working on soon?
I’m recreating 1920’s mugshots. I’m thrifting the suits and the old dresses, and I have a few amazing artists that I’m going to work with, and we’re just going to do it. If you look it up, it’s beautiful. I wish I was a criminal in the 1920s. Just to have my picture taken - it’s gorgeous, the beautiful sepia tones, and the people are amazing.I’m excited about that. Then I have a few fine arts projects I’m trying to work on, but mostly excited about that.
film or digital?
Digital. I’m tapping into film a little bit, but it’s too complicated for me. I like digital because you can manipulate it. I can make a digital look like it came out of a Canon ae-1, with film from 19-something. Film is film, and once it’s out.. I like the security that digital gives you. I like to be in control - so if I don’t like something, I can do it again. As for film, it’s just like “I hope this works”. But I guess if you really know what you’re doing with film.. I have a friend, and she’s like a film god.I shoot with her, and I’ll tell her to do this, and do that, and she’ll click her camera once or twice, and she’ll just stop, and hang out. And I’m like, that’s it? I took about seven hundred photos, and you took thirty six, what? I do appreciate film, and I admire people who do film.
This is going to sound horrible, but I’ve never actually gone to Barnes&Noble, and looked at photography books. I’ve never been like, oh this one is my favourite, I’m going to follow them [on social networks]. I sound like the worst photographer ever, but my surroundings are my inspiration. I do really appreciate Jennifer Hudson - she’s a fine arts photographer, and I really appreciate Sue Bryce and Laura Jade, they’re amazing. I usually photograph just women, and I think that if I do mirror anyone, it would be them.
are you ever satisfied with your work?
Never, ever, ever.
what music do you like?
Oh man, we’re going to be here for hours. I love Daughter.I’ve been listening to the same album for a year, like every day. I’m in love with it. Oh, you know, the Local Natives, I love Bob Dylan.I love Motown, old school music. I love everything. I listen to country, I don’t listen to heavy metal. It scares me. I really love jazz, that’s my favourite.
what makes a good day?
A good day is overcast. When you can pop in a perfect vinyl, and drink a cup of tea, and read a John O’Hara book, and just live. Go to work for like two hours.
what’s been the best platform for you to expose your work?
Instagram, for sure. Most of my stuff gets around from word of mouth, too.
do you think of photography as work?
It’s funny, cause I was thinking about that yesterday. One of the reasons why I don’t want to study photography at school is because they make what you love into a job. And I feel like it will suck all that I love out of it. I don’t know technical stuff about photography. There are people who are exposure gods, and they know f-stops and everything. And I’m just there to take the photo, and I know what I need to know. I don’t look at it as work, unless I’m doing a wedding or something. But I never want to be like “ugh, I have to go to work,” I want it to be like “I get to live today.”
I don’t think I ever want to live a day where I don’t have the opportunity to take a photo, even if it’s just with my iPhone. You get to look back at that, and you can remember everything.
what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Nike told me to just do it. No, I’m kidding. I will say my mentor Mario. I was insecure about my work, all the time, because I wanted it to be different. I grew up really religious, and I didn’t want my work to be demonic - I thought, you know, I’m going to get shunned out, kicked out of house. He told me to just do it, to trust myself. I would have a really bad anxiety attack before a photoshoot - what if it sucks, blah and blah? And he’d say it doesn’t matter - if it sucks, you make it better. And I apply that to my life. If it doesn’t work, you do it again. You look at it, you figure out what you did wrong, and the next time, you don’t do it wrong. You get it right. So honestly, Nike, literally, just do it. Screw everyone and everything, and do whatever you love.
*all photos above by Denisse