The MISSBISH Photography Workshop | Brooke Nipar
Photographer: Brooke Nipar
Location: Nowadays, I split my time between New York City and Los Angeles. I grew up in LA and moved to New York in 2002, straight after college at Art Center College of Design. I’ve lived in NYC for 14 years now and it’s been good to me but a few years ago I decided I wanted to spend more time in LA as well. I needed a change, wanted to be around my family more and no one can argue that the quality of life in LA is superb. Both cities are awesome and offer very different things, and honestly, I love them both equally. I’m happy that the photo industry has more going on in LA these days - that didn’t used to be the case. So many clients want to shoot in LA right now, I’m enjoying that!
Style: I’m going to be completely honest and tell you I dislike this question. Everyone asks it, and I never really know what to say. Because I don’t think about my “style,” I just take the pictures I want to take and what comes out is my style. Sure, I’ve had to think about defining my vision and sticking to it just because it’s important to have a point of view - that’s what separates you from everyone else - but I try not to overthink it. I got known for doing the really 'bright and poppy' thing for a long time, and now I’m starting to switch it up. I was tired of taking the same picture over and over. One thing I will say is color is always very important to me - I love color and don’t shy away from it. I love to shoot women because I love all the elements that go into it - the styling, hair, makeup, etc. I think my images are sexy but clearly from a woman’s point of view.
Equipment: I shoot mostly with a Canon 5D Mark III. Unless I’m shooting medium format, in which case it’s a Hasselblad. I recently started shooting more medium format again (I used to shoot with a Mamiya 6x7 back in my film days) and I love it! The files are so large and beautiful. The detail is incredible. With the Canon, I use a range of lenses - my go to is the Canon 24mm-70mm. It’s super sharp and versatile. I also use a 100mm macro and a 70mm - 200mm zoom (both Canon) I don’t do my own retouching anymore, I have a couple different retouchers that are amazing and able to create exactly what I’m looking for in post. Retouching is an art in itself, and I never had the patience to get good enough at it. I’m not good at sitting behind a computer for hours on end. I’d rather be out and about.
How did you get into photography? Tell us about your first experience.
My Grandfather was a photographer and he left me his camera when he passed away. I started playing around with photography as a teenager and taking classes in high school as my elective. I think I decided by the age of 16 that my plan was to be a professional photographer - which now looking back on it seems so crazy. I guess I just stuck to my guns! When I was in high school, I had another close friend that was really into photography as well so we would dress up and take “fashion” pictures of each other in weird locations. I still have all of those negatives… I should go through them, talk about a trip down memory lane.
Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you’ve shot.
There’s been a few but if I had to pick one I’d go with shooting Amy Winehouse. I shot her back in 2007 for the magazine MISSBEHAVE which I was Photo Director of at the time. I’m so happy I was able to work with her because I am a huge fan. She was also the last person I shot on film before moving over to digital. I was originally scheduled to shoot her on a day when she was doing a big press photo day - meaning multiple photographers were booked to come through the studio throughout the day and shoot her for different publications.
She wasn’t really famous in the US at that point, she was just starting to gain a fan base here but I knew she would be huge. When I showed up to the studio, she had locked herself in the bathroom with a bottle of champagne and refused to come out. My crew and I waited around for over an hour while she was in there, then finally her manager came up to me and said, “Amy left, and she’s not coming back.” Because this was early on in her stardom I think her manager felt bad and really wanted to make something work for me, so he promised me my own studio day with her, which ended up being awesome. When she arrived on set the next time she was so sweet and apologetic. I had her all to myself without any distractions. I have a beautiful 24x36” black & white fiber print hanging in my NY apartment from that day.
“Pay attention to what’s going on in front of you and don't be afraid to direct your subject. Being a good director is as much a part of still photography as it is for motion.”
Photography is all about capturing that moment. What’s the secret?
I believe that it's paying attention to what’s going on in front of you and not being afraid to direct your subject. Being a good director is as much a part of still photography as it is for motion. Figuring out how to connect with someone and make them feel comfortable is huge. That way no matter what you ask them to do, they are open to it. Being a “people person” is a huge part of photography. That’s something I didn’t really realize when I was fresh out of school, I had to learn that one.
What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?Life. It’s that simple really.
Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today?
I did have a mentor when I was younger, but she had nothing to do with photography. She was my equestrian trainer, Debbie Rosen. I rode horses competitively for my entire childhood until I went away to college, so Debbie was coaching me all those years. She taught me dedication and perseverance. Seriously, so much of how I live my life and operate to this day comes from my years of training with her. For example, I’m extremely punctual. My friends make fun of me for how punctual I am, but I don’t know any other way.
Finish the sentence...
I wouldn't be where I am today if... My parents hadn’t supported my desire to be a photographer. They wanted me to do what I was passionate about and helped in every way they could. I’m extremely grateful for that. I’m also very grateful for the people in NYC along the way that have helped me to grow. I know SO many talented people, it’s crazy!
I've been listening to... EVERYTHING. My taste in music is very diverse - I listen to everything from Leon Bridges to Justin Bieber to Young Thug. Yes, I listen to Justin Bieber.
Kids these days... Want it all without having to work for it.
I look and feel my best when... I’m eating healthy, working out every day and creating work I’m proud of.
When no one is looking I... Take a million Snapchat selfies with different filters.
Traveling... Is my favorite thing to do and I feel it is the best education. Always make time to travel.