a new zine captures brooklyn's youth
Ahead of 'Vacancy's launch tonight, we catch up with Nika De Carlo -- the young photographer documenting blue-haired boys and girls in their most intimate spaces.
When we speak on the phone, photographer Nika De Carlo is in her apartment. I almost ask her to describe the space, but I decide I'd rather imagine it than spoil my own fun. Since moving to Bed-Stuy from her childhood house atop a hill in sleepy Connecticut at 18, Nika has photographed her fellow transplants in the spaces they make their homes -- shooting on couches, kitchen floors, and bedrooms-turned-forts. Inspired by her tribe, the now 22-year-old photographer and recent Pratt Institute grad has expanded these dream-like visions of uninhibited youth in Vacancy, a new zine produced in collaboration with hair stylist Masami Hosono. Before Vacancy's launch party on the Lower East Side tonight, we catch up with Nika to find out more.
How did you become interested in photography?
I was home schooled in one of the most secluded parts of Connecticut and I had a lot of alone time. When I got a camera, I started taking self-portraits and did the Flickr thing. It was really helpful as a platform when I was first starting out; you can connect with so many others through your art, and it really encourages creative people to form communities. I moved to New York to attend the Pratt Institute when I was 18, and became super inspired just by living in Brooklyn. I think everyone, when they first experience it, is in some way captivated by being young here -- how different and wild people seem.
My thesis explored youth through love and desire, focusing on boys and girls finding their first loves. A lot of the images are recreations of or inspired by my own personal memories relating to extreme feelings of desire, not wanting to let go, and fear of abandonment.
Many of those images were shot in pretty personal spaces. How does setting shape your work?
The use of intimate spaces in that series helped expose the vulnerability associated with its themes. But space is such a defining aspect of identity. It's where so many of our most intimate things happen, and where our most personal possessions are -- everything is there. I love exploring other people's spaces; I just did the first shoot for a new series I'm working on at an apartment in Chinatown covered in crazy books. When people see you outside, they don't know much about you. But when they enter your room, it's almost like reading a diary.
It's not a diary, but you are launching a zine tonight, Vacancy. Tell us about it. What are some of the spaces that project takes place in?
Vacancy came out of meeting Masami Hosono -- a really amazing hairstylist and such a cool girl -- through a mutual friend. She asked if I'd be interested in working on a zine as a sort of prelude to a hair studio called Vacancy she's planning to open in the coming year. We cast a few friends and shot them running around another friend's backyard, after Masami gave their hair all these beautiful colors and cool cuts.
Although I also shot a few images of my boyfriend in our home, it was important to capture them in that backyard setting, because it's a place where I've had so many memories. The images are really about young, free-spirited kids who are in Brooklyn running around and enjoying life -- a 'nihilistic vision of beauty' as Masami phrased it. We really pushed to convey an essence of freedom and being your own person -- not giving a fuck what people think and living your life to your own standard. I thought it would be a fun collaboration, and it's really taken off.
What's something you've learned by documenting youth?
Not to judge people based on the first ways I see them. I already know some of my friends' secrets, and the experience of photographing the people I'm close with can really open up and strengthen the bonds we share. When I photograph people I don't know or who I'm not as comfortable with, it helps push away any preconceived ideas I had about them and gives me such a broader understanding of who they are. So much of the time, we don't really give people that chance.
Vacancy launches tonight at Beverly's on Essex St at 7 pm. More information here.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Nika De Carlo