Interview: Brooke Nipar on Fashion Photography
by Daniel Haim
Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Brooke Nipar fell in love with her grandfather’s 35mm Camera as a teenager which inspired her to study photography at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
While researching ’35mm cameras’ I came across a W. Eugene Smith quote that reads “The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera.” I am not sure if Brooke Nipar agrees with that quote but one thing I am sure of and it’s that she manages to make the people in this world fit in a photo pretty damn well.
“A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed.” It is also a known saying that in every photo are two people the person in the photo and the photographer himself. If it was ever necessary for me to describe these two quotes I would not think twice and present them with Brooke Nipar’s impressive portrait catalog. That said – there is such a “bigger than that” feeling. Let’s take rapper/songwriter Busta Rhymes portrait for example (take a look at the gallery below) – can you create a story to go with that photo? Of course you can. Do you now understand what I mean?
I wrote in a previous photography article “when you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes and when you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls.” There is a lot of that in Brooke’s portrait art and whatever she tries to achieve she does that times 10.
Her images can be seen in publications such as Nylon, Teen Vogue, Details, WAD, Blink, Vibe, Celeste and Anthem. Other clients include Converse, Sean John, Lee, Doritos, Warner Brothers Records, Atlantic Records and Capitol records.
Daniel: Is photography something you originally went to school for?
Brooke: Yes, I received my BFA in photography from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
Daniel: Has it always been a passion to take a good photograph?
Brooke: Hmmm I’ve never thought about it that way. I just shoot the way I like to and I know when it looks good to me. It’s all subjective so what I consider good may be total crap to others. I just stay true to myself and my vision.
Daniel: Your work is amazing. How did you become the successful photographer that you are today?
Brooke: Lots of determination. When I moved to New York I literally cold called art directors and photo editors and begged them to look at my book. I was constantly knocking on doors, sending promos, dropping off my book. These days I don’t have to do as much of that, but I do still spend time promoting myself, constantly shooting and updating my book and website. It’s really important in this industry to constantly be creating something new. There’s a ton of photographers out there – If you’re not on top of it, someone else will be.
Daniel: What is it that you aspire to achieve from a photo shoot with a celebrity?
Brooke: I really just try to make them comfortable and have a personal connection. It’s different with each person I shoot. I don’t have one single approach for all the shoots I do. Most of the time I like to sit back and see what the subject does naturally and go from there. I like them to feel like themselves.
Daniel: You work with such great people.. To name a few P. Diddy, M.I.A, Cassie, Amy Winehouse, Lykke Li, Busta Rhymes. Through your eyes, what has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
Brooke: Honestly I consider my greatest accomplishment the fact that I get paid to do something I love every single day. I’m pretty tough on myself, so when I have a day where I feel like I should be doing more or better… I try to remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing.
Daniel: Who has been your favorite celebrity to work with this far?
Brooke: Honestly all of them have been great. I don’t really have any horror stories. If I had to choose I’d say M.I.A. because I’m a huge fan and we had a really great time.
Daniel: Who would be your dream-come-true person to take photographs of, and what do you imagine the photo shoot being like?
Brooke: There’s so many people I would love to photograph… it’s endless really. People on my radar right now would be Karen O, Jay Z and Evan Rachel Wood – just to name a few. Radiohead is my favorite band so I would love to shoot them!
Daniel: You focus on Fashion & Portrait, have you been also experimenting on other types of photography as well?
Brooke: Not really. Shooting people is my thing, and I always like fashion to be a part of my images even when I’m taking a portrait.
Daniel: Our readers are aspiring to be as successful as you. Is there any inspirational tips you could give them?
Brooke: Define your style, be persistent and shoot what you love. The photography world is very tough but if you are passionate and determined great things can happen.
Daniel: You recently covered the Sean John Spring/Summer 2010Campaign what did you aspire to achieve from that photo shoot?
Brooke: I worked very closely with Sean John’s creative director on this project. The stark black and white vision for the campaign was his, I came in to bring my own little touch to it. I also got to work with one of my favorite stylists on this shoot – Jason Farrer. I had been a huge fan for years and was so excited finally work together. We really wanted to make this campaign feel different from the others, and bring an editorial edge to it as well.
Daniel: How did you get/sign the deal of shooting Sean Jeans Spring/Summer 2010?
Brooke: Diddy had hired me to shoot some stuff for his album Last Train to Paris. We liked working together and he asked me to shoot the Sean John Campaign.
Daniel: Aside from Sean Jean – you’ve also worked with Sean Combs’ on his new album ‘Last Train to Paris’ what is it like working with Diddy? Is he a good sport?
Brooke: Hahaha – I get asked this question a LOT. Apparently Puff has a reputation for being difficult to work with, but we got along great. He really trusted me and let me do my thing. I went into the shoot with a very clear idea of what I wanted to achieve and I think he respected that.
Daniel: What are the major factors/most important things about having an agent/agency?
Brooke: At this point I look to my agent to help me get in doors I can’t get into myself, and really help push my career to the next level. It’s great to have someone out there pushing your work everyday so that you can focus on taking pictures. There’s so much business that goes along with being a commercial photographer, and it’s really nice to turn all of that over to an agent. At the end of the day I just want to take photos and not worry about all the paperwork and invoicing and emails, etc.
Daniel: What makes you most excited about getting your work out into the European market?
Brooke: Just expansion in general. Working with new clients, reaching new markets and cultures. The world is a big place and I want to work in every country!!!
Daniel: What’s on the horizon for Brooke Nipar?
Brooke: I feel like I’m just getting started! There will be more fashion for sure. Also starting to play around with video, going to be making a couple music videos this year.