Everyone these days wants to be very rich and famous, but I feel there is a lot more to life than simply money. – Nick Zantop
Photography: Nick Zantop
Creative Direction: Diana Minnocci
Model: Dylan Monroe, Dominique Sorribes @ Elite Southeast Asia
Nick Zantop is a professional fashion photographer from South Florida, he likes using a lot of symbolism in his editorials, his latest “From Such Great Heights” editorial is basically about how fame and success can be very lonely and unfulfilling. I love his photo style, light, nature, sweet, so I invited him to do an interview.
Shall Zou: Please tell us a little about yourself.
Nick Zantop: Well, I’m a fashion and advertising photographer from the United States. I got my first paid photography assignment at 17, and that really opened my eyes to the fact that I could earn money doing what I loved. I attended a university in Florida for a few years, but decided that a job behind a desk was not my calling. I worked as the manager of a children’s science museum for a few years – overseeing operations, teaching children’s classes, and working as a reptile and bird handler. It was a fabulous job, as jobs go, but I couldn’t see myself working in a museum forever either. As a photographer I shoot mainly fashion editorial and advertising work professionally, but I do not limit myself exclusively to shooting fashion. One of my most favorite pastimes is shooting landscape and nature photographs. I suppose one could say that I am never happy with sitting still – I love traveling and experiencing new places.
Shall Zou: What made you choose photography? Do you remember which photo shoot you enjoyed most?
Nick Zantop: Photography has always been something which I enjoyed, but it was only after I began making money at it that I actually realized that I might be able to do it as a profession and not only as a pastime. My parents always supported my interest in art, and so choosing a career in an art-related field was not frowned upon at all. I definitely had a lot of support in my decision to work on a professional level, and I am grateful to all of the amazing photographers I was able to assist and to everyone who shared their knowledge with me. I enjoy every photo shoot, but I recently had a very fun one with Anchal, from the TV show America’s Next Top Model. She was just a blast to work – very fun, genuine, and easy to get along with. It was definitely one of my most enjoyable shoots thus far. I try to keep myself busy with commercial and editorial work, but I enjoy shooting personal work as well. I carry my cameras almost everywhere I go and try to photograph something new each day. I feel that one can never look back and say that they did too much, although I do use up hard drive space very quickly! I often find that I enjoy my personal, unplanned work the most – it provides a much needed vacation of sorts from the high stress commercial work, and gives me the opportunity to experiment and grow as a photographer every day.
Shall Zou: Most people think that, in an artist’s life, childhood is the most important part, can you tell us about your childhood? What is your childhood dream? Are there any special experiences?
Nick Zantop: I grew up on an island called Eleuthera in the Bahamas until I was five. It was absolutely beautiful, but very, very remote. There were only a few other children on the island and since it was a very long island, I saw them very infrequently. I grew up in a world surrounded by mostly adults, and so I think that during the remainder of my childhood I was most comfortable around adults as a result (and perhaps less comfortable around other children.) My family moved back to the US since there was no school close to where we lived on the island. My mother wasn’t too happy with the schools in America though, so after I attended school for a few years she decided to teach me herself. The next several years were very influential for me, as her style of teaching was much more interesting than anything I could learn in school. We traveled the country by car on several long road trips, spent our summers on archaeological digs, and volunteered in natural history museums. I studied art under pop-artist Peter Olsen, learning the principals of painting and sketching. These experiences definitely shaped my interests and I was very fortunate to be able to do so many amazing things while growing up. I certainly went through many childhood dreams, but most all of them had something to do with science and nature.
Shall Zou: Which artist do you especially like and enjoy?
Nick Zantop: I love the work of so many artists in every medium, but of all the many hundreds of amazing photographers, both past and present, there are a few who I especially enjoy and admire. Nobuyoshi Araki, Mario Testino, Helmut Newton, and Patrick Demarchelier are just a few whose work I love. Helmut Newton is particularly inspirational – he was continuously pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable. I admire those who believe in themselves enough to throw caution to the wind and push their art forward, despite what others might think.
I also love the impressionist paintings of Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Dega. The French impressionist painters were the rebellious, starving artists of their time – revolutionaries who challenged conventional art and defied critics. They experimented with new techniques and immersed themselves in the environments which they painted. Many of them even did their painting outside; a very radical concept, as most artists of the time painted only in their studios! They observed the way light behaved and painted what they observed first hand. Interestingly enough, the impressionists largely disliked photography and it’s instantaneous nature – they set out to produce a subjective image, rather than a flat, black and white image devoid of the constantly changing realities of wind, light, shadows, and movement. The early impressionist artists are inspirational, showing little concern for wealth, fame, or recognition. They painted what they believed in, and forever changed the world of art.
Shall Zou: In your creative process, what are you the most concerned about? aesthetics, style, artistry, feeling or others? Why?
Nick Zantop: When a client hires me, I work closely with them so that I can understand their vision and bring it to life. When shooting creative editorials and personal work though, I am really not consciously thinking about anything – my work is just an extension of myself, so things seem to just fall into place naturally. Sometimes I go into a shoot with a specific plan, and after seeing the way the light dances off a models hair when she walks past a window I might throw my original plan completely away and just live in the moment, shooting what feels right. I think spontaneity is important – it can become easy to get into a routine, shooting with the same lighting and the same type of models and in the same style…sometimes it is important to shake things up, to remind one’s self that there are many ways to go about creating a photograph.
Shall Zou: Some people said that the most important thing in taking a good fashion photograph is to forget about shooting the model, how do you think of it?
Nick Zantop: While I’m not sure that I take that philosophy to the extreme of completely forgetting about the model, I do agree that the model is only one element of a good fashion photograph. The model definitely plays an important part in setting the mood, but many elements must work in harmony for a photo to evoke a certain tone. Fashion photography is all about a mood, an aesthetic, a way of seeing things.
Shall Zou: What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Nick Zantop: My work is very much a part of me, so it is hard to identify any specific sources of inspiration. Everything that happens in my life serves as inspiration for my work in some way and influences the way I see things and the way I photograph the world. I am a romantic person, as are many artists, and if I had to put my finger on specific sources of inspiration they would likely be love and beauty, passion and romance – all rather abstract concepts, but which are rather inspirational.
Shall Zou: Do you feel there is any kind of overriding “theme” behind your work? What is it?
Nick Zantop: In some photographer’s work a theme is immediately discernible, but in my work the theme is very subtle and really is just a reflection of my personal growth and development. My work is a reflection upon the experiences in my life, so those who are close to me, the evolution in my work is easy to see and understand. While many excellent photographers quickly find a direction and style that they stick with, I find myself unable to limit myself stylistically. Photography is ultimately a form of autobiography, and the variation in my work reflects my personality and story.
Shall Zou: What does photography mean to you? What’s important in photography and imaging today? do you think it’s important for the artists to tell something about the world with their works?
Nick Zantop: Photography for me is a way to express my feelings and emotions. We live in a very flawed world, and photography provides a divine-like ability to create a separate world in an image. As a photographer, I can choose to create an ideal, perfect world that gives the viewer an escape from reality, or I can create a world much like our own with real problems, drama, and destruction. Photography is about telling a story and I feel that for a photograph to be successful, the photographer must have a good imagination and a knack for creating images that really speak to the viewer. I do think it is important for artists to tell something about the world in their work, but I think that every artist does this regardless of whether they are doing it consciously or not. Living in this very modern and connected world, we are all very much a product of our times and I think that everything any artist does is in at least some way influenced by the world they live in. To the casual viewer I think that fashion photography may seem to be very superficial and simply about selling clothing, but if one looks deeper and studies a photograph like they might a painting, many things can be discerned about the photographer and his thoughts.
Shall Zou: Could you tell me more about this “From Such Great Heights” editorial?
Nick Zantop: Well, the female model is Dominique Sorribes and she has been in many big magazine advertising campaigns for designers and also on tv and in many commercials. The male model is Dylan Monroe and he has also been in many magazines and worked as a runway model. The editorial was shot in downtown Los Angeles, California on top of a skyscraper overlooking all of LA and Hollywood where all the rich and famous movie stars live.
I like using a lot of symbolism in my editorials, so this one is basically about how fame and success can be very lonely and unfulfilling. Everyone these days wants to be very rich and famous, but I feel there is a lot more to life than simply money. The story takes place on top of a skyscraper, adding to the symbolism of being ‘on top’ quite literally, and for most of the story the two models are alone. They look very lonely and in their faces you can see they are longing and searching for more – for love and purpose. They are both walking on the edge of the roof – taking risks and not caring, because they have only fame to give their life meaning. Then at the end, they find each other & love.
Shall Zou: What are you doing now? What is the next?
Nick Zantop: Right now I just finished a road trip from Miami, Florida to Los Angeles, California. I was traveling with my best friend across the country and getting to see places I haven’t seen in many years. Driving through remote areas where the only lights are the stars and where the air actually smells clean is a very special experience. I think it is good to step back from the rush and the stress of the fashion industry from time to time and take everything into perspective. Sometimes it becomes very easy to get caught up in the business and ego of things and lose sight of what is really important in life – friends, family, love…the things which aren’t dependent upon success or money. I love photography, and I can’t picture myself in any other profession, but I am always looking for opportunities to push myself to the next level. I think that no matter how good anyone gets at their craft, there are always even greater things to aspire to and new things to be learned. After this road trip, I plan to visit Europe – particularly Paris. Traveling is my passion and I love that I am able to combine my love for art and traveling in my profession – it is definitely a wonderful job. As of late, I have been focusing much of my energy on editorial work – photographing several fashion stories for magazines around the world.