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From Film to Phone Photography: An Interview with Nicola Buck

By Maddie - 7 min read

Classically trained in fine art photography, she shares her approach to photography and her thoughts on images and the digital revolution

Classically trained in fine art photography using analog film, professional photographer Nicola Buck (@lapicnic) has a sharp eye and captivating subjects – her two daughters. Growing up in England and now based in LA, she has slowly transitioned from film photography to digital and now mobile, while still practicing and utilizing all three.

We had the chance to speak with Nicola and hear about her approach to photography and her thoughts on the subject of images, image making and the digital revolution.

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By nicola buck

person

By nicola buck

“Discovering photography in a fine art context allowed me a certain freedom”

I am from a family of artists and photographers. My grandfather and his father were both commercial photographers in England and Northern Ireland. I studied fine art, painting at Sheffield Hallam University and started to take photographs when I lost interest in painting.

The photographic medium suited my work more and it was much more fulfilling and immediate. This was in the day of the film camera, so I also really enjoyed the darkroom process. I loved the entire craft – the hands-on involvement, temporary pitch black and solitude, even the smell of the chemicals!

I feel privileged to have an understanding of analog cameras in this world of smart phones and social media. I can understand where it all comes from.

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childhood

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“Children and animals: I like a challenge”

Before I had my girls, my photographs were very different. I took pictures of places and spaces devoid of humans; I wasn’t that confident in approaching anyone with my camera.

Having kids allowed me live-in subjects. All parents study their kids; I am just conscious of it and document everything. Being sociable in a different way with the intensity of having dependents allowed my confidence in the human subject to develop. That and moving to Los Angeles!

I still love the empty spaces, but I photograph children more because I am around them, understand them and I find them fascinating. Their untainted, uncorrupted honesty and sense of fantasy. Their freedom of expression and beautiful fresh faces. It’s partly my love of photography, that I take so many pictures of them, partly not wanting to forget a moment.

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indoors

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“The birth of the digital camera was the best thing that ever happened to my photographs”

I like to capture everything. I hate not having my camera with me, and it’s heavy. I like phone photography more now and feel happier to integrate it. I use filters too, which is almost required these days as an aesthetic style.

I still need to use a big camera though. There is a different quality, and I am really big on sharpness. Digital allows you take a lot of frames, and by doing so, you can be experimental and unrestricted.

In the days of film, I was aware that I only had 24-36 chances to make it right, and I could mess up loading the film or store it incorrectly. I wouldn’t know if I’d got the exposure right until after processing, and if it was very cold the light meter stopped working! This made the process more calculated and technical, not to mention expensive.

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By nicola buck

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lifestyles

By nicola buck

“The photography is of a high standard”

I love the layout and aesthetic quality of EyeEm compared to other sharing sites. The photography is of a high standard and so is the quality of the upload. I also love the filters. I am big on Steph and like Eva, which happens to be my daughter’s name.

I also really like the Missions. I think it’s great to give people something to work for, especially with commercial involvement. Sometimes it’s good to have a brief or be given a project, especially if you are feeling under-inspired.

young adult

By nicola buck

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By nicola buck

“A mix of fantasy and banality, edging on the surreal”

Visually, I gravitate towards bold color and expression, and I like a lot of contrast and good lighting. I always loved the work of Martin Parr, Philip Lorca di Corcia and William Eggleston.

A photographer friend recently described my work as a having a kind of magical realism, which summed it up exactly for me. Conceptually, it’s something a little bit away from reality – a mix of fantasy and banality, edging on the surreal. A touch of fairytale. A sense of wonder in an accentuated “normal” moment. I like to tell a story in my pictures, showing energy, color and character and I hope to portray people in the moment that they are true to themselves.

indoors

By nicola buck

“A dog show called Woofstock”

I have photographed plenty of crazy LA dogs in costume. One of the first and best was at a dog show called “Woofstock” in Beverly Hills. A dog in a pink wig that was featured in the LA Times. One of my favorite human captures was when I introduced my nephew to a talking Elmo toy. I captured an expression from both he and my sister simultaneously, as he drew his arm back in surprise. (see above).

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“Feeding yesterday’s tacos to the birds”

One morning I noticed a woman on the beach feeding a flock of seagulls. I got a great photo on my phone of her surrounded by the birds, one covering her entire face as they all flapped around – a true “bird lady” shot that could never be repeated. She went daily to these birds until they migrated for winter. Named them individually and fed them yesterday’s tacos.

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By nicola buck

Favorite albums on EyeEm

On the Road, street photography, travel photography, urban landscape, portrait

landscape

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sea

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young adult

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Thanks for sharing Nicola! You can see more of her work on EyeEm, or check out her professional work on her website, her blog, Facebook and Twitter

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