Behind The Lens: Nick Watkins

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Born and raised in NYC, Nick Watkins is an emerging hip-hop and portrait photographer to be on the lookout for. Chances are you’ve seen his work in the past, Nick has had the opportunity to capture industry favorites such as Travis Scott, Playboi Carti, and Roddy Ricch on stage amongst others. “I think there had been some strides be made, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he shares on the current climate of photography amid the pandemic.

In our latest installment of Behind The Lens, Nick Watkins drops in to discuss finding his passion for photography, carving a space for Black photographers, biggest accomplishments thus far, and more! Read our interview with him below.

A photographer can capture a moment and freeze it in time. When did your passion for photography become your career? Take us back to when it all started and when you first fell in love with it.

To be completely honest it happened by chance. I always knew photography was a passion of mine for a long time. When I was a kid, my family always had film or digital cameras lying around and I would always be trying to take photos with them. Two of the biggest moments that made me fall in love was when my grandmother passed away, we were going through her belongings and my aunt told me my grandmother had brought a camera for us.

I immediately gravitated towards it. The second was when my old high school classmate Pau brought his camera in on one of our last days in high school and I asked if I could take pictures and immediately fell in love again. But I never took it as seriously until I had a conversation with my boys, Danny and Steve, after I snuck my camera into panorama and shot Frank Ocean in 2017 that it took it semi serious. And didn’t take it serious serious until I had a quick conversation with my boy Julius that made me take it seriously.

Being born and raised in NYC, how would you define its aesthetic today?

To be completely honest with you, it depends on where you are in the city. Like parts of the Bronx and Brooklyn could be filled with art and being peaceful and you go 5 blocks over either way and you’re in the hood. And I think that’s what makes NYC so so beautiful. The duality of being grimy and rough to being beautiful. It almost reflects the people that live here.

How did you eventually evolve through your work and skills – any “formal” training?

I have zero formal training besides helping out and learning from a few photographers like Jimmy Fointane and Ravie B. I learned by just seeing what my peers have done and tried to emulate it or just came up with my own style on the fly. It’s important to be yourself and have your own style to stand out. Because you can copy somebody and your work still doesn’t measure up to what they’ve done, it’s it’s important to be yourself when you’re taking photos and try and make your own shit. 

Nick Watkins
Teyana Taylor photographed by Nick Watkins.

I’m sure your process is also free-spirited but do you have any rituals or routines when you know that you’re shooting with a certain artist?

It depends on what artist I’m shooting and the situation. I don’t usually have a ritual or routine when it comes to shooting a certain artist. But like a concert or festival, when I shot Snoh Aalerga and Roddy Ricch, I tried to study how their lighting was gonna be by looking at IG and Twitter photos and videos from previous shows. Now it’s like a portrait session like I did with Cozz or even Bizzy Banks or Fivio, I tried to get them in their element as much as possible and as quick as possible. Or just asking for a quick portrait and snapping 20 quick ones and letting them go on their way. 

Amid the global pandemic and several outraging events this past year, how do you think the photographer community is helping eliminate inequality and even change the narrative of our unbalanced history?

I think there had been some strides be made, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s still really hard as a black photographer to get a gig. Not only that is essential to keep the progress we’ve made still going but remember to continue to open up doors for the younger generation always so they don’t have to deal with the things we went through. Even then I think NFTs have created a way for us to create and show our work off to the world. 

Nick Watkins
Ty Dolla $ign photographed by Nick Watkins.

For you personally, what type of impact do you want to leave on people through your work?

Personally, I just want people to feel like my work takes them back to a good place in time and makes them feel something. Because now, you can look at a photo and be like oh this looks nice, like, then move on with your day and completely forget about said photo. I want people to see my work and continue to come back to it over and over and over again because it makes them feel something. So like when people purchase prints from me, that’s why I’m always super grateful because that’s the impact I wanted. Like I want you to have this image in your crib to enjoy and go back to constantly. 

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

To be completely honest, just being here. As someone from the Bronx or even the city in general, you’re not really afforded some of the opportunities that I’ve gotten. Being from where I’m from, you have to work and grind your ass off to get to where you wanna go to. And most times you don’t even get there. There’s been so so so many times that’s I’ve wanted to quit and just move on. So for me just being here is what I’m most proud of along with the relationships are built while I’ve been here. You don’t get anywhere without building a strong solid relationships and putting in the work. 

Nick Watkins
Lil Uzi Vert photographed by Nick Watkins.

If you enjoyed our interview with Nick Watkins, check out our interview with Ty Smith!