From architecture to photography, the award-winning fashion photographer Nima Chaichi has mastered ways to combine textile presentation with light, form, and other architectural elements, and create his own aesthetic in his photographs. We talked to him about his journey into photography and his life as a fashion and editorial photographer in New York City.
First of all, could you tell us about yourself? How did you get started with photography?
My name is Nima Chaichi. I was born in Tehran, Iran in 1970. My passion for photography began when I was eight years old when my father gave me my first camera, a Yashica Electro 35 GSN. He also set up a darkroom in our house in the Northern part of Iran and taught me how to take pictures, develop negatives, and print them. We spent weekends on the shores of the Caspian Sea where we would take pictures of the local fishermen, the sea, and the villagers going about their daily lives. This was the first experience I had of seeing the world around me through the camera, and since then, I have been hooked.
From what talked earlier, you actually studied architecture, so how did you become a fashion photographer?
I chose to study architecture because it tied to my interest in art and culture. Nevertheless, photography remained a fun part of my life throughout the school years. As an architecture student, I traveled a lot across Iran. I became very familiar with the ways culture, customs, and habits of different regions influence the people’s clothing. This was the first sign of my love for fashion photography. However, because of the unfortunate political and social situation of my home country, to become a fashion photographer was an unattainable dream.
So, after my graduation, I worked as an architect and remained an avid photographer only in my free time. Life continued in this manner until 2008 when I emigrated to Hungary, and then to France. I started to rediscover my new life through cameras and fueled my desire to express myself through pictures. I spent a great deal of time taking pictures, sharing them, and making dialogues with people. Soon, I realized I’m mostly drawn to people and the way they use fashion as a form of self-expression in their environment and culture. From there, I made a serious decision to shift my focus from architecture to photography.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is a form of expression through clothes. I believe clothing is one of the most important manifestations of a person’s personality as well as a means for self-expression. We communicate and share a lot with the others with what we put on our body. That’s something I love about fashion.
As a trained architect, how does that influence the way you photograph or your photography process?
By studying architecture, I began photography journey with a deep understanding of space, time, form, the effect of colors, light, and shadow, giving the attention to details and making good compositions. With my work experience and endless strolls as a photographer, I’ve arrived at the point where it is about seeking creative ways to combine them. I’ve also learned to combine those architectural elements with my emotion while capturing images. Through this process, I’m able to create my own art.
How did you end up in New York City?
In Spring of 2013, I moved here to pursue my dream of becoming a fashion photographer. I attended two different photography programs at the School of Visual Arts in New York City on a special full presidential scholarship. After I graduated and earned my master’s degree in fashion photography, I began working as a fashion photographer, and I’m still here.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced working as a fashion photographer, especially in New York City?
Well, if you are an artist and/or photographer who is making your own art, it is hard to translate your style into fashion photography. That’s the biggest challenge, I think. Another thing is regarding teamwork. You need to be able to be a team leader, work with the right people, and make the right decisions. Without these things, you can get bad results even if you are the best photographer.
I think most of the fashion photographers want to be in New York. Everyone is here and it’s a very competitive environment. You need to spend a lot of time networking, getting to know people in the industry and make connections. Otherwise, there is no space for you, and, by the way, it is very important to be perfect!
What’s currently on your playlist?
Pink Floyd as always! Regardless of the mood I have or wherever I am! I can listen to the dark side of the moon forever! Cat Power is also one of my favorite singer/songwriter, activist, and artist. I love classical music as well. Frédéric Chopin, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Arvo Pärt ( who I love the most). But since I moved to the United States, I have been exploring and listening to Jazz. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett, to name a few. I pick my music based on my mood which is usually dreamy or melancholic. Music lives with me and I live with music.
What’s next? What lies ahead for you?
Oh! A lot of things to do in life and career! I still want to learn more. Whatever lies in front of me, I want it to be surprising. I want to create more and enjoy life the way I believe in it. I want to decide for myself. Always!
Nima Chaichi is a published fashion photographer lives and works in New York City. He’s the winner of 2017’s PDN’s The Look and his clients include leading names such as Vogue, Huffington Post, Marie Claire and etc. To see more of Nima’s amazing work, visit his Instagram and profile, here. ?