Grit, Nicole Jopek.
Part of Issue 02 New Graduate Feature.
Carnival Magazine speaks to Huddersfield graduate Nicole Jopek about her gorgeous fashion portfolio and her plans for her photographic career. We met Nicole at D&AD New Blood in July and were blown away by her talents...
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Huddersfield, but I spent the majority of my life growing up in the Middle East, and growing up there has really formed the person I am today. My hobbies and interests have always been linked somehow to art and photography. Whether that be through drawing, digital work or painting - my interests have always been linked to creative art forms.
What began your love for photography?
I didn't quite figure out my love for Photography as a subject until about half way into my A Levels. However, I had always been interested in retouching! I started playing around on Photoshop from a very young age, collecting celebrity images and blending them together and making wallpapers for people to download. One day I collected a bunch of unedited images of different celebrities and found the already published retouched photographs and thought, "I wonder if I could edit the same?" I spent day and night researching how to retouch models and tried to make my versions look the same as the already published magazine images. When I 'attempted' fashion photography during college (I say 'attempted' as the work was truly awful looking back!), and realised I could use these retouching techniques towards my own work, I knew from then that was all I wanted to do. All I wanted to do back then was keep practicing retouching through my own photography, and that is how it all fell into place.
Tell us about your photographic style.
It has taken me quite a while to spot my photographic style. I could never quite see what everyone else was seeing - but then again I guess every photographer has gone through that confusion at some stage in their career. I have always strived to have work that is very clean, straight and considered. So to a certain extent I guess that my work does have a recognisable aesthetic. The teams I work with closely now can always spot an image that they haven't worked on, and still know that I have shot it. I reckon that a lot of it has to do with the combination of the way I choose to light my models, along with the way I choose to retouch the images. In terms of my future work, that definite style will most definitely inspire my work further in the future.
What photographers inspire your practice?
This is such a hard question because there are a great handful of photographers out there that I admire, yet all their work is completely different from each others, and completely different from mine. Inez & Vinoodh have always been personal favourites of mine. It is the way they use digital manipulation and body morphing in celebration of the body and its form, experimenting with how far the extreme body displacement can be pushed. Other high-end fashion photographers such as Solve Sundsbo and Melissa Rodwell are fantastic as well. On the other end of the spectrum are Lina Tesch and Elena Jasic, whose work often has very dark undertones. I think I admire them so much due to my photographic work is so different from theirs - I'm inspired by the work I don't create, it's quite funny really.
Tell us about 'Grit'.
Grit was a real team effort. I had become so used to shooting in a studio environment with artificial studio lighting, that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and photograph with natural light only. We found this amazing studio in Manchester that had a really nice run down, dirty and wooden look. My stylist Kerry Saxon wanted to shoot a denim editorial and my makeup artist Maxine Smith and hairstylist Milosz Pawlak wanted to shoot hair and makeup that was unkept and untidy, and this studio was the perfect place for all these elements to fall into place. The inspiration from this came from very dark and grungy editorials, however I didn't choose to shoot them in this way myself, it wouldn't have felt 'me'. I had to make use of the beautiful light pouring through the windows, and wanted to make use of the textures it was creating on the day. We focused so much on the first few looks from the editorial, that by the time we came to shooting the dungarees images we had about 10 minutes of studio time left to go. I have never shot a set of images so fast before, but they still remain my favourites from the series!
If you could show one person your portfolio, who would it be and why?
If I thought it was hard to answer the question about favourite photographers, I think this one is even harder! If there were only 1 person I could show my portfolio to, it wouldn't be a photographer. If in a few years when my work improves, I think a portfolio review from Emmanuelle Alt (Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Paris) would be so invaluable. I think it is so important to immerse yourself in the work you wish to create, so even if that meant receiving harsh criticism from someone so at the top of their field, it would in all make you and your work develop and grow in a positive direction.
Has your work featured in any other publications?
It has yes, a number of different online and print publications this year such as Sicky Magazine (online), Flawless Magazine (print), Elements Magazine (print) to name a few. But as well as being a fashion photographer, I'm really trying to push myself out there as a retoucher. I have worked closely with a New-York based photographer called Jared Bautista, retouching for him, and we have had the work published on models.com, Male Model Scene, Beauty Scene, OPPA! Magazine etc. There is a level of satisfaction that you don't get from retouching your own work as you do someone else's. I think its because you have immersed yourself so much into the planning, shooting, and post of your own work, that it is almost a weight lifted off your own shoulders. So it is quite nice and refreshing to retouch someone else's for a change as it is so new to you. And to see it online and print is just even more rewarding!
What was the best moment of your time at university (extra curricular included)?
I would say my best moment at University only happened a few weeks before finishing the course. Our University is BIPP (British Institution of Professional Photography) affiliated. Every year we have an assessor come in to interview potential students to see if they are worthy of being BIPP qualified (must have a strong commercial portfolio with a strong awareness to commercial aesthetics in photography). Not only did I pass the first stage of being BIPP qualified, but I was put forward by my tutor and the assessor as having the best commercial portfolio for Huddersfield University. The next stage of this competition is to compete with other winners of other Universities, to have our portfolio put forward to a panel, to see who will win best student portfolio of the year. So who knows who will win, we shall see!
What's next for your career, now that you've graduated?
I wish I could answer this question, but the honest answer is - I don't quite know. I admire those that have jobs waiting for them after University, but there’s something quite exciting about not knowing what’s left to discover for your future career. Ideally one day I could see myself ending up in London, but I suppose that is what I'll be concentrating on getting for the rest of this year!
Finally, where would you like to be in a year’s time? What is the dream?
In a years time I hope to have made my contacts down in London and really be thinking about making the move! I have been such a home girl, that I think I'm finally ready to battle and lead the busy life of London! In terms of my work, I just hope to continue doing what I love, and if I'm doing that, I don't think I could be any happier.
PHOTOGRAPHY / Nicole Jopek
FASHION STYLING / Kerry Saxon
HAIR STYLING / Milosz Pawlak
MUA / Maxine Smith
MODELS / Naomi @ Boss Model Management
See more of Nicole's work in Carnival Magazine Issue 02 New Graduate Feature and on her portfolio website.