Today we’d like to introduce you to Nikki Neumann.
Nikki, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I first picked up my dad’s point and shoot camera back in 2009 and was instantly hooked to capturing everything around me. I did one of those 365 projects where you take a photo every day for a year. I think that’s where I began to teach myself about composition and lighting without even knowing it. With the practice of shooting every day, it all started clicking for me.
In high school, I started reading this music magazine – Alternative Press. It was basically my bible. I read it cover to cover as soon as a new issue arrived in the mail and had all the photo gallery pages taped up on my walls. I remember going to my first concert, Circa Survive at the Regency Ballroom in SF in 2010, and seeing the photographers across the barricade in the photo pit and thinking I HAVE to figure out how to become one of them.
So I started doing my research, found a small blog to shoot for, did some emailing, and got my first official photo pass to shoot Say Anything. I was stoked out of my mind! I had to borrow my friend’s DSLR (thanks Ashley!) I didn’t even have my own camera at this point, I was just so hungry to get in there! After this, I found a couple more blogs to shoot for, but couldn’t go to as many shows as I liked because I started college that fall. A tiny liberal arts college called Pacific Union College in Napa Valley that’s about two hours away from SF where all the shows are. I didn’t have a car for my entire college career, so you can imagine my dilemma.
I also spent six months living and going to school outside Berlin and found my love for traveling during this time. I went on trips around Europe every chance I got and became so inspired by the cultures I was jumping into. I loved connecting with people on the road and making new friends with people I would meet on the trains. You can always learn something from your seatmate, no matter how well they speak English.
After this, I got back to the States and finished my degree in Graphic Design in 2017. I thought I was going to go into design, but I was always known as the photographer. I worked for the PR department at my college, so everybody always saw me around with my camera and people were often surprised when I told them I was majoring in Graphic Design. Inside I always knew that I was fueled by photography. After graduating I started doing contract work with Hipcamp, basically Airbnb but for camping.
I was job searching one day and found them, and I applied for every position I was remotely qualified for. I instantly knew I had to work with this company once I discovered more about them and the rad community of outdoor lovers they’ve created, been on some wild trips working with them so far. I started doing contract work with more companies and became the photo lead at the college I graduated from. It was cool to see my photos go on advertisements around town and nation-wide tours.
I was itching to get back into the music photography world though, so two months ago I packed up my car and moved to LA. Didn’t have much of a plan except to hit the ground running and I’ve been nonstop shooting since I got here. It’s been pretty wild, I got published in Rolling Stone last week. I literally just got here, and already so many things are happening.
Has it been a smooth road?
I think if you’re getting into the creative industry, you should just expect your life to be a rollercoaster. There’s no set path to get anywhere. I get so restless as it is, so I think I’ve found a good fit for my lifestyle. There’s always a new set location to go to and new people to work with. Of course, there’s always struggles along the way. Every winter seems to get extra slow, at least when I wasn’t living in sunny LA, so I had to reach out to different clients that I might not normally work with or see what tools I could add to my toolbox to get extra work.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’ve worked in different areas of photography like lifestyle, portraits, and music. I’ve always been fascinated by music and the people that create it, so I’ve felt the strongest pull in that direction. I love capturing these artists, they have so much energy on stage, and they’re always so effortlessly cool.
I think I just wanted to learn more about them and photography led me there. I’m always experimenting when I’m shooting, whether that relates to the editing process or shooting with cellophane haha. There’s always something new to try, I feel like my work would get stale if I’m not constantly trying to expand.
I’ve been creating my own little dreamy world in my work and been making more hazy colorful photos. I’ve always loved colors in general, so I’ve been listening to my gut lately, and it’s led me here.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
There’s SO much happening here, so ultimately it leads to more opportunities. You could dream up anything and make it possible in LA because every resource you would need is here. That’s the beauty of it and why this city is crawling with people in the creative industry.
It makes you work harder to stand out from the masses. I mean if you’re going to make this your life, that’s what you gotta do! It isn’t for everybody, but I’ve been stoked at the opportunities it’s thrown me so far.
Main photo: Jackie Rivera