In this week's Feature Friday, our own Jayda B. talks with Brooklyn based photographer and photo producer, Nicholas Drew, about his journey to becoming a photographer in New York and Pride month.
Jayda B. - Can you tell us your name, who you are and what you do?
Nicholas Drew - My name is Nicholas Drew, I am 25 and I am a photo producer and photographer.
J - How did you get into photography?
N - I grew up in California and I knew leaving high school that I wanted to do something in the arts and I thought it was going to be graphic design or film, so I would drive about 20 miles a day to another town to go to a Performing Arts school. That's how I was introduced to photography and design, which led me to want to pursue a career once I got to college.
J - Had you always been a creative person growing up?
N - Yeah. I did musical theatre, tap dance, which was funny because then I wasn't fully comfortable with myself but I was putting myself within groups of people that I looked up to because they were openly gay. Specifically with photography, my inspiration behind that was my grandmother. She was always taking pictures, and documenting day to day events with us.
J - What was your first memory of creating something that you were really proud of?
N - I think it would have to be when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I was in a ceramics class and it was the first time that I made something that the teacher at the time gave me a lot of praise and told me I should pursue something artistic.
J - It must have been a teacher you really looked up to?
N - I don't think it had anything to do with the teacher themselves, I think it was more about an older, parental figure telling me to pursue something that I didn't think was pursuable.
J - What fuels you to create?
N - Originally with photography, I always pulled from fashion, fashion photographers but as I got older and started thinking more about my own identity, I started drawing inspiration from where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley.
J - Has that changed over the years?
N - I think it changes. It's not what drives me every single day but it's always in the back of my mind because it's where I grew up and where you grow up shapes so much of your ideas of the world.
J - It definitely provides that foundation for us, whether we like it or not.
Since pride has become more and more popular within media and pop culture, do you feel it has helped raise awareness of LGBTQI+ representation within media? Or that it's trendy to talk about these themes once a year.
N - Both. It would be really nice to see a major company, or any company representing a rainbow flag in October, January, February, all year round. It would be nice to see any sort of huge brand be representative throughout the year rather than in June because I’m sure they don't want to piss off their other demographic of customers. It's always going to be a positive thing for any company to celebrate Pride, but at the same time, I wish their support was there 365 days of the year versus 30 days.
It's frustrating and the sad thing is, whether their intentions are good during the month of June, I know a lot of Queer people who will just roll their eyes because it almost feels like a performance initiative to “post something in June” otherwise they would be considered homophobic. However, if a little 10 year old boy or girl sees this and doesnt know what Transgender means or doesnt know what being Queer means, if they’re sitting somewhere and it just so happens to be the month of June and they see this on TV, thats going to change someones life, rather than them not seeing it at all.
J - Do you feel there's any way to combat that?
N - I think it's just accountability. Also, maybe when companies are casting fashion shows or campaigns, they take a step back and they look at what they’re doing and say “Okay are we being inclusive of every single person? Every race? Every sexuality? Every body type? And if we’re not doing that, how can we?
J - Do you feel that being openly gay has helped or hurt your or your work?
N - It's interesting because I was outed in High School at a time when I didn't really want to be. At first it was a shock to the system, and something scary but being openly gay now has completely molded my art and really manifested into everything that I do today whether that being in New York City, working in photography, working with gay men, etc. Being openly gay has allowed me to explore avenues of my work that I do not feel I would have had the courage to explore if I were in the closet, or did not have a circle of queer friends to learn and collaborate with.
J - What's your Mantra?
N - I try to find a little bit of paradise in everything.
It's hard to do especially now in this current situation, but I’ve come to a place in my life where I need one thing for myself and my own mental health. Sometimes I’ll go for walks to calm my mind for example. That's something that I’ve found that's been really important for me.