CD: Hi Nick - its been a while and I’ve wanted to get this to you since the beginning of the year. Many thanks for being a part of the Fuse Visual Project. Lets start close to the beginning. You are English and live in New Zealand. Tell us a bit about your photographic history and how you started and what drew you to NZ.
Nick Tresidder: I was actually born in New Zealand but grew up in London and lived there for 18 years. I originally wanted to get into the film industry in the U.K but it was heavily unionised at the time and something of a closed shop; you either had to go to the National Film School or work your way up through the BBC to get a ticket. I happened to be reading an article on Stanley Kubrick and it mentioned that he had started out as a photographer so I thought maybe I’ll start there. I had a summer job working at a publishing company who produced photography books and a kindly Art Director said he would let me know when the photographers were coming in so I could accidentally bump into them. One of these was a very talented portrait photographer Martyn Adelman who shot celebrities for Face Magazine. I begged him to take me on as an assistant and he eventually relented and gave me the first of my assisting jobs in London. It was at one of these studios that I met my beautiful Kiwi wife who moved me to New Zealand in 1989 where I set up as a photographer.
CD: Your bio is clean and simple. I love the second sentence. “Nick has built his business by taking clients to lunch and sending them Champagne at Christmas. It seems to work.” It sums up your work quite nicely. It is clean and simple. Tell us about how you developed this style of working. As a follow on: how do you keep it simple? Do you have a philosophy to keep complexity out of your images or are you secretly a Zen Priest in hiding?
Nick Tresidder: I do send my clients Champagne, and it tends to result in a flurry of last minute jobs just before Christmas. A big part of how I run my business is recognising that it’s not just about taking decent pictures. I believe a commercial photographer is the sum of many parts, so my assistant and I put a great deal of effort into making sure the clients day in studio is fun, relaxing, with good food, clean bathrooms, and no stress. I do favour simple images and I’ve never forgotten my first boss telling me “there is only one light in the sky”. At first I took this to mean that you should only use one light but quickly learnt he meant it should feel like only one light. I certainly favour a simple style in my food shooting which fits in with a move towards food looking real and being a bit more honest. I think I probably keep complexity out of my life more that my photos. My assistants soon learn that everything in the studio is systemised, backups are automated, there is a spare for everything, and nothing is left to chance, meaning I never get stressed on shoots, maybe that’s why my photos look relaxed.
CD: For years you have run the Hasselblad Digital Forum. How did that come about and do you feel that it has helped others or yourself.
Nick Tresidder: I was an early adopter of digital, buying a 6MP Kodak DCS460 in about 1999. That camera quickly taught me what bad digital files looked like so I started researching a better option. This turned out to be an Imacon multi-shot back as I was shooting a lot of room-sets at the time and moire was a huge issue with those chips. With the Imacon I quickly realised that I was going to have to be my own tech support down here in New Zealand as the local dealer had zero knowledge. I started reaching out to photographers around the world using Imacon kit and formed a mailing list where we could help each other with the arcane technical knowledge needed to keep these things working. When Hasselblad bought Imacon they got in touch and we formed a really valuable relationship, I worked trade shows and was able to sit in with R&D and software developers to get features that photographers wanted. This list grew and eventually moved to a website with nearly 3 thousand Hasselblad digital users supporting each other. The net result of all that networking is that my gear works and if I have a problem I can find a solution quickly.
CD: Your monthly newsletter is a hoot. How did the idea come about? What sort of impact has it had to your business?
Nick Tresidder: I wanted a way to stay top-of-mind with clients. All my clients are regulars so the know my work, I felt there was little point in sending them repeated examples of my work so instead I send them things I think will inspire them, architecture, good design work even links to other photographers work. I know some might think it weird that I show other photographers work (not direct competitors mind) but the reaction from clients has been overwhelmingly positive and I get excellent open rates and click throughs. I think my clients value that I curate interesting content for them and that breeds loyalty, the newsletter has definitely brought in more work and the last three months have been the busiest and most profitable of my career.
CD: What personal or long-term photography projects are you working on?
Nick Tresidder: I’m glad you brought this up Cam as I have not been devoting enough time to personal projects recently. I started a series call “tool” photographing vintage wood-working tools but it got pushed to the side with work.
Our association (aipa.org.nz) just hosted a series of presentations by various international and local photographers called Image Nation (http://imagenation.co.nz) and I was struck by the common thread which ran through all of their talks, which was that personal work has been critical to their successes. I’m certainly going to devote more time to personal stuff and I’m hoping to organise a road trip with one of our conference speakers early next year into outback Australia.
CD: What advice would you give to a young professional about to embark into this career?
Nick Tresidder: This has always been a tough industry and it’s getting tougher. Saying that If you want a career in photography you can have it.
You absolutely have to assist before becoming a photographer and in fact I think you will learn more on a week’s shoot than you would in a year studying. Contact photographers you admire and ask to come and meet them. Research what they do and what cameras they use. Do you know the difference between the battery for a 5D3 and a 1DX? If not find out. What is the current version of Capture One? Is it stable? You need to know the answers to these and hundreds of other questions if you want to be a successful assistant and all of this information is available free online.
Once you have all the technical knowledge you can work on becoming a photographer, give it ten years or so. Be a sponge, be inspired by film, by art, by architecture, by everything. Collate images or random things and then look for common threads within those images, they might all be quite monotone, they might be formally composed, or feature lots of emotion. Once you start to see common threads you will have found your vision and once you have found that you can build a portfolio that reflects that vision.