Today we are featuring Nikita Gross. We came across Nikita on Instagram, through her use of the #snapitseeit hashtag. We loved her work and her use of mainly expired films to express her vision. Please be sure to click the links below and show her some social media love.
I am an artist and wedding photographer living and working in Cincinnati, Ohio. Six months ago I became a mother to a sweet little boy named, Nico.
How did you get into instant photography?
I grew up in the 80’s when Polaroids and printed pictures from the drug store were a normal part of life. Every holiday and special occasion was documented on film, a lot of the time on Polaroid film. I have always loved the satisfaction of seeing the image right away. I consider myself to be sentimental and nostalgic. I like the way images trigger memories and feelings. I think this is why I was drawn to photography as a career and means of expression.
In college, I had a class where we used a slide printer to make polaroid transfers. It was my favorite alternative photography technique I learned. At the time, I couldn’t afford to spend a lot on film, so I held onto the images I made hoping they would trigger inspiration later. In 2011, after scoring a SX-70 at the thrift store, I went searching for film, that is when I discovered Impossible Project. They used to sell these “poor pod” bags, which were basically their experiments while trying to come up with a stable chemistry. I bought some of those and the obsession began.
What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
I have a newfound love for my Polaroid Spectra. It sat on a shelf for years before I picked it up. I really like the wide format and ability to take vertical images.
What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
I have been hoarding a bunch of 669 that was donated to by a friend while I wait for the opportunity to use a Polaroid 180 or 195. Manual control on a pack camera excites me. I am also dying to shoot a pack of Polaroid Time Zero film, just once. I want to see and make something with the fire.
What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
I enjoy all of the Impossible Project Black and White films. I especially love the older stuff. There is ghostly effect that occurs as it ages. I revisit my old images and scan them as they change. The film is representation of our own memories, fading away with time.
How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?
I use instant and expired 35mm film exclusively for all of my personal work at the moment. I don’t have time to sit at my computer to edit photos all day now that I have a baby. I started working with film again out of necessity, but the familiarity has always kept me connected to it. It is like playing with an old friend. I look forward to the uncertainty of using expired or altered film. I feel like using film adds a third element to the art I am creating. Each type has it’s own voice, the older and more altered the film is, the better that voice is for me.
I have started incorporating instant film into my wedding work as well. I always take a few instant photos at weddings and lately the demand for them has grown. I am getting clients who hire me because they saw that I shoot Polaroids. I am in the process of adding a Polaroid hour to my wedding package. It is neat seeing how excited people get when they see a polaroid that they can look at right away. It confirms how important it is for us to have these tangible objects that we can not only see, but also touch.
How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)
My work is feminine, dreamy, sometimes dark, powerful. I like when I am able to provoke emotion. I feel there is an underlying theme that most people can relate to. My voice with all of my work is full of contradictions. I hate choosing sides, so I try to explore all aspects of a situation before committing to anything. Most of my art is an expression of something I am trying to work out in my head or an emotion I need to release. When I am working with a model, my muse, I am able to escape and purge. Nothing else matters, but the present moment. That dance we do together while creating art is where the magic is for me. I try to allow things to occur organically as much as possible. I almost always work from intuition. I allow myself to become a conduit, I imagine there is a a voice much bigger than my own moving through me.
Any personal projects we should know about?
Having a baby has helped push me to explore more artistically and to take more risks. This year, I decided to say yes as much as I could. Promoting my art and connecting with like minded people is a huge goal of mine. I am currently working on two projects on the concept of home, a soaked film swap, a disposable camera project, and I am curating my city’s first Instant Photo show that will be taking place in September at my studio, The Lodge.
What other photographers do you look up too?
I am inspired by people who work hard and aren’t afraid to put out work that they believe in, no matter what people think of it. Fear is a nasty little devil. Artists who overcome fear and express their ideas with conviction always have my respect, whether I am drawn to their work or not. Some inspirational people to me right now are Heather Gabel, who is a badass artist, musician, mother and woman. She helped me see that it is possible to be a mother and an artist, something I struggle with sometimes. Ellen Rogers helped me rediscover my passion for film photography and working with models to express an idea. Nona Limmen, has this dark, dreamy quality to her work that reminds me of a reoccurring dream. Bastian Kalous is an instant photographer who I discovered through Facebook. His work with landscapes give me this sense of comfort that I like to visit over and over. And I really enjoy Neil Krug’s psychedelic work. He is the reason I fell in love with Time Zero film.
What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
First, there are no rules when making art. I feel like some film enthusiasts get too wrapped up in technique over content. Experiment and have fun. Push the boundaries, you have nothing to lose. Don’t over think things too much, when shooting instant film, you have to leave room for magic, remember that. Each camera and film type has something unique to say. Let go, enjoy the ride. Oh, and prepare to go broke on your new addiction.
I am inspired by music, psychedelics, nature, love, and the human spirit. I think if you allow yourself to open up and you put the time into nurturing your craft, inspiration will always find you. I don’t believe in sitting around waiting for an idea. Sure, we all have down times when ideas are harder to come by. I think those are the times your mind is telling you to rest. The time you take off to absorb your surroundings and decompress are just as important as the time you spend working. But, don’t get too comfortable. There will always be an excuse or reason you cannot do something. Get in the habit of figuring out ways to make shit happen. This has been challenging for me with a new baby. I would get so frustrated because I didn’t feel like I had time for anything. Instead of giving up, I found ways to satisfy my urge to create while spending time with my son. I started making little videos on our walks. They were just 20 second shots of trees blowing, or shadows moving it didn’t matter to me. It reminded me to stay present and that inspiration is everywhere. It was an outward expression of my inner feelings whether I was conscious of it or not. For me, that is what art is all about.