Interview #18: Rockie Nolan


CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?

Rockie Nolan: When I was three years old, I was a regular Picasso. I painted masterpieces and my parents quickly could tell that I had an artist’s soul! lololol, I am kidding. There are so many stories like that. In reality, my mother had a 3 megapixel camera and I started to love taking photographs of her garden. I then joined this community called "dpchallenge" where you submit photographs to a certain theme each week. It was fun and I enjoyed the challenge, so I kept doing it. Eventually I started wanting to do portraiture, but no one wanted to model for me, so I just used myself. Then I joined deviantArt, started shooting more and more people, and here I am now!


CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.

RN: I live in Lubbock, Texas. It is the 11th largest city in Texas (meaning it is not very big at all), is the number one producer of cotton in the nation, and the birthplace of Buddy Holly. It is flat, hot and full of cowboys. I still love it despite all the dust storms, though. 


CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?

RN: My grandmother, I regret not taking photographs of her while she was around.


CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?

RN: I believe everyone can be a photographer, but only a select few can be artists! 


CUS: What kind of camera do you enjoy using the most? 

RN: Although I rarely use it due to the price of film, the shots from the sx-70 Polaroid cameras I own are grand. The focus is so wonderful. I wish they could capture digital images or something… (Not really, I just wish I could afford tons and tons of film!) 


CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot? 

RN: Not always. A lot of time I will have slaved over an idea for hours, and then when shooting I think of a completely different idea that turns out so much better. Many of my best images (like "Oh, Geography" were spur of the moment ideas that just came to me and I went with it. 


CUS: What is your most treasured possession? 

RN: My collection of set-lists signed by the performers from shows. I've got one from a Rilo Kiley show, a Jenny Lewis show, and a Taking Back Sunday show, to name a few. 


CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion? 

RN: For me, I want every photograph to look as though it was something from a dream. I don't like documentary photography. I just want to create something new, something fresh, something that looks like it's from the imagination of someone who spends too much time daydreaming (because it's true).


CUS: What’s playing on your iTunes right now? 

RN: Nothing at the moment, but I've got "You Are What You Love" by Jenny Lewis in my head at the moment, which is almost the same. 


CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer? 

RN: My boyfriend is pretty excellent ;D 
but as for all time favorites, Robert and Shana Parke Harrison are wonderful. :) 


CUS: What sort of themes do you try to explore through your photographs? Is there any one in particular in which you try to convey often? 

RN: Again, that dream-like quality. I am leaning now towards fashion photography, but I would like to keep a vintage, dreamy feel to them. As for overall themes, I have a lot that subtly deal with loss. Most of my photographs remind me different events or a day or time, but I don't like to tell people about what each one is exactly. I want people to create their own story. I like narratives and I like my photographs to make people think of stories that have happened to them or that they have heard. 


CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning? 

RN: I rarely eat breakfast but today I had a heapin bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats. 


CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why? 

RN: I shoot myself a lot, but that is only because I am always around when I'm ready to shoot (har, har). I guess I also put myself into my photographs a lot because I feel like a lot of them are personal stories about me, so it only seems right. I like to take photographs of girls in general because they are so much more graceful and easy to pose, easier to fill their bodies with emotion and still look good. I've met few boys who could pull that off. 


CUS: If you had to live off one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

RN: I could probably live off of potatoes alone. Mashed, baked, chips, fries, all so delicious! I ate like, 3 potato chip sandwiches today. SO GOOD. 


CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go? 

RN: Tough call, there are so many beautiful places I've not seen. Probably someplace in Europe for the fashion. Maybe Italy, maybe Australia, maybe just some small town in Ohio. A lot of different places interest me. There is beauty everywhere. 


CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most? 

RN: I hate that so many think it is an easy thing to do. People will ask "what kind of camera can I get to make photographs like yours?!" Cameras do not take photographs unless they are told what to do. Even on auto you must compose the shot accordingly and decide a distance for the camera. It takes a lot of time to develop skill with the camera and it is an art form which far too many pass off as being simple. 
The thing I like the most is the availability. Sure, places like deviantART and such promote traditional artists, but I think the internet has done wonderful things as far as exposure for photographic artists. 


CUS: What are some of your favorite films? 

RN: Amelie, The Virgin Suicides, Eagle vs. Shark. Ones about awkward or unique people and ones with pretty light. 


CUS: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on a photo shoot? 

RN: Hmm. One time, I was shooting photographs of a girl at this crazy ram shacked place for her senior pictures. When I got home, I realized that I somehow failed to see that the graffiti the place was covered in actually said "Acid House". That isn't THAT weird, but I thought it was pretty funny that I never noticed and I was trying to just get some good wholesome shots of this girl for her graduation invitations. Needless to say, I just edited the whole acid part out... 


CUS: If you could be anyone for a day who would you be? 

LN: Jenny Lewis or Zooey Deschanel. I think being a singer would be so so fun, if only I had the skill/confidence/fame. 


CUS: Where is your favorite place to shop? 

RN: Thrift stores and Antique shops! Today I bought some high-waisted shorts, a denim floral romper, and 2 pairs of cute shoes, all for a total of $14. I am insanely thrifty and love having cute clothes that no one else owns, and knowing I paid far less than others. 


CUS: What have you always wanted to photograph but have thought was too hard or difficult to execute?

RN: Hmmm, I can't think of anything! I usually find a way to photograph something if the idea comes to me. Otherwise it just nags at my soul until I shoot it. So at the moment, I don't have anything! 


CUS: What’s your fondest childhood memory? 

RN: Skipping a week of school (and my mom skipped a week of work) to go to California. We went to Disney Land, San Diego zoo, Knotts Berry Farm, and Sea World. It was amazing!


CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence? 

RN: As far as style goes, Jenny Lewis. Her lyrics have also inspired many of my photographs. But no one influences my personality like my mother! 


CUS: Do all your photographs go through some sort of post-processing treatment? And if so what kind of effect do you try to produce through Photoshop/other post-processing tools? 

RN: Every photograph I take gets processed (aside from film and Polaroid’s, of course). Usually I just try to make everything look warm and aged. I used to add vignettes to all my photographs in Photoshop, but my new camera tends to create them with the 50mm anyway. I just use a mixture of selective color and curves, really! Nothing too crazy. 


CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers? 

RN: Shoot, shoot, shoot! It’s the best way to learn! 


CUS: What is your favorite photograph that you’ve taken, and what’s the story behind it? 

RN: Tough call, maybe pretty bird -- I enjoy it so much because it was one of those "spur of the moment" ideas. I found a dead bird in my backyard that must have just recently died since it's body was still very warm. I ran to the park with the bird, the tripod and my camera. This was the result! 


CUS: Where does your inspiration usually come from? 

RN: Almost always they come from song lyrics. So often I am listening to someone’s words and my brain gets an image with it, and then I am possessed to create the image that I have seen! 


CUS: What are five things you can’t live without? 

RN: My camera, my laptop, my car, my music collection, and my clothes! I would have said people of course, since they are the most important, but you said things :)


CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography? 

Thrifting, urban exploration, drawing.


CUS: What is something that no one knows about you? 

RN: Well, many know this, but those online friends of mine would not...I have the sweatiest, anxiety-induced palms on earth! 


CUS: What is your favorite time of day to shoot? 

RN: 7:48 pm 


CUS: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Do you think that photography will still be a big part of your life? 

RN: Without a doubt! I am not paying $100,000 for college to not do anything with photography! Even if I just get stuck in a tiny studio doing my own thing, I will do photography. Somehow, some way. 


CUS: What are your plans for the summer? 

RN: I just got back from visiting my boyfriend in Dallas (6 hours away), so now I'm just hanging out at home. I am hoping to get a regular job, but until then I'm just going to keep doing commissioned shoots and my own personal shoots. Definitely going to do some fashion stuff before the summer is over! 


CUS: Our last interviewee, Laurence Olivier, wants to know: Are you self-taught or did you take photography classes? And if you did, how did it help you?

RN: I started photography so long ago as a self-taught artist. For years I continued learning through shooting. It wasn't until this past year (my first year at college) that I started photography classes. I was actually able to get out of the first two classes most people have to take for photography through my portfolio, so I'd say I did alright teaching myself! Having the feedback in classes is great, though! 


CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask our next Interviewee? 

RN: You get to pick ONE thing from a camera shop that is fully stocked with every lens, camera, and accessory ever created in the history of cameras. You get to pick one thing to use for a day, what do you take?! 

Rockie Nolan, b. 1990 from Lubbock, Texas


Images provided by Rockie Nolan. All rights reserved.