Based in Amsterdam, Nick Franken is a Dutch photographer and retoucher who is known and appreciated for his surreal artistic eye. Nick always finds the extraordinary inside the ordinary by visualising the story behind every photo that he captures. His exceptional skills and the quality of his work gives life to those images and a visual treat for his clients. Before the lockdown, we were fortunate to be able to pick his brain about the intricacies of being a photographer, so keep on reading to know more.
Production Paradise: How did your journey as a photographer begin? Did you choose photography, or did photography choose you?
Nick Franken: Photography has definitely chosen me! I started out with multimedia design. 3D animation and special FX really inspired me. But it turned out I was not that guy who sits 12 hours a day behind a screen. My father was a hobbyist photographer and also during my days as a skater, I spend a lot of time photographing other skaters. After Art School, photography became one of the most important things in my life. And I still use my multimedia skills in my work, such as retouching, compositing, and even CGI.
Production Paradise: “Tell me a story, and I will give you a photo”, what do you mean by that?
Nick Franken: Since I was a kid, I have a big imagination! If you tell me something, I “see” it in my mind, and this helps me a lot in my photography. I start my photography always with a story. Sometimes with the input of an art director so I can fill in the details, and sometimes with the client so I can create the photo from the beginning.
Production Paradise: Could you name a few photographers that have inspired you?
Nick Franken: David Lachapelle, Annie Leibovitz, Art Streiber, Helmut Newton, Gregory Crewdson…. There are so many!
Production Paradise: What exciting projects have you recently provided service for?
Nick Franken: Right now, I’m in the middle of a photography and film project for a water management organisation. We have to tell the audience what they do through photography and video. And this isn’t easy because you only notice what they do when it is going wrong, as a big part of the Netherlands is below sea level, and maintaining the dikes is one of the main subjects. I will do a lifestyle shoot with different types of public. This way the public can identify themselves with the story and realise water is in their everyday life.
I am also making a documentary about life in nursing homes in the south of the Netherlands now. This is something different to what I normally do, but working with people really inspires me. And sometimes it is great to just shoot with only a camera and your social skills!
Production Paradise: If you weren’t a photographer, what would be your alternative career path?
Nick Franken: I think an animator or a musician.
Production Paradise: It is apparent that your works are unique and peculiar, how do you conceptualise your projects and find the location to fit your vision?
Nick Franken: With a narrative, I make up a story and pick the details out of it. I could publish a book with all kinds of stories I wrote for my clients to translate their message to an image. Also, music is a big thing to come up with ideas. Sometimes when it is hard to come up with a story, I choose the music that fits the client. After all, music is a feeling!
When I close my eyes, I see the images. My first goal in an assignment is to translate the story of my client, second is to refine this aesthetic.
Production Paradise: What do you think defines you as a photographer?
Nick Franken: The urge to tell and show something, but also to make beautiful things. I really can enjoy a reportage project or a portrait. But I also can be a pixel peeper and just want to create beautiful images. In the past, I did a lot of product photography in the studio. And I really enjoyed fiddling around with those details.
Production Paradise: Would you say that working with Production Paradise has been a positive experience for you?
Nick Franken: Yes, although I’m new at Production Paradise, it helped me a lot in expanding my confidence and network. The Portfolio Review days in Barcelona did a lot of good to me! And Spotlight Magazines give me a stage. I had requests from other parts of the world last month.
We would like to thank Nick Franken for taking the time to speak with us. If you want to read more about Nick, don’t forget to check his latest feature in our Spotlight on People and Lifestyle Photography or check out his member page.