Corey Nickols is a commercial photographer based in Los Angeles who often works within the entertainment industry. Besides his serious work however, he has been shooting with the Diana Instant Square for a few years and uses it as an outlet to experiment in a more personal sense, usually taking instant photos with celebrities at the beginning of shoots.
We recently had the opportunity to hear about Corey's love for the Diana Instant Square, what his job is like, and even some advice for budding photographers.
Hi Corey, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work?
Sure! I currently live in Los Angeles and have been doing photo professionally for about 12 years. My work in general is split…kind of like me. Most of my career revolves around the entertainment industry. The professional side I capture represents a poppy, whimsy, quirky and upbeat look and feel. My personal work with instant film represents more of a curious, moody, mysterious cerebral side. I need an outlet for both sides in order for both sides to exist.
How long have you been shooting with the Diana Instant Square for?
I have been shooting with the Diana Instant Square since January of 2019.
Can you walk us through your process of shooting celebrities with the Diana Instant Square?
I love starting off a shoot with the Diana Instant Square. It always cuts through that first introduction and allows for the unexpected to ease into the shoot. The camera is very unassuming and curious. But to start with analogue in a digital world…it feels like you are sharing one of your favorite magic tricks. I always love showing my subject the developed photo because not only does everyone look amazing on film, but I am able to share this idea of, “let’s create a world together and have fun." All photoshoots require trust. To establish that within the first few minutes of photographing a celebrity is crucial. Showing them what I am getting in camera on film helps to strengthen that trust and allow the shoot to progress.
What's your favorite part of your job?
Hands down it would have to be the people I get to work with. My assistants, producers, clients, digital tech, everyone is there to share in this vision with me. They are effectively making my world view come to life. I used to think the only art I created was through a lens. As I have gotten older, I realize that I am creating a space, a vision, a voice reflecting and expressing exactly who I believe someone is in my personal world view. The way I see the world isn’t exclusive to the photos I take or the direction I give during a shoot. I also get to affirm meaning and value to those around me and that directly influences and shapes their own personal reality and world view.
What's your all time favorite photo shoot done with the Diana Instant Square? Is there a story behind it?
Shooting the 2019 Winter TCA’s (Television Critic’s Association). It was my first time ever using the Diana Instant Square at a festival shoot where I am spending six days shooting the casts of TV shows in a photo studio for Entertainment Weekly/People Magazine and Contour (Getty). I had just converted my Instagram to all instant film and was curious if and how I could incorporate it into a bigger, fast paced setting. I learned and explored so much as each day passed. Sometimes I would get these incredible shots that made my heart sing. Other times I would mess up by exploring new ideas I would have about how to create. But I actually loved the mess ups because they allowed me to understand the camera more so I could make even more compelling photos through trial and error.
What makes you pick up the Diana Instant Square time and time again?
It opens up this creative part of my mind where I get to think on and explore new possibilities. A total throw back to when I would shoot, develop and print film and the thought and attention and patience it required. For me, using the Diana feels like I am pushing the limits of what is possible. It’s not just a point-and-shoot camera. It’s a science lab begging you to mix the elements and see how it reacts. Because you can control focus, shutter, aperture, change lenses, and even sync your strobes with the camera, it becomes more of a relationship and not just a tool. The more you know the camera, the deeper you go into the relationship and start to understand it in ways no one else will. Just like any relationship, it requires work, but also, just like any relationship, it is always worth it.
Any tips or tricks for shooting with the Diana Instant Square?
This camera is for the curious. It is meant to be explored. Try long exposures. Try using it with a flash. Try long exposures with a flash. Try everything! It will require you to experiment until you find yourself in the camera and what you like. But you can only get there if you try.
Could you share any advice you have for photographer's just starting out in the business?
Almost every photographer I know has this inability to give up on photo. Photo just like every other outlet of art requires your total commitment. Sometimes you will feel the wind at your back. Other times you won’t want to hold a camera. But ultimately you choose this outlet of creation because it’s a deeply rooted space you’re connected to by which you best can share with the world who you are and how you see and think and process. Too much business and you lose self. Too much self and you lose business. Finding that balance is so hard, yet so necessary. Also, finding community among other creatives is not just nice, it’s crucial. There is nothing more assuring than being able to talk with someone who understands the nuance of this career.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I will be shooting Sundance Film Festival for IMDb in January. I love the snow and my team is made up of such lovely people. Very excited!
Anything else you'd like to share?
I’m thankful for companies like Lomography who see curiosity and art as being an essential piece of what it means to be human. Out of all the things that make up life, I am convinced that beauty is the only piece of existence that is able to change the human heart. As artists, we are commissioned to do just that and use whatever tools necessary along the way. Our work is very important and much needed in this world. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.