Bak 17 Is Online!
'Face', 17th issue of Bak Magazine, is now online! Sit back, relax and enjoy!


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Interviews in Bak | 17
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Nicholas Routzen
Photographer { }
Nicholas Routzen

- As a California born artist, you are living and working in New York now. Why did you move to New York? How do you compare your homeland with the place you are in?

My original motivation for moving to New York was due to being uninspired while living in L.A. I didn’t feel like I was being pushed, or driven and that I needed to find somewhere that was going to do that for me. I knew New York was home to some of the most amazing talents in my field and that it was there that I would have to go to earn the respect, the exposure, and the push that I needed. Upon taking a few trips to NY to scout out some possible areas to live in, I realized how dense with city was, full of artists, competition, and motivated people. I then realized that is was here, that I needed to be. Two days after living in NY, I fell in love with the city. Being here is one of the best choices I’ve made. =)
I grew up in Ventura, California, a small beach town about 55 minutes north of LA. I was raised living near the ocean and as a beach rat, so moving to NY was a big change. While in school, I lived in San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Hawaii. All of which were very different from each other and diversified my taste for living in varied environments. Moving around and traveling has always been a part of my life. My mother brought us ( my brother and I ), up that way. My travel bug has taken me to places all around the world for experience, photography, surf, or just for fun.
...But I always return back to my loft in Brooklyn, New York.

-You say that the hero of your life is your mother. Would you please tell us a little about her and your connection?

My mother plays one of the most prominent roles in my life. It is her that I can thank for bringing my brother and I into existence. I haven’t forgotten about you dad, haha. She is the one who has shown me how to love, care, respect, protect, inspire, and to just be. I am sure as with any “normal” family there are low points or struggles throughout the effort of maintaining a happy family. We’ve all had the ups and downs. Family are the ones who stick it out with you in the long run, who build and learn from what you’ve experienced together, as blood. My mother happens to be one of them.

- It seems you like to travel in your spare time. Which countries and cities did you visit up to now and which are on the top of your list nowadays?

Yes, I do love to travel. I am definitely the guy that my friends make fun of asking, “Where to next?” I love to see new things and new places, regardless of where they may be. A lot of my travels have been ocean or island related, as I grew up an ocean lover. Some of my travels have taken me to Indonesia, Thailand, Romania, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Panama, London, Spain, and Hawaii. The most recent travels have been to Turks and Caicos, and the beautiful St. Barts.
It’s tough to say which places are my favorite, considering that are all so unique and different. However, I would say that St. Barts was one of the most over all beautiful islands that I’ve ever visited. Not to mention, having the sweetest locals.
There are a few small private islands in the Turks and Caicos that I completely adored as well. The islands were very isolated, open, warm, and absolutely stunning. Thailand also has to be one of my favorite places traveled as well. Part of my trip was spent in the mountains, backpacking to small villages and staying with the locals - it’s another world.
Currently, my travel goals are to hit Australia, Brazil, Galapagos, Iceland, and Greenland.

- In a world that is full of wars, terrorism, global warming, pollution and all the bad things, you are coming up with the motto; "Life is good". How do you succeed in being positive in such a depressive planet? What influenced you most in building that powerful bridge between you and the life?

“Life is Good” is a small sticker that I saw when I was about 15 years old. I ended up tracking down a few handfuls of the stickers, after seeing them. In the up coming years, I placed the stickers in places where I would see them constantly, places such as my mobile, truck, wallet, etc. The sticker would always make me smile, just looking at it.
So, 10 years later when I had run out of all my stickers, I decided it was time to make it permanent. I got a tattoo of the slogan on my inner forearm, “LIFE IS GOOD.” Not only did I tattoo it because it’s made me smile since the first time I saw it, but I also feel that life IS good. Regardless of all the disasters and problems that may be going on in the world, there ARE always moments of happiness found in those dark areas. Realistically, people aren’t always happy, but there are those in life who stay confident and strive to find happiness in everything they do, I am one of those. I know what it’s like to not have money, to be in a bad place, to have a broken heart, to be out of luck. But, there are lessons in everything we do and important things we need to go through in life. We sometimes just need to realize that things aren’t that bad. As a young, working American, I believe that regardless of the situation, things could always be worse. Many of us are fortunate enough to have homes, family, friends, and our health. There are plenty of places in the world where families can’ barely afford to feed their children, and I’ve seen some of those towns.

- Digital photography is absolutely a revolution in visual arts. What do you think about that and what kind of equipment do you mostly use for your impressive creations?

Currently I am shooting a lot of digital. I shoot with a Canon 5d, Mark II, and a Lumix LX2. Film will always be my favorite, but digital is great. Nowadays with the resolution that these digital cameras are shooting at and the quality of the glass they are using on their lenses, you are able to create crisp, beautiful, large-scale imagery. Having the ability to shoot digitally has given the photo world quicker turnarounds, instant results, and new techniques. It’s still sometimes overwhelming how rapidly they are creating new digital cameras and cameras with 20+ mega pixels. It will be interesting to see where we are in just a few more years at the rate the digital world is moving.
Regardless of shooting digital, I try to do all my creating in camera. I like to capture what I see and use lighting as a tool to add to a scene. Most of my subjects are lit with strobes (flashes), which are portable and I can bring on location. On the other hand, I also love to shoot natural light and use fills and bounces. A lot of times the way I light is dependent on the ambient light that I am shooting in. I love to play off of the ambient.
Since I shoot mostly people, most of my post work is retouching skin. I like my subjects to look beautiful and flawless, yet realistic. Eye contact also seems to play a key roll throughout my works, so I also tend to make sure they are lit well. Curves, contrast, and saturations are also a quick tweak that I do in post on a majority of my photographs.

-You are using the colors as a real master. I just want to shake your hand for your wonderful compositions and great use of color.

Well first off, thank you! Secondly, color and composition has always intrigued me. As a child, I was very into saturation and bright colors. Funny to think back to my childhood and see how different elements are showing up in my art now. Actually, just today I went to the art story and bought colored pencils, a rolling stick of glue, and a sketchbook… I’ve decided to expand some of my creativity onto paper again and not just through a lens. It’s been a while. I did a lot of drawings and colorings going through school. In fact, I always thought I was going to be more of an artist and never a photographer. Haha.

-Patti Bellantoni, who teaches Color and Visual Storytelling to directors and cinematographers in American Film Institute in Los Angeles, tells a story in one of her books. Family of a student of Ms. Bellantoni decided to change the color of the dining room and chose "bright red" for the walls. After that, they began to have altercations every night at dinner and after a few months, they noticed that the reason was red so they changed it again with the old pale yellow. All the bad mood suddenly passed away.

Do you agree that colors have such powerful effects in our lives? What is the dominant color of your life? What about your clothes, your environment, your house, your room and your workplaces?
I absolutely believe that colors have a strong effect in our life. We grew up with colors all around us, everywhere we look, and in everything we do. It’s only a matter of time before certain colors have different meaning to people and different value, especially with all the films and reading we’ve done over the years, we’re bound to associate colors with experience. Each color extends it’s own mood or feeling. To be in a room painted only one color, such as the dinner room you spoke of, you will quickly notice the mood that color casts. Obviously, a darker color can be a bit moodier than a very light hue.
My room in my loft has a lot of pictures, posters, postcards, and visuals on my walls. For me it’s about both color and visual, so needless to say there’s a lot going on on my walls.
Personally, I feel I work better in a white walled environment. Since I work from my loft, I try to keep my workspace high key, white, and motivating. All of the colors in my space come from the furnishings and the visuals on the walls.
As for my wardrobe, I have a heavy collection of black t’s, black denim, assorted colored hoodies, and dark coats. I tend to wear blacks and white, throwing accents of neon’s or bright color in somewhere. When it comes to the shoes though, you might find some bright pink checkered Vans, Aqua Vans, and some other fun street wear.

- Do you have a "dream project" for the future? Imagine that you have the limitless budget to make your dreams true. What kind of project would you create?

Wow, stellar question. I wouldn’t say that there is only one dream project I have, because I have multiple projects that I would love to accomplish. You better believe that most of them have traveling involved. Haha!. I’ll touch on one project so you get an idea of what’s up my sleeve.
Considering that I love to shoot on location, you may find me shooting this project throughout Iceland, Greenland, Galapagos, Africa, and Ireland. The project is a combination of styles from fashion photography, landscapes, environmental portraits, portraits of locals, to photojournalism throughout. The final outcome would be multiple large-scale exhibits, with proceeds being given back to the communities in which those photos were taken. Hardbound books will be created and sold both nationally and internationally. Prints would be made for all families, children, and locals involved.
The project idea came from shooting Polaroid’s of families and children while I was in Cape Verde on assignment. Seeing their faces as they viewed the Polaroid’s was beautiful, and so rewarding in itself. Just knowing that they may never hold, nor see a photo of themselves or their children blows me away. These are the kind of areas I want to base this project on.

- Cinema is a big part of your life. What kind of movies and which directors do you find closer to yourself in terms of visual comprehension?

Ugh… well let’s put it this way, my eyes are on constant surveillance and they take in everything they are exposed to. I see things in film almost every sitting that I am inspired by, whether it be color, composition, light, texture, angle, etc.
It’s the small things that I tend to pick up on in film, and in life. I remember seeing one of Quentin Tarantino’s films, and being blown away by the clarity of the lens he was using, the heavy amount of tight quality portraits, color usage, and texture that he was capturing. Sometimes I find myself more impressed with the small qualities throughout film rather than what the film is actually about.
Sean Penn (Into The Wild), Christopher Nolan (Momento), and Darren Aronofsky (Requiem For a Dream) are also visual directors that have inspired me.

Well known fashion and advertising photographer Seb Janiak, who is one of our valuable guest artists, says; "Hollywood is dead! But they have so much money to hide the non-inspiration so the business is still ok." Do you agree with him? Are you also interested in European cinema?

Haha, I think the saying is funny, “Hollywood is dead!” I think a lot of people associate the “old” Hollywood with this saying, because it was the original and the glamorous that it refers to. I don’t think it’s nearly as glamorous and original as it once was. But then again, everywhere you look there is constant change and adaptation. Adaptation is part of the process. Hollywood has changed, massively, but I don’t think it’s dead.
I am very interested in European film! Unfortunately, I wasn’t exposed to so much of it as a child but, living in more creative cities and environments have given me the chance to be more involved with foreign film. Also, my sweetheart is into a lot of French and foreign film, so it’s nice to be introduced to different things. If I had it my way, I would be fluent in both Italian and French, just for sake of watching European film and not having to miss scenes due to reading subtitles. Things to do: learn both Italian and French!

- How free do you feel yourself when you're working on a commercial photo shoot? How often do you set all the rules?

I go into every job with an open mind and as much creative feedback that I can add to the project. Some clients hire me, knowing exactly what they want, how they want it, and very little creative freedom. It’s normal to have clients like this.
I am the kind of person who loves to collaborate and welcome others' thoughts and ideas. I tend to go with the flow when on set, feel out the people I am working with and try to make everyone comfortable. The more comfortable the environment, the more calm people are and not stressed. It is at that point, when I like to expand with the client. A job is a job and you need to find motivation in everything you do, but at the end of the day if you still can’t, just remind yourself that your client came to you and trusts you enough to have hired you and to create for them.
As for rules, I don’t consider myself the kind of person who needs to be setting rules. I’m very mellow and courteous, and my team knows that when it’s time to do your job, it’s time to do your job. I like to work with the kind of people that will figure out a solution if there’s a problem, as opposed to the people just give up or “can’t do it.” It’s very easy to weave out the non-passionate from the passionate and the determined.

- Theme of our current issue is "Red". What does this word mean to you? What would change in the world if "Red" suddenly disappears?

Red, for me is love. Red is passion and fire. Though there are so many kinds of red - love, fire, and passion are my reds. I was raised a lover and a very passionate individual, so I think it’s quite clear why those words come alive, when I think of the color red.
I think red is a crucial hue in our color spectrum. Not only does red play a huge role in our primary colors, but I also don’t feel that we have any other such color that is as bold and as strong as red. I think that if red were to disappear, then we would have lost the relation to love, blood, death, furry, passion, and the only color, to me, that represents heart.

"Regardless of all the disasters and problems that may be going on in the world, there are always moments of happiness found in those dark areas."

- Nicholas Routzen / Bak 12
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