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Nicole Mason      

So tell me a little about yourself?

I grew up in East Aurora, NY—a small town just outside of Buffalo. I packed up and moved across the country right after college, and have now been based in Portland, Oregon for just over 2 years. I decided to move west seeking the creative community and the opportunities that seemed to be more abundant here—plus, the scenery can’t be beat. Photography was just something I’ve done all my life; I honestly never realized it could be my career until I started to take it seriously in school, and then got my first job working as a second-shooter for wedding photographers. It just snow-balled into my own business really quickly as I picked up how to do it and realized the direction I wanted to take it in myself.

Edited by Joshua Duttweiler

Adventure has always been a large part of who Nicole is. She knows what direction she wants to take and is willing to take the risk. I don’t know many other people who would pack up everything and move to the opposite side of the country with whatever could fit in her car. This sense of adventure and determination were qualities I saw even in undergrad where we shared a few art classes, and I’ve been eagerly following her career ever since. Nicole sees things in people, in her work, that provides a new perspective and it’s inspiring.

What was it like to start your own business? How has your creative process changed over time with this venture?


Starting your own business is quite a test of your survival skills, (if you don’t have any other job to rely on). It truly teaches you that you have to be in whatever you’re doing 120% every single day. There’s no room to sit back, especially when you’re starting. I took it as a challenge basically to see if I could survive off of photography as my job, because I didn’t want to do anything else at the time. A lot of my success and travels came down to meeting and connecting with people. People were the only reason I was going anywhere, and the way I was growing creatively as well.


My creative process has changed over the last couple years as some projects I work on require more people or more planning, but basically it’s still a simple process at the core: come up with some idea/concept, figure out the logistics (who, what, where, when) and just go shoot. I keep my editing really simple as well so my shoot/edit time has become minimal so that I have time to focus on other projects or growing my business in other ways.

"Photography was just something I’ve done all my life..."

What are some trends in your field that you wish you could bring back, and which ones would you rather forget?


I’m not sure there are any trends I’d like to bring back - I aim to steer away from them especially in my own work because I want my work to hold value years from now, rather than just get a ton of attention for a short amount of time.

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As for the ones that I’m happy to see (mostly) gone… Watermarks were a thing a few years ago, and I’m very glad to see those have disappeared from a lot of the online world of photography.


Who are some artists that you feel have impacted your own practice? 

Early on in my career I looked up to people like Sean Flanigan, Dylan Howell + Sara Byrne, Fer Juaristi for their amazing creativity and styles of shooting weddings and couples. Now, I find myself surrounded by a lot of creative people, and not necessarily just photographers, which has been refreshing and powerful for my own growth. Outside of design and art, I’m extremely inspired by nature and outdoor sports/activities — especially being surrounded by it in the PNW.

april 2017

"I grew up having to work hard for anything I wanted. I always had the entrepreneur brain..."

What have been some of your biggest strengths and struggles during your career so far?


I believe my strengths have been work ethic and my long background in art. I grew up having to work hard for anything I wanted. I always had the entrepreneur brain—creating and selling things from a young age. After taking art classes from elementary school through college, intensively focusing on it in my last few years of schooling, that made me so equipped with an eye and understanding of what makes successful art. I think some of my struggles at times come from my natural tendency to be introverted, for lack of a better word. I love meeting people and being around them, but it drains me sometimes and I need a lot of alone-time to create—I work really well by myself.

What do you wish the world knew about people in your field?

I think it’s a common misconception that artists have an easy job—that they just draw or paint or take photos all day everyday. In reality, if you’re doing art as a career, especially as a free-lancer running your own business, you have to be extremely hard-working, smart and capable of managing what would be several people's jobs in another company—from communication with clients to organization of shoots + travel, to marketing strategy and so on. You play so many roles behind-the-scenes of being the artist providing the service of your craft.

What project are you especially excited about right now?

I’ve had a dream for a while to have a studio to shoot in, and it’s finally happening. I just got a space in Portland that I’m in the process of getting started that will be a rentable photo studio for other artists to be able to work and create in. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to shoot my own ideas here, as well as seeing what the people I get to share it with will make in it.

What's in your margin?

I gather inspiration from all sorts of places: I love design, interior, layout, type, etc. and I also love the natural tones and textures found in nature. A lot of my work is centered around these things, along with a sense of minimalism; it’s become a lifestyle-choice (I’m still working on) but also something that reflects in my work—less is more. Keeping things simple is always better. I also have an admiration for vintage/antique goods and the way things “used to be”. There’s something fascinating in the idea of creating “timeless” work rather than what’s on trend at the moment—black and white photographs, film—anything that makes you think the opposite of digital, really.  

Organizing my inspiration tends to look like hand-writing a lot of my ideas, journaling about my experiences, collecting mood boards on Pinterest/Tumblr and drawing a lot of sailboats whether I’m at the ocean or just dreaming of being near it. 

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