Nicole Chen: inside this luminous cage.

Meet Nicole Chen, artist + photographer currently based in London

All work Nicole’s own, click to enlarge.


Do you connect with lots of art being made around you?


How does what your friends do impact the lengths of what you feel comfortable doing? How has this changed through your life?

I’m surrounded by a lot of creative people, and I’m super grateful for that. I worked through stages in life to eventually have that though, and this quality has heavily impacted my insight on creativity and my style of working in general. Before I went to art school, I went to normal American middle school/ parts of my high school and it was kind of close-minded, nothing wrong with that, not everyone is meant to be creative art-wise (or be in school lol), but my work was plain and boring. There’s only so much the internet can teach you, you have to get in touch with real people to get truly inspired. When you have competition, you make good work.

I think as you grow older and older, you’re more likely to hang with the same crowd. I know myself better and try to avoid this certain habit. I guess nothing is really intentional… when you’re friends with someone, when it clicks, you’ll know!

How do you feel different in each city you live in?  

In all honesty, I didn’t live enough in LA to experience fun. Guangzhou feels like home, and London... feels like the love of my life! I constantly have meltdowns due to London being London, but the same reason always pulls me back up again. No clue if that’s healthy though.

What definition or emotional ties do you think colours give to the perception of visual art?

I often let the colours dominate in every image, I want the audience to be the prisoner, inside this luminous cage. The point is to allure the viewer and force you to take your time until you realise the details of the rest.

What do you think of when taking photos?

It’s about the magic that happens in the process. For me, I can’t force a good image to occur when it just doesn’t, you learn to like your own work in a special way, perfection doesn’t always mean beauty. If I see something that sparks interest I just take the photos just like that. Being on set or shooting a concept is different though, I love letting the model be in control and do their own thing. When they are comfy, it shows in the image.

Do you wake up early or late?

Always late, I sleep hugging my laptop and phone in one hand.

Favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon?

Cocktails, smoke, chat, under the rare London sunshine.

How about a Tuesday morning?
probably on the 3rd cups of latte already, and worrying about the deadline that was due last year.


Music that you like to listen to because it becomes a nice life-soundtrack:
Lizzy Grant era of Lana, cheesy I know.

What’s something that no longer intimidates you that really used to?
Standing up for myself. Yesterday I spoke up to a friend who was being racially insensitive, that felt right. For a really long time, I struggle to understand why choosing to ignore will forever remain painful, after finally making the decision to clear things up, I feel like being in control of my right.


What’s your favorite way to view images (book, individual prints, online, etc.) and why?

Take it as 15% reference, take whatever you need (compositions, colour, angle, style, textures..etc) I’m not secretly telling you to mix it up, it’s useful to balance it with your original work. In today’s internet influence, it’s easy to take in different inspirations quickly and create your own, but always be sure to make it complete yours and secure it. Make sense?

thanks nicole!