Photographer Lori Nix in her studio
This is the first article in a new section we’re starting here at Feature Shoot in which we take you behind-the-scenes and inside the lives of photographers and show you the inner workings of their studios.
For fine art photographer Lori Nix, the process of making a single photograph can take many months of work, day in and day out, building elaborate miniature fictional landscapes or urban ruins, often alongside her partner and longtime collaborator Kathleen Gerber. After constructing her intricate and uncanny dioramas, Nix starts in on bringing them to life with her camera. Her days are filled to the brim with emails, commercial assignments, and meticulously executed fine art endeavors, but she does what she loves. Photos by Tahir Karmali for Feature Shoot.
Up and At ’Em I generally wake up around 7am. I usually lay in bed for a few minutes as I think about what needs to get done that day. My cat Merman greets me in the hallway, and then I must have coffee, which my partner Kathleen has already made. Breakfast is usually nothing fancy, but we’re on a meat and cheese kick after a visit to Germany earlier this year. We don’t really have a functional kitchen table; it’s more of a storage surface, so we clear a spot at the worktable in the living room and eat there while we watch the morning news.
First Things First Email and the New York Times online are my early morning reading. Email especially sets the tone for what has to happen that day. Anything time-sensitive or anything anyone needs from me takes precedence. My commute is only about 10 feet, from bedroom to living room, as Kathleen and I work out of our apartment. We used to say that we worked where we live. Now living where we work is more accurate. Kathleen and I do 99% of the work ourselves, but there have been times where we have brought in extra help as needed. We find it to be a difficult thing. We would both rather be making things than managing others, and we’ve learned that we work very instinctually, which makes it tricky to give direction well. We usually get to serious work about 9am.
Home Sweet Home People either love our apartment because there is so much to look at, or it makes them incredibly anxious. The halls are lined with framed and boxed photographs and sheets of Styrofoam and cardboard. The walls of the living room have shelves with small storage bins and small props kept from completed scenes. We have lots of small-scale wood, plexiglass rods, plastic sheeting and paints. In short, we have a lot of stuff. We have two main rooms for working at home. The living room has two large work tables and the second room has a large square work table, an area for spraying paint, and a row of miniature power tools- chop saw for metal, chop saw for wood and plastic, a drill press, and a bench grinder. They are such time savers! We usually have the radio or TV on while we work.
A New Space This year I also have a studio residency at Smack Mellon down in Dumbo. I have my own space and am able to work on one or two scenes at a time there. It has been very interesting to work there alone – Kathleen continues to work from the apartment on other projects. We have worked together in the same space for the past 15 years, so it’s been an adjustment for both of us, but in a positive way.
Break Time Lunch happens when and where it is convenient. It is usually determined by great hunger or being at a good stopping point in whatever is being constructed. We try to eat at home as much as possible, but there are those days of running around doing errands where there is no choice but to eat out. Slice of pizza, tacos, or sushi are the favorites.
Prep Time I really don’t shoot very often. Building the scenes takes up the bulk of the time in creating an image. Most of my days are spent constructing props and miniature landscapes. When I am ready to photograph a scene, I just pull out my lights and set up around the table in the studio. I have a good idea of the scale of the finished diorama and what my angle for shooting will be before I ever get started. With this in mind, I choose where to build the scene in the apartment. We have two good staging areas with different amounts of space surrounding them. I choose accordingly. The Smack Mellon studio has one main staging area.
Plugged In Email is such a blessing and a curse. It lets me be very productive and able to communicate regularly with others, but it can also just eat up a huge part of my day. It’s definitely love/hate. I check my Instagram account a few times a day and try upload something once a week, but often miss this target. Because I work so slowly, I sometimes have nothing very interesting to show after a week. I also use Pinterest, but more as a private scrapbook for myself. I don’t share it. I look at Facebook once a day at best, and only when I’m at home. I don’t have Facebook on my phone.
Working Into the Night Making art is really more of a lifestyle at this point than a career. It is what occupies the bulk of my time, and if I’m not actively making the work, I’m still thinking about it. Kathleen and I often work into the evening, but maybe at a more casual pace. We know we work a lot, but it is how we want to spend our time. The type of work we do happens to be super labor intensive, and we accept that. We’ve been very fortunate to have the success that we do, and we don’t want to take it for granted so we keep pushing along.
A few of Lori’s amazing images:
Circulation Desk © Lori Nix
Mall © Lori Nix
Subway © Lori Nix
Space Center © Lori Nix
Aquarium © Lori Nix
Library © Lori Nix
If you’re a photographer with an interesting studio and you’d like to be profiled for this new section, please email us at [email protected] with snapshots of your studio.