After a career in advertising, working with many prestigious clients, Munich-born Nick Frank turned to photography to pursue his own practice. His photographs can now be found in numerous publications today, including Spiegel, Wired, Page and newspapers such as Süddeutsche Zeitung.
In the autumn of 2015 Nick Frank’s first picture book was released at Volk Verlag München. ‘Habitat - The Olympic Village in Munich’ is a tribute in pictures and text to a very special district in the Bavarian capital.
Nick is shortlisted in the Architecture category of the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards, with his image ‘Skeet Hall’.
Tell us about your career in advertising. How do you think this has shaped your photography?
I started to work in advertising from 1997 until I went full time as a photographer in late 2013. My first job was as a graphic designer in a small agency over here in Munich. I worked full-time and as a contractor, before becoming Creative and Design Director at an international advertising agency.
A great advert has to be easy and understandable. What you essentially do in advertising is remove unwanted things/objects until the essence of what you want the viewer to see/understand becomes visible. It has to be the clear focus. This is also my approach to photography. I try to focus on the most important parts of the image while removing everything that is not important. Also having a graphics background really helps. I am quite good with shapes, forms, textures and patterns. It is my style.
When and why did you start to take pictures?
I was always a person of extremes I am not someone who will do things just for the sake of doing them. I have to do it with all my heart and spend all (or most) of my time on it. To be honest, I think that goes back to when I spent all of my free time excessively playing online computer games. Actually (and it’s hard to admit it) I kind of have an addiction there and I felt the need to get rid of the games and do something useful instead. I tried it with music, then tried CGI instead but could not advance with this.
Then there was also the professional side. What frustrated me in my career in advertising was that it got less and less creative the more I advanced. Brainstorming was replaced by management meetings. Photoshop was replaced by Outlook. I was managing my team. A not so creative task in my opinion. I needed a change.
How do you approach each new project, whether personal or client-related?
My personal projects are much different from client-related projects. Clients usually have a specific need which you have to work on. I am hired because they like my interpretation of what they come up with so there is always a bit of a cross thinking. See what they have, write what I think about it. While you clearly need to plan everything that is client related (thank god there is producers) my personal stuff is much more free. I pick the location, travel, and begin the project. At some point it just “snaps” and there I go. What I found out and what a lot of creatives will tell you is that they are creative by intuition not by a list of things they check off.
Tell us about your most memorable shoot
Shooting right next to 60° hot steam in an Hammam in Morocco was surely an experience I don't want to have again. Aside from the fog on the lenses (and even the sensor) we had to wipe clean our equipment every 15 seconds. I felt worse for my two assistants who had to hold flashes for 2 hours. Getting out of that place felt like being born again into another dimension!
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
The reality of which we can speak is never the reality itself, but a reality designed by us.