Nabil Elderkin is one of the most famed photographers in the world. He graces our front cover this month and speaks to Candice Rose about his creative journey behind the lens and his passion for the less fortunate and those who help them.
You’re a hard man to track down Nabil! You grew up here in the Port Macquarie suburbs. What was it like for you?
It was a REAL GREAT place to grow up. I definitely think I was sheltered in many ways, but also in many good ways. The atmosphere was great for a child, with the safety, the beach, the education.
> What took you back to America?
The beach! I was enjoying it too much? Well … at least, that’s what my parents led me to believe was the reason! They MADE me move with my mum in Chicago. But it was a great decision on their behalf, I think.
> People may remember you as always being equipped with a camera around town. What spurred your passion for the lens?
I always had a video camera around town. I really loved seeing photos – especially of the boys surfing. I wasn’t as good as them out on the waves, so I was stuck sometimes on the beach with the video camera.
Plus, I made a nice little amount of pocket change for selling the footage! Also, there was Mr. Cronin who loaned me an SLR camera at Port Macquarie High School. I wasn’t even in the photo program, but he was really nice and even let me borrow his for a few days! LEGEND! Thanks Mr. Cronin … and thanks to my art teacher who failed me on my photo assignment for my HSC… it was pretty bad … almost killed the dream (laughs).
> You have worked with some of the most outstanding celebrities in the US, including Kanye West, Will.I.Am and John Legend, Santogold, Wyclef, Quincy Jones, Placido Domingo! How did you establish such connections in the industry?
Well, I have worked with Kanye since before his first album came out. I heard one of his mix tapes and thought he was great, so I approached his manager to photograph him. And I just worked hard to make connections along the way and tried to let my work speak for itself. And I had great friends like Kanye and John, who would connect me with other people and other work.
I also have a Rep who helps talk for me and represents me, so I don’t have to sound like a douche bag! Clio and Michael are great!
> Does it feel surreal for you to be working so closely with these people in such an intimate landscape?
It did at first, and sometimes I still get a bit star struck. But it usually only happens when I am shooting someone I really have respect for or admire – like I was super nervous when shooting John Fruciante, who is my favourite musician. Even though most people wouldn’t know the name right off the bat, he is one of the greatest musicians of all time (he is the guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.) He’s also an amazing solo musician.
And people like Quincy Jones, Jeffrey Sachs, Bono, and other people who use their knowledge or celebrity to try and shape our world in a positive way. These are the people who inspire me, and this is when it gets surreal.
> Tell us a bit more about your day to day bookings. Is it as glamorous as it sounds?
It isn’t really day to day with me. Sometimes it’s non-stop, and sometimes it’s really chill. I pass on a lot of work if it does not inspire me at all. Unless it is for a lot of money! Because then I can use that money to go shoot something I am inspired by on my own account, which I do very often!
Glamour is all relative, I guess. I will admit I am very, very fortunate to have the ability to do what I love and actually get paid for it. And most of all, the opportunity to travel and see things most people dream of seeing … well, at least I dream of seeing.
I will say though, I have racked up a lot of Frequent flyer miles … last year alone I flew over 255,000 miles … so that’s a perk! I am also a music video director signed to Partizan, so that keeps me busy and challenged!
> As a photographer you have also captured images of third world poverty. Have these experiences had an effect on you personally and influenced you in your work?
Yeah, this has been my biggest passion recently and will continue to be as my life evolves. The world is full of all these challenges.
I am inspired by the true celebrities! These are the people all around us who day to day use their knowledge or skills of some sort to help bring change to people’s lives who are less fortunate than ourselves. They are not doing it for personal gain, or to draw attention to themselves.
I am working on a photo/testimonial book about these people around the world and concentrating on Africa. I will keep you posted on when it will be published. I am over half way done.
The people I shoot sometimes live in the most appalling situations imaginable. Really, that is not an exaggeration. People are not only surrounded by inadequate living conditions brought on by financial reasons, but also by violence and the threat of losing their lives on a daily basis. And this situation is happening right now. I could do a whole interview on this alone.
There are many ways people can help, and I know there are people out there who would love to with the right knowledge! Right off the bat here are two ways:
for your next xmas or birthday present to someone.
> What do you remember of The Hastings area? Will you return to visit Port Macquarie any day soon?
I remember the most beautiful beaches in the world. The early morning offshore winds and afternoon glass off. Bacon, egg and cheese pies, Peppermint Park with friends when I was a kid, the feeling of true friends and the friendly vibes of the residents. My dad’s locksmith truck, Hastings Primary School fetes and the fact we would actually pay to get out of the guillotine … dummies … ha!
Parties down at Flynns Beach. Hitting the breakwall a lot. Port High being such a cool school … YEAH PORT HIGH!
The Crawfords, Rose and Files families, who always treated me like a son. Honestly? So many amazing thoughts about Port Macquarie and surrounding areas … what a perfect place to grow up! I sure hope it still has the same feeling and atmosphere that it did for me!
And final note … or I will keep blabbing! One thing I will always remember about Port, which I have never seen anywhere else in America or Australia, is the way the youth act towards each other. Maybe I was a little jaded, but I remember that there were no ‘nerds’ or ‘geeks’ at my school … everyone was their own person. People may have separated from each other at recess or lunch for sport like the footy heads, or the guys who surfed … but it was never separation caused by materialistic possessions or wealth, or who the best looking was … blah blah.
We all played handball when we felt like it; we all went to the same pub and parties; we all went the same school dances. And we all partied and took photos together at our Year 12 formal! I’ll have to dig up a photo … I can’t wait to come back for a visit!
Thank you Nabil!