Omen by Nicole Wilson

A KALTBLUT exclusive editorial, shot in Fort Tilden Beach, New York. Photography by Nicole Wilson. Model is Praise Levi. Styling by Elle Noelle. Photographer’s Assistant is Peter Leonardo. “The story “Omen” was shot on location in Fort Tilden Beach, New York, the site of a former army base was stationed overlooking New York Harbor. Nature has taken it back, reclaimed and repurposed the land, and a beautiful and natural beach and environment has come back to life. I wanted to create an editorial about Good Omens and the turning over of a new leaf, things to come, and feeling hope for the future. I decided to use a beautiful African American male model, Praise, to speak to the hope of changing views and values in our country, and with the emphasis of moving away from a darker history of prejudice toward a brighter future.”

Nicole Wilson is a Native New Yorker as well as an award-winning and internationally published fashion, portrait and celebrity photographer and creative director currently based in New York City. Her clients include top fashion and entertainment magazines, luxury brands, celebrities, as well as emerging talent.  Her photography and creative direction has been seen in and graced the covers of such top fashion magazines as VOGUE, InStyle Magazine, Harpers Bazaar, LOfficiel, and hundreds of others. Her favorite part of being a photography is uncovering people’s unique beauty and telling their stories through a cinematic narrative of photography.

What inspired your editorial? What story does it tell? 

Omen, which to me is short for “Good Omens” came about because  I wanted to create a feeling of hope, of beauty, of inner sanctity.  and reclamation of strength especially as our world has been going through an especially dark time. I’m not speaking only of the pandemic but also of how we are living through a time where our world is choking on the fumes of hatred, prejudice and divisiveness. Though we are also, at the same time, working through the muck of that to get to the other side of it, to a more inclusive and hopeful place.

I don’t favor being overly heavy handed with a message in my work, but I always subtly imbue my own beliefs by what I choose to focus on, bring attention to, as well as the stories I want to tell. As an artist I believe the world is inherently full of hope and beauty, I seek it out. That’s what I do. I seek it out in all my subjects. Our beauty is what connects us all, it is a great leveler, the more we learn to see the beauty in everyone, the more we realize we are all the same. “Omen “ is about imagining the world through the eyes of what will hopefully be the future.

Where do you get your ideas for your shoots in general?

I do my homework. The ideas for shoots come to me in a wide variety of ways. First, I am always creating Mood Boards for shoots I want to do. Perhaps the ideas aren’t fully flushed out to begin with and just a little twinkle of something, but over time, I keep going back to the idea and whittle away at it much like a sculptor until it fully reveals itself.

Being an appreciator of all the arts and growing up in a show business family, I sometimes find myself drawing inspiration from other art forms. It could be a Broadway show I just saw, the exquisite  color toning and cinematography of a particular film I recently watched, a painting or illustration, and of course if I see an inspiring shoot by another photographer, it will motivate me to find something similar and interpret it in my own way. Through my own lens.

Where did you shoot this editorial? 

I chose to shoot this editorial in Fort Tilden Beach, New York. I am a native New Yorker and a great deal of my work to date centers around urban environments and cityscapes, cause naturally , this is what I am surrounded by.  It’s the most readily available material to work with as an artist. It’s where I grew up and for me, it’s my native habitat. That urban environment is inherent to the way I see the world, it’s a big, beautiful, filthy, loud, unapologetic, electric place, but there’s another side of me as an artist that really loves the simplicity of shooting in a natural place. A place where there are fewer distractions and we are closer to nature. The beach is not too far from the city, but it was far enough to let me and the viewer forget that we are an hour away from Times Square.

How does this editorial reflect your style? 

I believe it does reflect my style. There is a through line in all my work. I am drawn to cinematic imagery, that is equal parts raw, emotive, and romantic. It has a lot to do with me and the way I live in my own skin, how I feel and what gives me goose bumps.

How did you select your model for the shoot?

I was so fortunate to find Praise, who is with Soul Artist Management, after contemplating doing this shoot with a handful of other models. While there was nothing wrong with the other models that were in consideration, Praise evoked exactly the image I had in my head for the protagonist of the shoot. I wanted to work with a young African American model, who was strong, masculine, and full of hope in his eyes. He had all those qualities and many more. Praise transmits a quiet confidence and he is an excellent and very natural model in front of the lens. To give them a fighting chance, I always like to share my vision and Mood Boards with the models I work with so they, like an actor, can get into character and in the end, so we can be on the same page on our shoot day.

How much direction do you give to your models?

Much of the direction for the shoot takes place before the model even comes on set.  I begin that direction by prep them with the Mood Boards and shoot concept either directly or through their agency. Then I create the right environment for them. This is certainly the case with concept shoots that I’ve put a lot of thought into selection of location, styling and so forth. You set the stage for the models.

Additionally, I usually have snapshots of poses or inspiring images I save to my phone to serve as creative prompts for the model to embody. It’s not uncommon for me  to take short breaks while shooting to show the model those images and say “Let’s try this!” And of course, I hope they interpret it their own way so that something deliciously  spontaneous can happen. It would be nice to be more spontaneous on photoshoots, and with certain models and subjects, you do have that freedom as they are that good, creative or seasoned. However, other models, do require more positive affirmation and deliberate direction.  I guess what I am trying to say here is that I have to read the model and guide them accordingly. It is a very active working relationship. Fortunately I have a background in acting, so I learned from that that certain performers feel better having more of a dialogue with their director, it helps support their process, whereas others thrive when you give them more freedom. I do find that giving more direction generally helps build confidence in a model that they are delivering the goods and doing a good job.

Tell us about your shoot day?

The shoot day was actually something of a miracle. It is wintertime here in New York City and on a whole , it is quite cold, but we had an unexpected 70 degree day. Basically, it was unseasonably warm, though the temperature did begin dropping as the shoot went on. I had initially considered doing some water shots seeing as how we were shooting at the beach, however I don’t like to torment my models their comfort is key to us collaborating well, and I could see that the model, Praise, was already feeling the cold. I have a very intuitive and natural approach to shooting in that I have a general framework, mood board and creative time, but I like to live in the moment and find the images as the shoot unfolds. I really enjoyed the shoot day although we did have to battle somewhat with extremely harsh sunlight. As a photographer who shoots a lot of natural light, you have to learn to pivot as weather, light and so forth are beyond your control. So I just roll with it.

Photography by Nicole Wilson / / Instagram: @NicoleWilsonPhoto
Creative Direction by Nicole Wilson / /
Instagram: @NicoleWilsonPhoto
Model is Praise Levi / Instagram: @PraiseLevii / and is signed with Soul Artist Management / Instagram: @Soulartistmgmt
Photographer’s Assistant is Peter Leonardo / Instagram @PeterJLeonardo
Styling by Elle Noelle / Instagram: @ElleNoelle123

Fashion Brands Used Are:
Tom Ford @TomFord / Saint Laurent @YSL / CELINE @Celine /  Giorgio Armani @GiorgioArmani/  Burberry @Burberry / GIVENCHY @GivenchyOfficial /Bottega Veneta (No Instagram)