We recently got the chance to have a private chat with Nicoline Patricia Malina over delicious food at PASOLA restaurant in The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place. Not only does Nicoline have the sweetest smile, she is also a humble woman who admits that she used to doubt her true passion in life. However, as life would have it, now Nicoline is one happy and successful fashion photographer who has the knack of capturing beautiful moments in an instant. Read about how Nicoline, who owns NPM Studio, find inspirations for her photo shoots and what are her tips for aspiring young photographers out there.
When and why did you first pick up a camera?
I used to do painting, but then I stopped when I begin to feel more serious about photography. I think it was more than 12 years ago when I first picked up a camera because I thought it looked cool. Even though there were fewer camera models back then, I had many photographer friends as I was modelling. What I liked about being a photographer is that you can capture a moment in an instant.
What made you decide to become a model back then?
I think modelling was just a period in my life where I wasn’t really creating. I am actually someone who needs an outlet to pour my creativity into, and I see photography as the means to achieve that.
You were working alongside great photographers. Who would you consider as your mentor?
In Indonesia, the one who I can call a mentor isn’t a photographer but a fashion stylist: Michael Pondaag. We’ve been working together for 10 years now, and he’s like my partner-in-crime slash mentor because he taught me everything from how I see shapes to how I see fashion.
How would you describe your photography style?
I believe that my style keeps on evolving. I don’t want to limit myself to one individual style because I want to learn something new from every photoshoot. In the photography world, there’s always something new and different to explore.
Do you think that the relationship between subjects and photographers is important to create an amazing photoshoot?
Yes, it is. Of course, with models, sometimes you’ve got a limited amount time, so you don’t have enough time to get to know them. But I think you really have to be in love with your subject first, before you can take beautiful photographs of them. If you don’t see something as beautiful, then you can’t make beautiful pictures.
Is it hard to become a commercial photographer in Indonesia?
It is hard because mostly it’s about the technical side when you are a commercial photographer. You have to combine everything from the chemistry, lightning to the whole marketing/client service aspect so the photography itself only amounts to around 10 per cent, and the rest is pre-production and post-production.
So why do you choose fashion photography in particular?
I loved to doodle when I was a kid. In class, I was told to take notes, but I sketched instead, so I think that was when my mum knew something is up. She put me in a drawing class and I kind of started listening to the teacher because I looked forward to drawing class. In middle-high, I still drew a lot on my textbook so my mum put me in a fashion design school in Surabaya. I ended up doing fashion design for three years, where I did my collection, fashion show, and everything else—but the one part that I really enjoyed was when I was doing the photo shoot [laughs].
It feels like all my life I have always tried out different things and I never really stopped looking for something that I truly wanted to do. I don’t want to stick with something just because I have to stick with it: I want to stick with something because I want to be in love with it. When I found photography, I was like, “This is it”: I knew I wouldn’t stop.
So where does your shoot idea comes from?
Everything [laughs]. I keep on finding inspiration everywhere, from Instagram to Pinterest to magazines and unexpected places. It is really easy to get myself inspired because ideas tend to get recycled fast, too. I see it as a part of the job to make yourself aware of the latest trends in photography.
What is your most memorable location for a photoshoot?
Definitely Tibet. It’s beautiful there, but I was warned before I went that the air was going to be really thin and it would be hard to breathe. In the beginning I thought that I would be fine because I run regularly. But when I got there, I knew that they were right. It’s hard to breathe for the first couple of days, but on the third day, it got better, and I finally enjoyed it in the last two to three days.
So what are some of the important lessons you learn when you first started out as a photographer?
When you decide to become a commercial photographer, you have to be ready to give up your passion as an artist. As a commercial photographer, you are basically aware that the photos are no longer an outlet for your creativity: you are doing what your clients want. In a way, it will be half photography and half business. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the business part, too.
What are your tips for aspiring photographers?
I employ six photographers in my studio right now and they are all younger than me. I will continue to share with them my experiences, but every time I see a sign of compromise, I will tell them that it is not what they want to do even though it’s really easy to compromise when you are a photographer. As a photographer, you don’t want to look at a photo and say: “If only I had done this or that, it would have turned out better.” So my advice is this: make sure that you truly love photography and that you will not stop trying to get the best pictures.