Nikki of Shotgunning for Love has a great range of talents. While she has been a successful calligrapher for years, she recently also taught herself film photography. Not only does she photograph her own work beautifully, but she also recently organized, styled, and photographed a brand shoot for a talented cake artist that blew me away. I am excited for her to share how she picked up film photography and her approach to photographing brand shoots.
Tell us about your background and starting Shotgunning for Love.
I started Shotgunning for Love during a time that I needed quiet, mindful, imperfect moments to myself. For me, calligraphy is about patience and focus. After a major life event, my husband and I eloped. I joked about the reasons I imagined people would think we had a shotgun wedding, but said it was really just for love. The letters came later as calligraphy became my escape during a difficult time. My favorite thing about working on calligraphy is that I can’t think about anything else when I’m focused on writing--and that feels perfect.
The heart behind Shotgunning for Love is imperfection and allowing myself space to create. More recently, I’ve developed a love for collecting unique antique pieces, mostly for flat-lay styling for Curated Behavior, and even more recently I started practicing film photography.
What was your inspiration to learn photography, and especially film.
I actually come from a family of photographers but never picked up the hobby for some reason. It wasn't until I got more into styling my own work, and wanting to document that process that I decided it was time to learn photography. I chose film as my medium because most of the work I share for my brand is all shot on film, and it just made sense so that I could share my own work seamlessly. To go even deeper than that though, I love a slow process and it's very on brand of me to love something imperfect. Calligraphy is innately a human process, so is letterpress (I have one of those too), and so is film. When a human makes something, it's easier to feel, and it allows some grace. It's more personal. The intention required to make every shot count in film requires focus. Focus provides a mindful escape. I'm always looking for that.
Were there any specific resources that helped you understand the nuances of film?
I was really lucky because through the wedding industry, I had already met a bunch of talented film photographers. My friend Rudney Novaes Photography actually came over one day and let me try his medium format Contax and Mamiya. Within days (I'm impulsive) I purchased my first medium format. He taught me to document each setting on my camera for every shot I took in a log, how to measure light with a meter, and a few other basics within a few hours. When I got the scans back, I referred to that log to see what settings I preferred, and how I liked to shoot. From then on, I've been able to ask quick questions to my photographer friends that has been super helpful. I also requested feedback from the lab with my first few rolls. With any hobby I've tried, practice makes progress and YouTube is life.
Where do you find inspiration in styling your imagery?
I believe styling should tell a story. The first step in styling is to figure out what the story is and go from there. I try and source props that make sense. The surface sets the tone, the paper and props should enhance it. Personally, I'm mostly inspired by deadlines. I can't make anything exciting unless my heart is racing and the music is loud. All the elements have to be just right. I'm also inspired by the people I keep around me that challenge me to try things I didn't think I could.
Were there any tools you used to help you organize the art direction in your brand shoots?
I wish I was this organized. For me, the greatest tool is communication. When I began designing Trouvaille Bakery's brand shoot, I facetimed him, sat down with him over drinks, and began emailing and messaging about his brand and where it's going. I am also a clinical social worker and I believe rapport building is the foundation of any relationship, and the greatest tool. If you don't build a connection with someone, how can you represent who they are?
What are you working on next that you are most excited about?
So many things, but probably expanding my work in film. I'm shooting my semi custom collection soon, to be styled by East Made Co. and shooting for more brands and doing portrait work. I am looking forward to sharing what I've been working on and I'm hopeful for more film opportunities.
Featured photos include work with Photography, Calligraphy, & Styling @shotgunningforlove // Fourth Photo Styling @eastmadeco // Surfaces @locustcollection // Props @curatedbehavior // Cakes @trouvaillebakery