The subject is more actor than anything, playing a character in an imaginary time and place.
A. K. Nicholas is a visual artist whose photography mixes theatrical scenes with a painterly approach to celebrate the female form. His vision is broader than one technique, rooted in training that included painting, sculpture, and theater design.
Each of A. K.’s concepts includes a choice of person, activity, location, and mood. The core element can be a lively pose, a visual curiosity, or simply the beauty of nature. Motivation for his images can be, among other things, a spirited swimmer, a sultry pose in the shadows, or exploring a gritty industrial environment.
Celebrating feminine beauty
A. K.’s themes use varying degrees of aesthetic impact to celebrate the feminine form. Some motifs present straightforward pin-up art while others are more contemplative and employ abstract elements of pattern, geometry, and texture. A. K. is committed to sound artistic fundamentals—to go beyond a collection of bodily forms or a catalog of beauty. This blend of painstaking compositional discipline with sensual subject matter is a cornerstone of A. K.’s creative process. The bottom line is the emotional effect on the viewer.
Swimmers, including underwater, are a visually expressive category of A. K.’s photographs. The ungovernable nature of liquid provides a balance between order and chaos; he can predict the general nature of the image, but the exact results are left to chance. A constantly moving mirror and lens, water produces intricate visual surprises. Ripples, reflections, splashes and drops all participate in a mix of light, shadow, and intricate textures. Dazzling white highlights the brilliant blues to accentuate the warm skin tones of female nudes swimming through the frame.
The legacy of pin-up is present in almost every image A. K. makes. The message takes on various degrees of directness, with the figure central to the composition. Although A. K.'s approach is far from traditional, the pin-up genre has influenced artists and subjects for generations. A. K.’s collaborators are fully invested in playful performances, in contrast to vintage voyeuristic pin-up themes.
A. K.’s works include both studio and improvised locations. In studio nudes, typically one central figure is presented in an expanse of empty space. They are free of distraction, inspired by the sparse indoor compositions of classic academic nude photography. These presentations have the advantage of meticulous lighting and deliberate technique. The lighting creates shapes around the subjects to set the mood for each image. Some are bright and airy while others are shadowy and mysterious.
Location themes can include industrial, landscape, and cityscape. Towering skylines convey a sense of colossal scale. Landscape nudes follow a long artistic tradition of depicting Venus in nature. The timeless aspect of the landscape contrasts with spontaneous human performance. Urban exploration yields more surreal results: the nude figure in gritty and sometimes decaying industrial settings. The delicate human body juxtaposed with steel and concrete imparts a strong visual message.
Creating fictional stories
In the canon of human beauty, there is an array of features and body types. A. K.’s photography is selected from a narrow band of that spectrum, based on his perspective. He neither creates nor documents elegance, but pays homage to it. A. K. builds fictional narratives through collaboration, gravitating toward gymnasts and other athletes, or tomboys for their unrehearsed expressiveness compared to commercial models. Photographer and subjects improvise, accumulating images for selection later. There is the occasional interaction between two or more figures or the interplay of props, but most of the images are of an individual figure, communicating a mindset in terms of pose and attitude.
Unlike many traditional photographers, documenting fact is irrelevant to A. K. The subject is more actor than model, improvising a character, time, and place. These protagonists express emotion and intentions to invite the viewer to explore this world.
Hidden details such as animals or numbers can add mystery to a scene. In certain images, A. K. embeds symbols in the form of a key or piece of jewelry. Objects held in hands, on the floor, or in the background are often open to interpretation. Each nuance is intended to elicit speculation about what might have occurred before or what may happen next. Layered design is intended to keep viewers returning to an image.
A. K. gauges each abstract composition in black and white. If the monochrome stands on the fundamental appeal of geometry, textures, and illumination, it remains black and white, free from the distraction of color. His black and white images depart from traditional grayscale, as they contain traces of color, such as warm highlights or steely cold shadows.
When creating color images, A. K. handcrafts an individual palette for each photograph. The selection of hues and tones is akin to mixing paints: although imaginary, the colors are plausible. The sky may be forebodingly darker than the original or foliage might be deemphasized in order for the foreground to stand out. Warm-toned bodies tend to protrude from dark, cool blue backgrounds in his work. Many viewers may be unaware which colors have been shifted, which are natural, or if any change has been made at all.
On occasions where the image taken directly from the camera aligns with his imagined result, edits are minimal. A. K. has even combined contemporary nudes with his mother’s Kodachrome slides from childhood family vacations.
Knowing when a piece is finished is a challenge for many artists. A. K. does not labor over creative decisions, preferring instinct and implementing ideas as they come to mind. He progresses intuitively to finalize an image, with more achieved by what remains unaltered. Creating an artwork can take anywhere from a few days to more than a year.
If he doesn't know how to creatively or technically address an image, it will sit unfinished until he can decipher it with a fresh set of eyes. For some images, he will eventually admit defeat, and reshoot or abandon that concept.
A. K. engages in continual self-critique to improve his art photography of the female nude. He scrutinizes each image to learn and develop new approaches. Constant evolution and improvement are integral to the artist’s job. Each new theme is an experimental branch, yet anchored to his core style.