By Kevin Flood-Bryzman
A ding lights up his phone. It reads, “Amanda Miller Real Estate: Braithewaite, LA.” Where the hell is Braithewaite? crosses Nick Boulet’s mind. He pulls up google maps to find the location for his next job.
After a seventy-two minute drive, Nick spends no more than fifteen inside. He’s driven 25 miles for five photos. Braithewaite is sparsely populated with houses on stilts and wreckage from storms past. The idea of capturing this miry landscape is the drive for this young photographer.
The novelty grounded in the history of New Orleans is what catches Nick’s eye. A stark contrast to Berkeley, California, where Nick originates. “New Orleans is ever-growing, and the traditions will always continue,” but he says when Berkeley changes, “it’s something completely different and new. It’s not that interesting.” Nick appreciates that New Orleans stays connected to its history with every progression the city makes. Nick is an aspiring photographer, but he leans away from business entwined tradition and towards the avant-garde.
When Nick was younger, he always carried around a disposable camera. He would take photos of everything he could. He eventually traded the disposable camera for an MG Canon 3500, and the worn-out Berkeley scenery for New Orleans. Nick followed this passion as he attended the arts program at Loyola University in 2015. For work, Nick shoots for real estate companies and occasionally will go down and shoot professional football games. During his time off, Nick will often walk or drive around New Orleans with a camera hanging on his neck, hoping to find something that intrigues him.
While Nick has a hardened passion for photography, making a living has become hard. “There are no specific positions for hardcore specifically photo-based journalists, it doesn’t really exist anymore.” Nick says, “There are like four people that I can name, that take photos for the big newspapers.” Nick shakes his head, and shifts from leaning back to say, “It would be impossible for me to get a job like that.” He relays that those photographers that work for the prominent newspapers of New Orleans “have been doing it for decades, built their portfolio from Katrina”. He remains unbothered by this tough hill to climb, simply because he doesn’t want to climb it. Nick wants to show how his photographs are not hindered by business said of photography, he says “I do want my photos out there because my photographs are so personal.” Nick is perplexed by the paradox of the photography business. The heart of photography is how one represents themselves, but it’s now become the brand that you promote or advertise. “I see myself doing it by myself and independently.”
Despite finding New Orleans a great spot to shoot, he is wary of the appeal. “There will be a lot more people taking photos here, than in” he pauses to think of a random city “… Wichita, for instance.” If he moves away to follow his job, he will be moving away from what he loves, shooting New Orleans. Nick rejects the archetypal ascension for photographers. He is a young photographer doing something he loves and believes that should be enough. Photography is about a dedication to art, which is what Nick believes makes his photos real. Absent of a newspaper telling him to do so, Nick wants to keep taking photos, and hopefully, the times will catch up.
Nick has used his Instagram to create his platform. There are currently thousands of professional photographers on Instagram who make their business strictly through Instagram. Nicks this platform and others like it, to be his best shot at getting paid for doing what he loves. “It’s hard to monetize and create your platform, but it is way more realistic than getting hired by a print publication.” The future of photography looks bright in Nick’s eyes. There will be more options to help photographers like him, “I see there being something past Instagram or Flickr that helps build my platform.” Until then, Nick is just going to take photos that seem right to him, in a city that continues to fascinate him.
Nick’s aspiration for a new idealized medium of photography has its roadblocks. Without the protection of traditional printing publishing, his photos are mostly free for the taking. On many social media platforms, anyone can take a picture and repost it as their own. Nick needs some of the protections that printed photography jobs provide. Without knowing, Nick’s love for New Orleans mimics the struggle of his path in the photography business. New Orleans is always growing, but it remains stable and secure from its deep-rooted history. Nick needs to find a way to stay true to his love of photography while leaning into already existing mediums that photographers have used.