The LA-born artist/photographer behind ever-popular @findyourcalifornia…
@findyourcalifornia is a feeling. It’s that wind in your hair, an endless drive down sunkissed open roads, beers on the beach with a side of sand in your toes. Nico Guilis serves up 100% pure Cali, and she can do it with just one photograph. Her Instagram account blossomed from just a small idea into an all-out creative brand. We recently met up with Nico and surfer babe Karina Petroni to dip below the glass surface and capture an endless underwater summer, stirring up our want of warm air and spur-of-the-moment getaways. Get to know more about Nico as she helps us find our own California below.
How did photography come into your life, and what’s made you stick with it?
Photo came into my life when I was really young — my dad gave me a Pentax Film camera when I was 7. Think he saw something within me at a young age. Two years later I was in private painting school 3 nights a week. I’ve only ever been an artist, literally since age 7. It’s just what I knew I was put on this earth to do — never questioned that.
With so much content being uploaded to social channels daily, how do you stay true to your aesthetic?
I don’t look at other people’s socials, really. Mostly I watch old films, 70s experimental films, skate stuff, constantly buying rad books, looking for vintage items to reference. I stay in my own head space, which keeps me present in my own work.
You work with a lot of amazing and talented women. Are they friends first, or do you build the bond while collaborating? How do you find your subjects?
Either I am introduced to people or I work with friends who, after finishing a project, become better friends. There’s just a vibe I can spotand intuitively know if we can make epic work. It’s really not about followers — it’s about an experience and these moments I wish I could bottle forever.
Many of your clients are surfers. After shooting , do you head out to catch a wave yourself?
From time to time. I’m usually traveling with girls who surf 6-15 ft faces in places that are kinda gnarly. Croozy and fun is more my speed. Most of the time I fly in, get a day to settle and start location scouting, shoot, wrap and then I’m out.
What makes FindYourCalifornia unique ?
I think FYC is unique because of my approach and ability maintain a feminine energy through all my work, even in the skateboarding realm. Every bit of me is present in everything I shoot, and I’ve been selective about my work. I like to build out a story over 5 days of shooting. That’s rare, to get so much time with girls on location. I feel very appreciative.
Is there a side to photography that you want to learn or conquer?
I’ve been toying around with night shooting more, which can be really hard (and epic) if you don’t use synthetic lights. I’ve been working with a rad online company called Lumoid who rents out camera bases, lenses and other tools at a really affordable cost, great especially if you want to try out different bodies before investing in your own. I’ve been frothing to try (Leica xu and Leica Q) and it’s like having a new test car to drive. I love it.
What’s been your favorite project/shoot to date?
I don’t have a favorite project because they all are so representative of where I am in that moment. I think the one project where I felt a shift in my work and progression is my Thaddeus O’Neil film starring Brook Power. I really fought for my vision and full creative control, down to the casting of the girl. And as challenging as it was to stay strong and not budge, it showed me that my instincts are my compass and what you picture in your head can come to life — don’t compromise. It was featured on Italian Vogue and premiered at Silencio in Paris (David Lynch’s theater). That was a really proud moment for me.
Any advice for aspiring photographers out there?
I would tell aspiring photographers to try different cameras and lens. Vintage lens are super cool. I am constantly pushing myself. I work around the clock and don’t lose sight of what it is I am doing. I think you have to let passion lead in a time when there is an overload of everything these days. I like to slow it down and take my time. I don’t post daily, I let things breathe. I do the opposite of everyone else and that’s ok. Be you and be stoked on yourself.
What does being “free” mean to you?
The amount of times I’ve been told I can’t do something or “that will never work,” “how will you make that happen ” and I ignore it all and think “Ye f**k you. Watch me.” That’s freedom , just not giving a f**k what people think. I always say, “Why would you walk down a path and throw a bunch of road blocks in the way to trip on?” In other words , don’t choose to do something and allow all the negativity and haters to trip you on your choices… crooz and make it real.
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