Based in Nashville, Nolan Knight is an experienced portrait and live music photographer with an eye for capturing rare moments and making each image he snaps his own, no matter how many other photographers may be in the pit next to him. Talking to us about the teacher he credits for sparking his interest in photography, Nolan shared his personal thoughts on what makes a “good shot”, the acts he is hoping to photograph this year, and more.
When did you first start showing an interest in photography?
When I was a senior in high school, I took a beginner photography class that my school offered. I learned a lot about the basics of a DSLR including: ISO, shutter speed, all the fun stuff. Throughout that year, I grew very close to my teacher; she always encouraged me to test different styles and edit out of the ordinary. She taught me about a world I never knew was so extravagant. To this day, I am very close with her and extremely thankful. That next year, my parents bought me a beginner DSLR to take to college. This was the camera that pushed me to pursue photography as more than a hobby.
What was the first show you ever photographed and looking back, is there anything you would have wanted to change or wish you had done?
The first show I photographed was one of my favorite bands, Circa Survive. The show was in December of 2014, and I will never forget it. All I had was an entry level DSLR and a 35mm lens. My nerves were through the roof, but I was on cloud nine. I honestly just jumped into it not thinking about what I was photographing. I mainly focused on the vocalist, Anthony Green, the entire time. I wish I had focused more on the variety on stage and the rest of the band.
Throughout the years, who has been your favorite act to photograph and why?
Dang, this is a tough one. I have many artists that I wish I could photograph every day, but the one that sticks out the most (and consumes my Instagram) is The 1975. This was a very recent experience, but it was a goal of mine to photograph their breathtaking stage design and stage presence.
If we were to open up your camera bag right now, what gear and equipment would we find?
You would find my Nikon D610, Sigma 50mm and 35mm lenses, and a Tokina 11-16mm. I’ve stuck with this set up for a while now and I don’t know what I’ll go to next. I recently added a Sony a6300 to the family, and I’m excited for the video content I’ll be focusing on in 2017.
Mountains Like Wax
In addition to live photography, you also are an experienced portrait photographer. Is there a particular style of photography you prefer to shoot? If so, which and why?
I have a HUGE love for fashion. I spent a lot of time this summer and fall working for some fashion bloggers. It opened my eyes to the fashion photography world. I’ve made some incredible friends in Nashville who are some of the best photographers I have ever met, and they have become role models for my own work. Nashville is filled with countless competitive and talented photographers who create art daily, and I hope to keep learning to grow in all realms of photography.
In your opinion, what elements make for a good live shot or portrait?
I don’t like the term “good shot.” Each photographer is an artist and sees the world through a different eye. I believe everyone has a different idea of a good shot. In a live photo, I love to see the motion where the photographer captured the artist. I love photographers who focus on creating content that no one else is making. Colors and editing style play into that. When I can’t tell how the hell you made the colors look the way they do, I would say that is a good shot.
Out of your portfolio, if you had to pick one photograph as being your favorite, which would it be and what is the story behind it?
Over the holidays, I went back home to Georgia and spent a week with my family. I carried around my camera and felt a sense of nostalgia that I wanted to capture. On Christmas Eve, I asked my dad’s mom (Maw Maw) to come outside with me. She was so flustered and camera shy it was hard to get her in front of the lens. Photos are memories that we can keep forever, and that feeling and special connection to photos has changed due to technology and demand. This moment let me take a step back and cherish the time that I have with my grandmother who I know won’t be on this earth forever.
As an artist who is pretty active on his social media accounts, do you feel as though social media platforms have helped your career in any way? If so, how?
The only social media account that I think pushes my photos to new viewers and potential clients is Instagram. I have made multiple friends through Instagram including photographers I look up to. My friend Rex once said, “I don’t have business cards anymore, you can look at my Instagram.”
As 2017 continues on, are there any bands you are hoping to photograph this year that you haven’t photographed before?
I would love to photograph more pop and rap artists this year such as Chance the Rapper, Grimes, The Weeknd, and others that I listen to on a regular basis. My focus this year is to finish school and grow my career to freelancing full time.
The Naked and Famous
Is there any advice you could give to aspiring photographers out there who are looking to start building their portfolios?
Never stop creating your own art. Go to bookstores and look at old photography books. Learn the history of photography. Find daily inspirations and goals to set for yourself for your art. One of the biggest tips I can give, is to find the market you want to speak to. Whether it be live photos, fashion or lifestyle, there is a demand for photos in all sorts of markets. Grow with your art and make it YOURS.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Interview by Rachael Dowd
Photo of Nolan by Ryan Kanaly